Emergency Healthcare Abroad

Is international health insurance the same as travel insurance?

The short answer is no, but many people will be wondering about what the biggest differences are between international health insurance and travel insurance. We understand that these differences can be confusing and it is very likely that you will need some guidance along the way as you make your decision on which insurance option to go with.

Although the major similarity is that both are intended for people who are spending time away from their home country, each insurance product also comes with a lot of differences. Not understanding these differences may leave you with the wrong type of insurance, and that can be a very costly mistake.

Whether you are planning to move abroad for a few years or simply go on a holiday for a couple of weeks, there are many options to choose from. In this article, we will walk you through the major differences between travel insurance and health insurance.

International Health Insurance vs Travel Insurance

We will also point out some of the key things to consider before you buy your insurance plan.

Expat Health Insurance Cover

What is international health insurance?

International health insurance is meant for those who are living or working abroad. It is designed to provide a comprehensive level of healthcare, including cover for routine healthcare treatments and also for emergency treatments. Whereas travel insurance provides cover mainly for any emergency treatments required while you are in another country for only a short period of time.

Expats can receive greater flexibility by purchasing an international health insurance plan. International health insurance will usually allow you to choose the location where you have your medical treatment. So for example, if you don’t have a suitable hospital or medical facility nearby, you can choose another location to suit your needs.

If you are relocating abroad, international health insurance will be the best option for you as it is far more extensive than travel insurance. Most digital nomads, global nomads and expatriates buy international health insurance or are provided coverage under a global benefit plan.

How often are claims made on health insurance?

People will often use their health insurance policy during the year and can usually make claims a couple of times a year. One of the main benefits of having an international healthcare plan is that the policy can be used in a number of different countries. Usually, you will be able to use it in the country you are living in as well as your home country.

So if a person pays a visit back to their home country and then travels to another country, they can use their cover in both places, so long as it is within their region of the cover. The details for your region of cover will be explained by your health insurer in your policy documentation and table of benefits.

Typically, a health insurance plan will include cover for:

• Routine medical check-ups and examinations
• Hospital stays
• Cover for pre-existing conditions*

* Cover for pre-existing conditions can vary depending on many factors, including what the condition is and which health insurer you go with. Individual expat health plans are subject to medical underwriter approval and it is not uncommon for someone to be declined or offered a policy with an exclusion because of a pre-existing condition.

International Major Medical Insurance

What is international travel insurance?

Travel insurance is designed only to cover you for short holiday trips abroad and is mainly only used by holidaymakers. Travel insurance offers protection against travel-related issues and these can include:

  • Cancellation of flights
  • Loss of personal belongings/luggage
  • Medical evacuation and repatriation
  • Emergency medical treatment during your holiday – but only outside the person’s country or residence or citizenship
  • COVID-19 cover*

*Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, many travel insurance companies have started offering cover for COVID-19, including the option to cancel your holiday if you have COVID-19. But check your plan terms very carefully!

Note that the aim of most travel medical insurance policies is to just cover medical emergencies that occur for trips under 1 year outside your country of residence or citizenship. They also generally rely on you having and maintaining domestic health coverage and usually have more restrictive coverage and terms.

We often find that travel insurance plans are not appropriate for global nomads or expat who have lost or cancelled their domestic coverage and require robust health coverage. For example, a travel insurance plan is not going to cover a chronic condition or ongoing treatment for conditions such as cancer or diabetes. Really travel medical plans are all about treating the condition and getting you back home ASAP.

travel insurance

How often do people make claims on their travel insurance?

Claims for travel insurance are a lot less common than claims that are made using health insurance. Typically, claims will only be made on cover for trips that are cancelled or lost or damaged luggage.

Travel insurance often has a trip limit. For example, many travel insurance policies will allow you to be covered for up to 25 days abroad, no more than that.

Another point to note for travel insurance is that pre-existing medical conditions will typically not be included in your travel insurance policy or the conditions have to be stable for a set number of days. Some travel insurance plans for Canadians can medically underwrite some travel insurance plans and cover some pre-ex conditions, but note that you have to maintain your provincial medical coverage to get most Canadian travel insurance policies.

Countries with Affordable Healthcare

Which type of insurance should you go for?

Travel insurance should really only be purchased if you are spending a short time overseas and want to be protected against accidents and emergencies. With travel insurance, most healthcare benefits are also capped, this can be capped financially or by time and leave you with very little choice of when and where you can be treated.

Although international health insurance won’t reimburse you for any cancelled flights or lost luggage, it does provide you with a lot more extensive healthcare cover than travel insurance does. With international health insurance, you will be able to access health care and medical facilities abroad that are in the network of your health insurer.

Many major health insurers can provide access to a large medical network. For example, Expat Financial offers health plans from leading expat health insurance providers, such as Allianz and Cigna. Cigna can provide access to over 1 million hospitals and healthcare professionals.

If you are heading abroad for a quick holiday for a few weeks, then travel insurance might give you the cover you need. However, if you are planning to be abroad for anything longer than that or planning to relocate permanently, you will definitely require more extensive coverage, and that comes with health insurance.

International health insurance can provide you with peace of mind that you’ll be covered should you need to access healthcare. No matter which option you choose to go with, travel insurance or health insurance, you will need a new health insurance plan in place before you go.

So always purchase your insurance in advance, as you don’t want to be left stuck without it once you go. Bottom line – if you are living abroad for a year or more, definitely get a global health insurance policy!

Global health Insurance for long term

Expat Financial – An Expat Health Insurance Resource for Global Citizens

Expat Financial offers international health insurance plans for individual expats as well as those who would like cover for their entire family.

Note that expat health plans for individuals are subject to medical evidence and your premium and coverage is also subject to the insurance company’s underwriting approvals. Get a global health plan you can afford BEFORE you need it – that’s how insurance works. We recommend that you download our international health insurance guide!

Please get in touch to discuss all your various global health insurance needs. Most of the plans see offer via our website can be quoted and purchased online as there are so many options to choose from.

You can get a quote online today.