International health insurance and travel insurance can get very confusing, especially for people buying for the first time. Even though there are some similarities between them 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 expense which could be a lot of money.
So what is the difference between international health insurance and travel insurance?
In very brief terms, international health insurance provides comprehensive cover for medical care for people who are relocating away from their home country to live, study or work over a prolonged period of time (usually one year or longer). On the flip side, travel insurance is for short trips abroad, such as holidays or business trips. It provides financial protection for medical emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances such as lost and damaged baggage or cancellation of the trips.
International health insurance (sometimes referred to as expatriate health insurance) is designed to provide cover for emergency and routine healthcare when you are living or working overseas, away from your home country, for an extended period of time, typically twelve months or more. International health insurance allows you to use private medical facilities rather than state ones and it tends to be flexible and allows you to choose which hospital and specialist you use.
In addition, international health insurance will normally allow you to have any treatment in any county within your area of cover. There is also the option of adding your family members (children and partner) to your international health insurance policy, giving them access to the same benefits as you.
Getting international health insurance is usually down to the consumer’s choice. However, in some countries, local law may require you to have an international health insurance plan in place, for example as part of a visa application. It’s important to do some research on the country you’re moving to before getting insured to make sure you are familiar with the local legal requirements.
Who is international health insurance for?
Those who might consider taking out international health insurance include:
What does international health insurance cover?
The cover of your international health insurance policy will depend on the provider and product chosen. A full list of what is covered should be available in your policy documents, but typically, international health insurance can provide cover for:
- Inpatient medical treatment. This can include hospitalisation, nursing, diagnostic tests and surgery.
- Outpatient medical treatment. This can include consultations, surgeries, scans and diagnostic tests, physiotherapy and alternative therapies.
- Medical evacuation and repatriation
Although travel insurance may include some medical cover and evacuation, international health insurance can provide certain benefits not covered by travel insurance such as: dental treatment, maternity care, mental health care, long-term cancer care, health checks and screenings and chronic conditions cover.
International health insurance tends to be a flexible product which allows you to tailor your policy to suit your specific needs and circumstances. There is usually a choice of cover levels and modular benefits which means you can pick and choose those elements of the product you need. There can be a choice of excesses which can help reduce your premium.
A travel insurance policy does not usually come with the same level of choice and flexibility.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is designed for short trips, perhaps no more than a couple of weeks or maybe a few months. Travel insurance only provides cover for travel-related issues such as cancellations or curtailment (early ending) of a trip, loss of luggage and personal belongings and missed transport or delayed departure.
Most importantly, the medical cover is usually limited to short-term, emergency medical treatment, within your specified location of travel, which is sufficient to get you well enough to return home so you can continue and complete your treatment there. You will not usually have access to private hospitals and you will be expected to use local state hospitals.
Travel insurance is not intended to cover long-term medical treatment whilst you are overseas.
Who is travel insurance for?
Travel insurance is for people travelling overseas away from their home country for shorter periods such as for:
What does travel insurance cover?
Your travel insurance cover can depend on several factors such as:
- Where you’re travelling to
- Your age
- The type of trip you are taking
- If you’re travelling with other people
Travel insurance usually covers the cost of:
- Cancellations and curtailments
- Missed or delayed transport
- Medical emergencies
- Lost or stolen items such as baggage and gadgets
- Legal liability costs
The difference between international health insurance and travel insurance
Given international health insurance is designed for individuals who are abroad for a prolonged period, the benefits available are typically greater than those available on a travel insurance policy as these are designed for individuals who will be abroad for a much shorter period of time.
Whether you’re looking for international health insurance or travel insurance, it is important to note not every insurer offers the same level of cover. What might be covered by one provider may not be covered by another and there may be certain limits which are applied to the various benefits available. It is therefore important to check the benefits available to you are fit for purpose and it would be wise to seek the advice of an independent broker to ensure the policy meets your specific travel and cover requirements.
We hope that this article has provided helpful information on the difference between international health insurance and travel insurance. You can find out more about the difference between international medical insurance and travel insurance in our previous blog or find out if health insurance will cover you abroad. However, if you are looking for international health insurance, you can contact us on 0800 999 2013* for a free quote.
Please note, Freedom Health Insurance does not sell travel insurance and we can’t offer advice on which type of insurance could be best for you. To receive independent advice and compare different providers, you could request the services of a health insurance broker.