You probably already know how important insurance is to nomads. Keep a look out for a post on that topic in the near future if you’re not quite there yet.
Due to the competition that exists not just between different insurance companies but also between different insurance policy types, this article is for people who are aware of their need for insurance coverage but are unclear of which type to buy.
In this article, we’ll talk about the two issues that global nomads should be most concerned with: travel insurance and medical insurance.
What is Travel insurance?
Simply put, travel insurance safeguards you whether you’re off on a week-long holiday or a year-long global tour. The objectives and/or selling points of all travel insurance policies are the same, despite the fact that the specifics of each policy may differ depending on the insurance provider (by “specifics” we mean what it actually covers, in particular the maximum limits you can claim for, and most importantly what it does not cover).
They protect you from potential problems that could arise while you are traveling. This normally means that your travel insurance will provide coverage for the following:
- Emergency medical treatment
- Delayed flights
- Lost luggage
- Theft of personal possessions
Since it is travel insurance, you are usually not fully covered in your home country (often not at all, and if you are, there are usually strict maximum days you are covered for, and limits on what you can actually claim for), and the primary objective of this type of insurance is to get you back home safely. Keep in mind that after you get home, its job is done.
The purchase of travel insurance should be considered by short- to medium-term travelers. If you are flying with low-cost airlines in underdeveloped countries, you won’t likely receive any support if your flight is canceled or considerably delayed, thus regular travelers like nomads will find it especially helpful.
As a result, you typically have to pay first, then provide receipts and other supporting documentation, and finally request that the money be sent back to you. Travel insurance typically reimburses you for any expenses you’ve already paid that the travel insurance provider approves (keep in mind that reimbursement is not a given).
This suggests that you must be able to pay for medical care up front before you can later get the cost back. This is allowed for products you have already purchased, such a camera that is stolen and can be replaced when/if you get the money back from the insurance company a few weeks later.
Usually no one is accessible in advance to answer questions about whether your potential claim would be covered. Not the best for health care expenses! Last but not least, keep in mind that if something is advertised as “Travel Medical Insurance,” it is simply “Travel Insurance” with a more appealing name. We are being hilarious, of course.
Despite the fact that it is also often referred to as “Travel Luggage Insurance,” nobody uses that name because it wouldn’t lead to as much business. Travel insurance is governed under a completely other licensing category (general insurance as opposed to personal insurance), thus if the title contains the term “Travel,” it is travel insurance.
What is Medical insurance?
By protecting you from medical issues and paying for private medical care when necessary, medical insurance protects your overall health.
Most “international” medical insurance plans will cover you anywhere except the USA (because the USA has a completely different healthcare system from the rest of the world and it’s extremely expensive), and most “local” medical insurance plans will only cover you in the country that you purchased the insurance policy in. Depending on the insurer and the level of coverage you select, the coverage levels will change. Many policies also have geographic restrictions.
It is ESSENTIALLY IMPORTANT to confirm where on earth you are covered when selecting a medical insurance policy. When you need coverage, you don’t want to find out that you don’t have it.
Even though in your opinion they might be low risk conditions, some insurance providers purposefully exclude coverage for you in those circumstances.Typically, medical insurance coverage will cover any essential care up to the highest plan limits, from the moment a problem emerges until all required medical care has been addressed.
The finest ones (not all of them, so make sure to check) will pay the hospital directly, so you won’t have to make a payment first and then request a reimbursement later. This is crucial because in many nations, those who cannot afford treatment are not given it. Then, in addition to becoming a bigger financial concern, it also becomes a bigger health problem.
Which one is better for nomads?
It is crucial to realize that, despite some similarities, these two types of insurance are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT sorts of insurance coverage, and they address quite different challenges, in order to properly respond to this topic.
Medical insurance obviously does not cover such incidents because a delayed flight has no impact on your health. Travel insurance, commonly called “Travel Medical Insurance,” does not cover you for things like cancer treatment, much like there is nothing stopping you from getting on the next plane home if you are diagnosed with cancer.
Your medical insurance company would say that it only covers your health and any necessary medical care, not flights, and that you should make your own travel arrangements if your airline informed you that your flight had been canceled and you asked them to pay for a new flight.
A travel insurance provider would say that they do not cover hospital operations and that they only pay for things that interfere with your trip plans if you requested them to cover a hospital operation your doctor predicted you would require soon. They would then urge you to put an end to your travels, get back home for the procedure you require, and then take care of it on your own.
This is when the two come together (typically the only time they do) when it comes to EMERGENCY medical care, outside of your home country, for things like breaking your arm, acquiring an unknown illness, being hit by a bus, etc. Generally speaking, that’s it. Both will provide you with the urgent emergency care you need.
Medical insurance will cover any non-emergency medical procedures, such as planned surgeries, kidney dialysis, organ transplants, and other procedures for which you have an appointment with a doctor, but travel insurance will advise you to return home. Your health insurance will continue to pay for your medical costs if you return home, so you won’t need travel insurance now that you’re not on the road.
So asking which one is better is similar to asking whether an apple or a banana is better. They don’t really compare, other from the few things they have in common.
A better question would be which one is best for YOU. And the answer to that will likely depend on the answers to the following crucial questions:
- What do you hope to accomplish by getting insurance?
- Do you have full access to complimentary medical care at home?
- If you need ongoing medical care, would you want to be compelled to return home?
- Would you rather skip the waiting list for public healthcare and use private hospitals right away?
- If your travel insurance forced you to return “home,” and you had to wait for medical care while on a waiting list, would you have a place to live and be able to afford your living expenses both while you were waiting for care and while you were recovering from it?
- How much do the two types of insurance differ in price?
In general, travel insurance is your best bet if you’re going away for a brief time (a year or less), want to make sure you’re covered in case of an emergency while you’re ONLY away from home, and want to make sure you get help getting back home quickly if something goes wrong.