International Medical Insurance for Travelers and Expats

One of the ironies of being an American is that it is far easier and cheaper to get quality medical insurance while traveling abroad than it is in the USA.  I can go overseas into a politically unstable part of the world with a high risk of natural disasters and go sky-diving, swimming with sharks, ice-climbing, learn to fly an ultralight, or whatever else I want to do and have both better and cheaper insurance than I can get in the US for an equivalent time, including emergency evacuation coverage.

“The World’s Most Dangerous Road” – or so they say. Many other roads are far more dangerous, but this one has a high volume of traffic and suicidal tourist bicyclists racing down the mountain through the traffic. “The World’s Most Dangerous People” might be a better name.

This strikes me as strange.

I don’t get to travel as often as I like, so when I do I go for long periods of time.  I try to find work in the place I am going, I try to find a way to stay in a region for a long time, and I generally try to be in remote locations where I can spend the majority of my time outdoors away from cities.

While the costs for international travel insurance are not at all bad, it is very difficult to parse out just exactly what is covered and what the deductibles are.

Checking for freshwater stingrays during a river crossing in Bolivia

The recommendation I’ve heard from a number of people is to purchase good medical insurance via one carrier and evacuation insurance via another carrier.  Translating what is actually covered and how all the moving parts play together is difficult and time consuming.

It is a good idea to contact your country’s embassy where you will be traveling and see what coverage their staff uses and what they recommend.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while many travel insurance policies claim that they cover loss of expensive items such as computer and cameras, the reality is that they have an unrealistically low individual item reimbursement. Far less than would cover the lost items in most cases and the policies often require the original receipt, something no-one travels with and rarely even keeps.

A slippery bridge in the mountains of Ecuador

One year of mid-range coverage should cost somewhere between $1300 – $2000.  Evacuation only coverage should run between $300 – $500 per year.

I have not found good coverage for items yet.

In any event, below are some of the more reputable travel insurance providers:

BUPA International – http://www.bupa-intl.com

– difficult to get a clear sense of their coverage without contacting them

Expat Global Healthcarehttp://www.expatglobalmedical.com

– difficult to get a clear sense of their coverage without contacting them, communication extremely slow

Healthcare Internationalhttp://www.healthcareinternational.com

International Medical Grouphttp://www.imglobal.com

– difficult to get full policy information online, deductibles unclear, personal word-of-mouth indicates that they are reliable

Medex http://www.medexassist.com

– easy to find out details of policy online, offer evacuation services as an independent policy if desired

SOS Internationalhttp://www.internationalsos.com

Travel Guardhttp://www.travelguard.com

World Nomadshttp://www.worldnomads.com

Large spiders ran across the surface of the water in the Bolivian rivers and rode the rafts with us, sometimes for miles at a time

4 comments on “International Medical Insurance for Travelers and Expats

  1. Sebastian says:

    Hi Neahga I found this article and having travelled myself it made me laugh. I would recommend a company called Expatriate Healthcare (http://www.expatriatehealthcare.com/) as well . they are a smaller company and a bit more personalised in their service then some of the others here

    thanks for the entertaining read

    Seb

  2. Annie Craven says:

    Great post and great advice! It’s very important to get fully covered and make sure that you understand your policy. You don’t want to get stuck in a trap and have to pay out of your pocket, do your homework.
    Really enjoyed your photos!

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