Health insurance can be a confusing topic for digital nomads, and even more so for health insurance companies. While expat health insurance policies do exist, they are normally designed for expats that permanently live in one foreign country.
Until recently, most digital nomads and long-term travellers have relied on travel insurance. Now, however, more and more insurance companies are offering products that either cater for, or are specifically designed to meet, the needs of digital nomads.
The Difference Between Travel and Health Insurance
Travel and health insurance are confusing topics, particularly if you’ve never bought either before. While both are primarily designed to provide medical treatment, a travel insurance policy will normally send you home for treatment while expat health insurance (or now digital nomad health insurance) will give you the choice of getting treatment locally or flying home. Many travel insurance policies also don’t cover you if you’re working abroad, which is obviously difficult for digital nomads.
Expat or digital nomad health insurance policies don’t just cover emergency medical treatment, they also cover things like checkups and cover for pre-existing conditions. Many providers have add-ons that can cover things like dental and maternity care as well.
Digital Nomad Health Insurance Options
Note: quotes are estimates and are based on a 31-year old male living in the UK. Costs are likely to vary depending on nationality, age, and other similar factors.
Safety Wing offer global health insurance specifically for digital nomads, remote workers, roaming expats, and freelancers. As with the concept of digital nomadism itself, Safety Wing is still a very new product but it does have the backing of reputable underwriter, Lloyd’s, and insurance partner, Tokio Marine HCC.
Coverage starts at $37 per 4 weeks with a $250 deductible, which equates to roughly $481 per year, and is valid worldwide. There is a $30 additional premium if you’re travelling or returning to the US, which covers the increased costs of healthcare in the USA. There is no contract, you can either set an end date or you can just leave the coverage to continue rolling.
IMG Global offer a plan that caters to digital nomads and world citizens: Global Medical Insurance. Well, almost. You do need a physical address in your country of residence, but most digital nomads have that (e.g. parent’s house).
The 12-month plan can cover an individual, married couple, or entire digital nomad family. There are three coverage areas: worldwide, worldwide excluding the US, Canada, and China, and a third option that covers Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Taiwan.
Different levels of coverage are available: bronze, silver, gold, gold plus, and platinum. Bronze is simply emergency coverage while platinum is comprehensive and even covers dental and vision.
Excluding the US, prices start at roughly $28 per month (bronze with $10,000 deductible) and can be adjusted depending on your needs and budget. With a $250 deductible (to match Safety Wing), prices start at around $70 per month.
Cigna Global offer health insurance for expats that’s used by many digital nomads. Monthly costs start from around $148 per month for the silver package, which includes total cover for cancer. Gold and Platinum packages are also available.
Integra Global offer policies to suit digital nomad individuals and families: ‘yourLife’ and ‘youLife premier for individuals’, and ‘yourFamily’ and ‘yourFamily premier’ for families. The premier option includes benefits like getting a private room during treatment, a dental plan, and blood care program. Regardless of which plan you choose, Integra Global has a direct settlement plan. This means hospitals are paid directly by Integra Global, which removes a lot of extra hassle from the situation.
Without US coverage, the ‘yourLife’ plan costs $1,716 which equates to $143 per month. The ‘yourLife premier’ plan would cost $4,671 per year or $389 per month.
Allianz Worldwide Care
Allianz is one of the biggest names in insurance and, naturally, their worldwide care program is popular with digital nomads. Their cheapest plan, Essential Core, starts from around $165 per month with no deductible and includes diagnostic tests and a semi private room. Upgrade to Classic Core for $184 per month and you get a private room as well as emergency outpatient care. Add-ons are available like dental ($79 per month), repatriation ($11 per month) are also available.
Bupa are another big name in insurance, and so it’s little wonder that their international medical insurance plans are popular with expats around the world. The Premier Health Plan offers worldwide coverage that includes cover for health checks, cancer treatment, mental health, physiotherapy, dental, optical, and vaccinations.
This is quite a comprehensive range of treatments. Dental usually costs extra, and it’s rare to see cancer treatment covered as standard. It does come with a very hefty price tag that would put it out of reach for most digital nomads however: around $630 per month or $7,557 annually.
Do I Need Travel Insurance as well?
It depends. Your digital nomad health insurance policy will cover medical treatment, but it won’t cover many things that travel insurance covers like missed or cancelled flights and lost bags. If those things are important to you, then you may want to take out a travel insurance policy as well.
There’s also your gadgets and electronics to consider as well. While most travel insurance policies offer some cover for electronics, the cover for electronics is limited. Many only insure items up to a certain value (e.g. $500) which does not cover most laptops, smartphones, or SLR cameras. If you’re travelling with expensive gadgets, consider using a specialist gadget insurance company like State Farm (US) or BackMeUp (UK).