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Will private health insurance cover me abroad?

Wondering if private health insurance will cover you abroad? Here we explain how health insurance works when you are travelling.

If you are planning to travel abroad for work, education, or leisure, you may be wondering what insurance you will need to protect your health. For instance, will your private health insurance cover you abroad? Or is travel insurance still necessary if you have private health insurance cover?

In this article, we will explore how health insurance works when it comes to travelling abroad.

Does private health insurance cover me abroad?

Health insurance traditionally provides cover for healthcare in the UK only and is not meant to cover treatment outside the UK. However, there are some types of insurance which are designed to offer health protection when travelling abroad, such as international health insurance and travel insurance.

If you are living or working in the UK, you might choose to buy private medical insurance to help you pay for private treatment. Having private medical insurance means you can get treated in private hospitals in the UK for unexpected, short-term, curable conditions and the health insurance provider will pay the bills for eligible claims, partly or fully, depending on your policy. Even though some insurers might give you a list of authorised hospitals where you can have your treatment, private medical insurance usually only covers private hospital across the UK.

Most private medical insurance policies won’t provide cover for treatment outside the UK. This is because each country has their own healthcare system which might work differently from the UK’s system and the prices of treatments might be very different too. For example, the USA is known for high hospital costs.

How can I cover my health when I’m abroad?

Even though your UK private medical insurance won’t cover your health when getting medical treatment outside the UK, depending on your needs, you can still protect your health when abroad through options such as local healthcare system, international health insurance, or travel insurance. Below, we describe each method to help you get a better understanding on how to cover your health when you’re outside the UK.

For short trips abroad

If you’re taking a short trip abroad for reasons such as work, holiday, or visiting family and friends, you can get travel insurance to cover you for travel-related issues such as medical emergencies, cancellations, missed transport or lost property. Travel insurance is usually suitable for short trips abroad, ranging from a few days to a few months.

With travel insurance, you are covered for medical emergency treatments for illnesses and accidents in local state (public) hospitals, so you can rest assured that if you need urgent medical help, you don’t have to pay high medical bills from your own pocket. However, travel insurance doesn’t cover non-urgent and long-term medical treatment for which you will have to return home to receive.

Do I need travel insurance if I have health insurance?

Even for short trips abroad, you might want to think about taking out travel insurance as a UK health insurance policy typically doesn't provide cover for medical treatment abroad. Travel insurance is specifically designed for that, as well as for other unexpected travel incidents such as cancellations, loss or theft of personal belongings, or travel delays.

For living, working, or studying abroad

If you’re abroad for longer periods of time, such as 12 months or longer, for reasons such as living, working, or studying, you might think about getting long-term protection for your health. In this case, you might be able to use the local healthcare system or buy an international private health insurance policy in the UK.

Local healthcare system

Depending on the local law of the country you are moving to, you might be able to use their local healthcare system or purchase health insurance from local providers. Before relocating to another country, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the local policies on healthcare and make the right arrangements for the country where you live and for your personal circumstances.

International health insurance

As an expatriate relocating abroad for a prolonged period (usually for at least 12 months), you might choose to purchase international health insurance to cover your long-term health while living outside the UK.

With international health insurance, you can access private hospitals in your country of residence to treat medical acute conditions and even emergency care and repatriation. Learn more about international health insurance, its benefits and how it works.

However, depending on the country you’re moving to, checking the requirements for healthcare is important before taking out international health insurance.

The difference between travel insurance and international health insurance

While travel insurance covers you for various risks and expenses associated with travelling abroad for holidays, business trips or visits, such as cancellations, medical emergencies, loss of personal belongings and legal liability, international health insurance is designed to provide long-term cover for private medical treatment, both urgent and non-urgent when living, studying or working abroad for a duration beyond the typical scope of travel insurance (usually 12 months or more).

What Our Customers Say About Freedom Health Insurance

Looking for health insurance to cover you abroad?

For expatriates living abroad, we offer Freedom Worldwide international health insurance with five levels of cover to choose from. Freedom Worldwide provides cover in three different areas, Europe, worldwide excluding USA, and worldwide including USA, paying your private hospital bills for eligible claims, in line with your policy terms. Give us a call if you would like to get a quote for Freedom Worldwide.

Please note, Freedom Worldwide is a long-term health insurance contract of minimum 12 months. Freedom Health Insurance does not offer short-term health insurance and travel insurance. As we are unable to offer advice on which type of insurance is best for you, you can contact a health insurance broker to receive independent advice and compare different providers.

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