International health insurance and travel insurance can be very confusing, especially for first-time buyers. Despite some similarities, such as both being designed for people who will be spending time abroad away from their home country, they are not the same, and choosing the wrong product can leave you having to pay for the cost of your own medical expenses, which could be substantial.
So, how do international health insurance and travel insurance differ? In a nutshell, international health insurance provides comprehensive medical coverage for people who relocate away from their home country for an extended period of time to live, study, or work (usually one year or longer). Travel insurance, on the other hand, is intended for short trips abroad, such as vacations or business trips. It provides financial protection for medical emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances such as lost or damaged luggage or trip cancellation.
Understanding International Health Insurance
International health insurance (also known as expatriate health insurance) is intended to provide coverage for emergency and routine healthcare while living or to work abroad for an extended period, typically twelve months or more. International health insurance allows you to use private medical facilities rather than public ones, and it is usually flexible, allowing you to select which hospital and specialist you use.
Furthermore, international health insurance typically allows you to receive treatment in any country within your coverage area. You can also add your family members (children and partners) to your international health insurance policy, giving them the same benefits as you.
Obtaining international health insurance is usually up to the consumer. However, in some countries, local law may require you to have an international health insurance plan in place, such as when applying for a visa. Before getting insurance, do some research on the country you’re moving to ensure you’re familiar with the local legal requirements.
Coverage & Reasons for International Health Insurance
Those who may want to consider getting international health insurance include:
- Individuals and families relocating abroad
- People who want to retire in another country
- Individuals who travel abroad for an extended period of time to study, volunteer, or work
- Individuals who frequently travel for business
- Multinational corporations
Your international health insurance policy’s coverage will be determined by the provider and product you select. A comprehensive list of what is covered should be available in your policy documents, but typically, international health insurance can cover the following:
- Hospitalization, nursing, diagnostic tests, and surgery may all be included.
- Consultations, surgeries, scans and diagnostic tests, physiotherapy, and alternative therapies are all examples.
- Repatriation and medical evacuation.
Although travel insurance may include some medical coverage and evacuation, international health insurance can provide benefits that travel insurance does not, such as dental treatment, maternity care, mental health care, long-term cancer care, health checks and screenings, and chronic condition coverage.
Understanding Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is intended for short trips lasting no more than a few weeks or a few months. Travel insurance only covers travel-related issues such as trip cancellations or curtailment (early termination), loss of luggage and personal belongings, and missed or delayed transportation.
Most importantly, medical coverage is usually limited to short-term, emergency medical treatment within your specified travel location, which is enough to get you well enough to return home and continue and complete your treatment there. You will usually not have access to private hospitals and will be forced to rely on local state hospitals.
Coverage & Reasons for Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is for people who are traveling away from their home country for a short period of time, such as for:
- Family or couple vacations
- Vacations by yourself or in a group
- Excursions and expeditions
- Visiting relatives and friends
- Compassionate journeying
- Work-related travel
Your travel insurance coverage may be affected by a number of factors, including:
- Your age and where you’re going
- The nature of your journey
- If you’re traveling with others
Travel insurance typically covers the following expenses:
- Cancellations and reductions
- Transport missed or delayed
- Emergencies in medicine
- Items such as luggage and electronic devices that have been lost or stolen
- Costs of legal liability
The Real Difference Between Travel & International Health Insurance
Because international health insurance is designed for people who will be abroad for an extended period of time, the benefits are typically greater than those available on a travel insurance policy, which is designed for people who will be abroad for a much shorter period of time.
It is important to note that not all insurers provide the same level of coverage when it comes to international health insurance or travel insurance. What one provider may cover may not be covered by another, and certain limits may apply to the various benefits available.