You probably already know that your health insurance is one of the most important things to prepare when moving abroad. But, do you need travel insurance or international health insurance? What is the difference between the two? Which one should you get? Are they expensive?

Yes, international and travel health insurance can get very confusing, very fast. But it doesn’t have to be!

Here is a handy guide to hopefully clear up any confusion about your health insurance options, and get you back to being excited about your trip as soon as possible.

The Difference Between International Health and Travel Insurance

The main difference between travel insurance and international health insurance is this:

  • You get travel insurance if you are travelling for a holiday, a business trip, or another type of short visit abroad which lasts less than six months. Travel insurance covers medical emergencies and other trip disruptions.
  • You get international health insurance if you are moving away for work, studying, retirement, etc. and will spend the majority of your time abroad. International health insurance is long term and covers most medical bills you have while abroad, but not trip disruptions.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of what is usually covered by travel insurance and international health insurance:

Travel insurance International health insurance
Medical emergencies Yes Yes
Non-emergency medical treatment No Yes
Prescription medication Yes Yes
Medical evacuation Yes Yes
Repatriation Yes Yes
Regular check-ups No Yes
Maternity care No Yes
Newborn care No Yes
Pre-existing conditions No Yes
Mental health care No Yes
Rehabilitation No Yes
Cancer treatment No Yes
Dental emergencies Yes Yes
Non-emergency dental treatment No Yes
Vision care No Yes
Trip cancellation Yes No
Trip interruption Yes No
Flight delay Yes No
Loss of belongings Yes No
Liability insurance Yes No

Which One Should You Get?

You should get travel insurance if:

  • You are going on holiday, a business trip, or a short visit abroad.
  • You will be abroad for less than six months.

You should get international health insurance if:

  • You are moving abroad for work, studying, joining your spouse, to retire, or any other reason.
  • You will be living abroad for the majority of the year.
  • You intend to travel internationally (e.g. back and forth to your home country).
  • You would like to have the option to be flown back (evacuated) to your home country for treatment in case of a major medical emergency.

What Is Travel Health Insurance?

You get travel insurance if you are going away for a short trip, such as a vacation. It is designed to assist you if you have medical emergencies abroad as well as to protect you from unexpected financial loss during a trip, such as trip disruption, or damage/loss of personal items.

Travel insurance typically covers the following:

  • Medical emergencies. Emphasis on It will only cover medical bills (such as surgery, hospitalization, etc) related to accidents or sudden illness. You do not have coverage for medical treatment related to a pre-existing condition, except in some specific cases.
  • Medical evacuation. If you are on vacation and get into a serious accident or fall gravely ill, then travel insurance pays for you to be evacuated back to your country or to another hospital better equipped to deal with the emergency.
  • Trip disruption. If you have to cut your trip short for unexpected reasons, travel insurance reimburses part of your non-refundable expenses, such as flights, hotel reservations, etc.
  • Flight delay. If your flight is delayed, travel insurance covers food and accommodation costs for the time it takes to get the next flight. This is only if your delay is several hours.
  • Personal belongings. If your baggage, passport, or other covered items are lost, stolen, or damaged, travel insurance reimburses part of the loss.
  • Personal liability. If your actions cause damage to another person or property, travel insurance covers the resulting costs.

Duration

A travel insurance policy is not longer than six months. You can choose to be covered for only the days you will be abroad.

You can also get an annual plan if you travel frequently, but coverage is limited to a certain number of days per trip. For example, you have an annual travel insurance plan because you travel for work a lot, but the plan covers you only for three months per trip. If a trip is longer than that, you do not have coverage for any time exceeding the three months.

Geographical location

You choose where you want coverage. Depending on the company, you either choose the specific country where you will travel, or from a more general list of destinations, such as Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and Worldwide (including the USA or excluding the USA).

Cost

The cost of your travel insurance depends on the duration of the trip, the amount of coverage you want, and your age.

Plans which cover the US are more expensive than those which do not, simply because of the high costs of healthcare in the States.

Also see: US Travel Insurance Plans

What Is International Health Insurance?

International health insurance – also known as expat health insurance – covers medical treatment for individuals living outside their home country. It works similar to health insurance you would get while at home, except the coverage is international.

International health insurance usually covers the following:

  • In-patient medical treatment. This includes hospitalization, surgery, intensive care unit, anaesthesia, lab tests, X-rays, etc.
  • Out-patient medical treatment. This includes a physician or specialist visit, psychiatrist visit, urgent care, emergency room, etc.
  • Emergency services.
  • Prescription medication.
  • Dental coverage.
  • Vision coverage.
  • Maternity.
  • Mental health care.
  • Physiotherapy.
  • Rehabilitation.
  • Pre-existing health conditions.
  • Evacuation or repatriation.
  • Travel health insurance.

Not covered: Trip disruption, flight delay, personal belongings, liability.

Duration

You can get travel insurance for the entire time you will be living abroad. You can pay and extend your international health insurance monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.

Geographical location

As the name suggests, international health insurance covers you internationally. This means that even if you go for a trip to another country, and need medical assistance your medical bills will be covered.

Cost

The cost of an international health insurance plan depends on how many medical procedures you wish to have covered. In-patient and out-patient treatment, medication, and emergency services are usually included on a “basic plan”, and adding other items, such as maternity, dental, etc. will bring up the price.

Similar to travel insurance, an international health insurance plan which covers the USA will be more expensive than one which does not.

To clear up the confusion:

  • Sometimes, you can get travel insurance to cover you for your trip even if you are moving abroad long-term. For example, international students in Germany can enrol in a health insurance plan, but, they still need some coverage until they set everything up. So they can get a travel insurance plan to cover them for that duration.
  • In addition to international health insurance, many expats (usually those who are employed) are eligible to be enrolled in the government healthcare scheme of the country they are moving to. This means the need for international health insurance is optional.

Where Can I Get Travel Insurance?

You can get travel insurance from:

  • Travel insurance brokers. These are companies which operate online and offer travel insurance plans from different insurance companies. You can choose some which seem more fitting, and compare them side-by-side.
  • Travel insurance companies directly. Most of them operate online, so you can buy it from home. You can also visit a local insurance company in-person.
  • From your airline or travel agency. Airlines and travel agencies offer “complimentary” travel insurance along with your flight ticket or tour. Be wary of these plans, since they can sometimes be over-priced.

See how to choose the best travel insurance plan.

Where Can I Get International Health Insurance?

You can get international health insurance from:

  • International health insurance companies. They operate online, and you can buy a plan from home.
  • Insurance brokers. Companies like Insubuy are comparison marketplaces who offer plans from different companies, and you can compare between them before settling in one. There are no differences in the price – it is the same as if you were buying from a company directly, only you have more variety.