The difference between travel and expat health insurance

International Health Insurance

This type of policy is specifically designed for Expats and is very flexible and can offer a range of cover, from expensive, top of the range all-inclusive packages to budget policies which cover major illnesses only.

Generally, once you take out a policy which suits your needs, it can be renewed simply each year with minimum fuss if your personal circumstances have not changed. It’s also possible to amend policies at renewal times if things are different, for example you have started a family or moved to a new country.

Coverage for expats typically includes items such as emergency evacuation and access to healthcare at international hospitals which may offer better coverage than local facilities.

Some policies may also provide cover for things such as dangerous sports, or injuries suffered as a result of terrorism. You may also check for pre-existing conditions cover – generally if you have a disease or health issue already before you sign a new policy, it may be covered immediately in certain circumstances.

However, such cover is not standard and you may be unable to claim for certain types of treatment until a set amount of time has elapsed on your new policy.

In general, international health insurance covers you for one year with a pre-defined geographical area. Worldwide cover is common but is the most expensive option, worldwide excluding the US is a popular choice as it is substantially cheaper and very much worth considering if you are never in the US.

Other covers may be restricted to an individual country.

Travel insurance

There is often confusion between health insurance and travel insurance. Despite the fact the two clearly overlap, there are some significant differences.

Travel insurance also offers treatment at international standard facilities and can provide support for those who require treatment in places where they may not speak the local language.

Travel insurance offers cover within a very specific timeframe, often 30 days or so. The health cover component is often sold with other insurance benefits for people going on holiday or travelling somewhere, such as lost baggage, flight delays and cancellations.

Since this cover is aimed at travellers, travel insurance typically doesn’t cover you in your own country and you may require things such as passport stamps to prove you were overseas when you received treatment.

The most important distinction which should be clear is that travel insurance is aimed specifically at holiday makers rather than long-term expats living abroad. It will usually not cover you in your country of residence and proof of travel dates (passport stamps / flight boarding stubs) are sometimes needed upon claim.

Travel insurance is cheaper than international health insurance, but it’s not suitable for those living as expats due to the short coverage time and works out per day more expensive than year-long cover for the typical expat.

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