Should I Get International Health Insurance?
One of the most liberating things about moving abroad is getting ride of all your stuff right? That can include not only your physical belongings but also means you can sever ties with that annoying cell phone plane, burdensome car payment and awful health insurance premium right? Yes and no. We were thrilled to sell one of our cars and get out from under the loan on the other, leave AT&T (evil bastards) and sell nearly all of our belongings, as well as cancel our health insurance but as free as that left us, it was a little scary to now not have any health insurance (it was much nicer being oblivious for the two years after I got kicked off my parents health insurance when I just didn’t know I was uncovered).
In all of our travels over the years we have very rarely, I think only once actually, ever purchased health insurance for the duration of you trip. In the past it just hasn’t seemed necessary, as most countries have either very good or very cheap medical care, some ever have both! But when we committed to becoming expats, we had to think twice about insuring ourselves. Chances are you will be fine right? Chances are you won’t get in that motorbike accident, get that one weird foreign disease or brake your ankle running on the beach but you never know. After much consideration we decided it would be best to be safe than sorry and started shopping for the best deals.
Now I’ll be honest with you, I had terrible health insurance in the states and it was still costing me an arm and a leg. I paid $165 a month for the worst health insurance ever. The receptionist at my doctors office wasn’t shy about informing me just exactly how terrible it was, “this is literally the worst health insurance coverage I have ever seen” she said. What can I say, it was all I could afford, but she was right.
We looked at both Cigna and Bupa, the two major international health insurance providers and after getting quotes from both, settled on Bupa to be our provider. The process was surprisingly simply and quick. We got in touch with a representative, submitted the online applications and a week later we had full world wide coverage in every country on Earth except the good old USA. Thats right, no US coverage but everywhere else we were fine.
And you know that the best part was? We each paid just over $300 up front for the ENTIRE year. I was paying that every two months, and this new health insurance was way better. We were emailed copies of our policies and once we settled in Thailand and had a physical address we were mailed our insurance cards we carry with us in our wallets.
Now for the big question, have we used them? Yes, once. I few months back (on my birthday actually) I was lucky enough to get Dengue fever, which required a little trip to the emergency room. I had tests done, blood drawn and tested and received medication. How much did my insurance cover? $15 of the $80 tab, which isn’t too good is it? We picked one of the cheaper plans which covered us in cases of death and decapitation but apparently did not select the plan which covered the majority of basic care. That being said, the hospital was stay was quick, clean, friendly and without hassle. In Thailand there are pharmacies on every single corner in which you can enter and simply tell them “I want to have a good time.” and they will hook you up with whatever you want, so we always knew we could visit the pharmacy if we needed to for more extreme traditional over the counter medicines that we may need.
All in all I am glad we have the coverage. It makes me feel just that much more protected while we travel and at least looks like we were trying to be responsible if god forbid some locals find us in a ditch one day. It is great knowing that our coverage encompasses any country we will visit during our travels and for that I think it is well worth it. Many people forgo the health insurance and just pay out of pocket if need be, which honestly is not often at all if ever, and I don’t blame them, chances are you won’t need it at all. But then again nobody buys health insurance expecting to use it, its just there as a…. well, insurance policy quite literally. Make sure to look up the local laws of the country you are traveling through as most international health insurance policies do NOT cover you if you are in an accident involving a motorbike. This is a good thing to keep in mind especially if you are traveling throughout SE Asia, where motorbikes rule the road and you are likely to find yourself on one – and if you get in an accident on one it will always be your fault, not the locals, not matter what.
Hope this helps you all sort out your international health insurance needs! Like I said, we haven’t really had to use ours but it just seemed sensible to get a policy, however that being said, our policy ends in March and who knows if we will renew it or not. Happy travels!
Jeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to forget them all.
A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh.
Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at email@example.com and they’ll respond super fast!