Types of health insurance for digital nomads

Types of health insurance for digital nomads

Having the right health insurance is crucial for digital nomads, as accessing healthcare whilst moving across borders and unfamiliar environments can be challenging and expensive.

In addition, it’s essential that digital nomads have confidence in knowing they are protected and safe, should any health issues arise whilst they’re on the move.

To help you understand the difference between the types of health insurance you can buy as a digital nomad, we’ve provided an overview of each below, including their strengths, limitations and suitability.

Travel insurance

So many digital nomads opt for travel insurance, without really understanding what it is or what they’re covered for. This can be a big mistake.

Travel insurance is easy to get online and most policies are largely designed to cover journey disruption, which could include delayed flights, accommodation issues, lost possessions or natural disasters that affect your trip. As the name suggests, this coverage relates to the travel element of being away. In fact, the only benefits relating to health will generally be emergency medical costs.

Travel insurance is very cheap, in comparison to other types of insurance. However, there is a reason for this; it’s only designed for short term protection to assist you until you can be sent back to your home country. This makes it perfect for holiday-makers and those heading abroad for a short period of time. For digital nomads, travel insurance simply isn’t comprehensive enough to provide health cover for living abroad.

Furthermore, if you’re living abroad for a long period of time, it’s very likely that you won’t be eligible for medical treatment in your home country, even if you’ve been repatriated in an emergency. Most countries with a national healthcare system will only provide free care to tax-paying residents of the country, regardless of whether you’re a citizen – this includes the UK. Check out your national Government website for further information on this.

Travel health insurance

Travel health insurance is usually advertised to digital nomads as a ‘best of both worlds’ insurance policy, with aspects of both travel insurance and international health insurance. However, it’s probably more accurate to describe it as an upgrade on travel insurance, providing an additional layer of health protection to the cover.

The benefits are much more comprehensive than travel insurance, in that inpatient treatment is included. In addition, some providers will include elements of outpatient treatment. Since these providers usually specialise in worldwide healthcare, they might have a network of approved health providers around the world that you can use. Of course, this type of policy will also include all of the same travel disruption cover that you would expect with travel insurance.

That said, there are limitations. Firstly, most benefits are capped at a relatively low amount, depending on the country you are getting treatment. This means that while you might be covered for the type of treatment you need, you could still end up paying for part of the bill yourself, should you need to use your policy.

Travel health insurance providers also generally exclude pre-existing conditions. Benefits such as routine check-ups, mental health and dental are rarely included, and they can further be limited in that treatment for serious illnesses, such as cancer care, will not be covered.

Therefore, travel health insurance can be a good option for digital nomads that are only planning on being away for several months at a time or under a year, where you may also still have access to healthcare in your home country. The benefits are certainly broader than travel insurance and at least most of the core benefits are included. In addition, travel health insurance is a cheaper option than international health insurance.

However, if you’re an indefinite or long-term nomad, these policies again probably won’t be comprehensive enough. You never know when you will need to use your health policy, or what for, and you would be banking on having treatment which is both covered in a more restricted policy, and within the benefit limits. This could lead to inadequate cover or an expensive medical bill.

International health insurance

International health insurance is definitely the most comprehensive type of health cover you can buy for living abroad. This type of insurance builds on travel health insurance with comprehensive medical benefits, including routine checks, wellness, chronic conditions, serious illnesses and many outpatient treatments. The benefits caps are usually high also, meaning you don’t need to worry about exceeding your policy limits.

Furthermore, you will benefit from having larger and more comprehensive hospital networks, 24/7 assistance and English speaking advisers. This type of policy also ensures that you will be covered for long-term health conditions worldwide, should you want to get treatment abroad or at home.

One drawback would be that international health insurance generally doesn’t include travel disruption benefits. If you travel around a lot, you might need to purchase travel insurance in addition to international health insurance, to be fully covered for disruptions. International health insurance is also the most expensive of the three, due to the level of cover and protection included.

Therefore, international health insurance is ideal for either long-term digital nomads or those that have no plans to return home in the near term, as policies generally last for a minimum of a year. If you’re a digital nomad for the foreseeable future, and want the security of knowing your health is protected to the level it is at home, international heath insurance is for you.