What Medical Insurance Should I Buy When Working or Traveling Abroad?

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Medical insurance while traveling. Do I need it? Does my domestic insurance plan cover international travel or living in abroad? Where do I get it from? Who are the best providers?

When you’re booking flights, finding accommodation, and planning your trip, travel insurance fades quietly into the background. It’s then sorely missed when you’re flying down a rainy Thai highway in the back of a tuk-tuk, keeping your fingers crossed that you get back to your hostel safely.

No matter how much you like winging your travels, we always have and always will recommend covering yourself before leaving the country. Nearly every traveler or expat I know has a friend of a friend who suffered a serious accident and would be up to their eyeballs in debt if they weren’t covered.

The biggest positive is that (compared to most American premiums), travel insurance is relatively inexpensive. Rather than the rather extortionate $300-400/month you pay for private healthcare in the states, you’re looking at $4-500 for the year.

There are a few of things we would watch out for when deciding on which insurer you’re going with:

– If you’re American, work out if your domestic policy provides international cover. Some do, some don’t. Some provide cover for a maximum of 2 months out the country, others you can leave for as long as you want.
– If you’re getting long term insurance, make sure you’re covered for the whole time you’re out the country. Some plans cover you for a year, but a maximum of 60 days per trip. Not ideal if you’re moving abroad or backpacking.
– As with all insurance, read the small print! Are you insured to Scuba or Ski? A lot of insurers will add extra costs on to cheap prices for additional adventure activities.
– There tend to be different grades of insurance. Are you traveling with a computer, camera, and tablet? It may be worth paying more for peace of mind, knowing that you’ll be able to cover your costs if the worst happens. This is also the same for higher medical coverage, car rental coverage, and even psychological help after a traumatic event. Work out what you think needs to be covered… and then cover it.

The process of buying travel insurance is incredibly simple. Input your age, destination(s), and length of trip and you’ll be treated to multiple different plans.

In this post, we’re going to be comparing some different travel insurance plans. I’m going to be flying out to India in a couple of days, so I’m going to input details as if I’m buying one of these plans. I’ll be inputting my details as follows:

– Age: 25-34
– Male
– US Citizen (I’m not, but I know many of our readers are from the US)
– No pre-existing medical conditions (apart from a slightly dodgy shoulder ;-))
– Will most likely be doing some sort of adventure activity (Scuba diving)
– Will not be adding car rental insurance
– Will not be traveling to the USA (this normally drastically increases your premium).

A quick Google search brings up hundreds of results. We’ve narrowed down our top 5 as used by ourselves and the word from fellow backpackers (none of these companies have slipped us $ to promote them!).

1) Seven Corners Insurance

Seven Corners’ motto, ‘protection for the unexpected’ sounds like my Scout motto when I was 11 years old. Anyhow, their ‘Liaison Majestic’ plan offers cover from 5 to 365 days, with an option to renew up to 3 years.

Seven Corners do not ask for pre-existing conditions, just your age, length of tip, primary destination, ‘hazardous sports coverage’, and the medical maximum ranged from $60,000 to $1,000,000.

With $60,000 medical maximum, I’m looking at $578 and with a $1mil max, it’s a sizeable $856. A little more than I was expecting, but far cheaper than living in the US.

2) World Nomads (available for non-US citizens)

World Nomads are definitely one of the more well known travel insurance companies. Their website tells me they’re also recommended by Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, and Nat Geo. However, having stayed at a couple of hostels that suggested by Lonely Planet, I’m not sure I trust their judgement ;-).

Wow. The ‘Standard Plan’ would set me back $1,050 and the ‘Explorer Plan’ would be $1,333! Both of these would only cover $100,000 medical/sickness cover ad $300k in medivac/repatriation.

Interestingly, the main difference between World Nomads are the different adventure activities covered. Scuba Diving is only covered in the ‘Explorer Plan’ meaning I’d be coughing up an extra $300 for a few dives per year. Just in case you’re wondering, yoga is considered an ‘adventure activity’… but luckily you’ll be covered under the standard plan.

3) International Medical Group

Though it probably makes no difference to the cost and quality of the product, International Medical Group’s (IMG) website is nowhere near as user-friendly as the previous two. It feels like it’s aimed at the more mature traveler, and there are more options available for tour group travel.

On the business end of things, IMG groups the USA together with a number of Asian countries. Considering I’m going to be in the region, there’s a very good chance I’ll be visiting Singapore and Taiwan. Costs decrease as you increase the deductible, meaning the ‘Bronze Plan’ varies between $729 ($250 deductible) and $301 ($10,000?! deductible). This increases to the top of the range ‘Platinum Plan’ that costs a rather impressive $4,000 for the year (with a $100 deductible).

Cost-wise, IMG are the most expensive, especially taking into the rather obscene deductibles.

4) Allianz Global Assistance (available for non-US citizens)

I always thought that Allianz offered business level plans rather than bootstrapped travel insurance. However, they have proved themselves to be rather competitively priced for someone looking for minimal coverage.

Allianz’s basic plan comes in at a rather frugal $309. However, it only has $10k medical coverage and $50k medivac. You’d be trouble if you had a serious accident. A couple of steps up the Allianz ladder is the ‘Classic Trip Plus’. This coverage gives you $50,000 in medical coverage, $1mil medivac, and 24 hour emergency assistance. This will set you back $481, not too shabby.

I wasn’t able to learn if this would cover my occasional scuba trips, and I think I’d have to give them a call before moving forward.

5) HCC Medical Insurance Services

HCC’s travel insurance is run by ‘Atlas Travel’ and they provide a variety of different travel packages, so I went with the ‘Adventure Travel’ package. HCC gives you a host of different options when choosing your deductible and medical cover. The deductible ranged from $0 to $2,500 and the medical cover from $50k to $1m. The cover also included scuba diving and a pretty wide range of activities.

In terms of price, HCC was incredibly reasonable. Keeping a standard $250 deductible, $50k coverage was $287 and $1m coverage was $487. This obviously increased with a lower deductible. Not too bad!

Summary

With some pretty variable prices, it’s important that you do your research. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please let us know if you find any great deals out there!

On a serious note, it’s always important to remember to keep your insurance details on you at all times. Often-times hospitals won’t treat you until they have your details, or ask you to pay up front and have your insurance company reimburse you.
Well, now that my insurance is sorted, I’m off to pack and we’ll be seeing you out in India.

Namaste.

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