The health insurance industry is evolving to meet the needs of digital nomads. Traditional health insurance plans simply don’t work for people who spend most of their lives outside of their native country, and traveler-specific insurance plans aren’t set-up for annual coverage.
There are a number of roadblocks for online professionals that travel frequently, but solutions are beginning to emerge.
Digital nomads shouldn’t have to live without affordable medical insurance. Healthcare should be a basic human right, no matter where you are in the world. Global medical insurance makes this realistic and ensures that people who are a long way from home get the care they need.
A person who is traveling on tourist visas in countries where they have no legal ties can gain health insurance coverage, and be assured of quality medical care. New ideas like this are more than welcome and could make a big difference for the health and safety of millions globally.
Digital Nomads Have New Healthcare Options
- 1 Digital Nomads Have New Healthcare Options
- 2 A Healthy Way Forward for Nomads
- 3 SafetyWing
- 4 How Does SafetyWing Work?
- 5 SafetyWing—The Rundown
- 6 Other Options for Nomads
- 7 Do I Need Medical Insurance?
- 8 Which Company is Right for You?
Digital nomads sometimes have a reputation for being young and carefree.
Maybe a digital nomad just got done with uni and is looking for a cheap way to spend a few years before they take on the real world. This description of a digital nomad is becoming less relevant, as many professionals are leaving their native countries in search of an easier life.
Going on the road to the developing world has some major advantages, but getting healthcare coverage hasn’t been easy for long-traveling global citizens. Existing medical insurance plans are generally limited to a single country, and travelers medical insurance tends to be limited a 90-day period.
Anyone who was on the road for the entire year, or living a lifestyle that takes them through a series of nations annually was difficult to insure.
Now there are a few options for people that want to live a nomadic lifestyle, or plan to set-up a life in another country and don’t want to live without medical insurance while they set up their legal residency.
A Healthy Way Forward for Nomads
In order to provide quality healthcare insurance to digital nomads, an insurance company has to make sure that a few things are in place.
Two of the biggest things that any healthcare company that wants to cater to digital nomads will have to make sure that healthcare is affordable, and doesn’t require the person to have a permanent address. Many digital nomads live out of temporary accommodation and don’t have hundreds of dollars a month for health insurance.
There are a few companies that work for digital nomads who what to have reliable health insurance, and they deliver flexible coverage at great monthly rates. Let’s have a look at these medical insurance companies, and what they offer for digital nomads who want to take care of themselves.
SafetyWing is the result of three Norwegians who learned how hard it is to buy health insurance while they were traveling for extended amounts of time. It has grown into one of the best medical insurance options for digital nomads and is backed by one of the best health insurance companies in the world.
We have completed a full in-depth review of Safetywing here.
Although SafetyWing is a relatively new company, Tokio Marine is behind it. SafetyWing has built a platform that wasn’t just adapted to the needs of digital nomads, it was built specifically for them. Just about anyone can buy health coverage from SafetyWing that will cover healthcare in more than 180 countries around the world.
Let’s say you just found out that the health insurance that you bought for your trip won’t cover you for more than 90 days, and you are starting to worry. It is the first time you have ever been away from your home country for more than a month, and you need to secure some peace of mind.
SafetyWing will sell you four weeks of medical insurance for as little as $37 per four-week billing period (based on age). The deductible on the policy is $250, and a very wide range of medical (and some non-medical) situations are covered by the policy.
There are a few conditions, but overall—SafetyWing is a leading medical insurance solution for anyone who lives a global life.
How Does SafetyWing Work?
Buying health insurance from SafetyWing is simple. In fact, the base and only policy that SafetyWing offers covers loads of other stuff and can be bought almost anywhere, by anyone.
Just contact SafetyWing via its website, and give them all your information.
The cost of the initial four weeks (28 days) of insurance is as follows:
- Age 18-39 $36.96 USD
- Age 40-49 $59.92 USD
- Age 50-59 $94.08 USD
- Age 60-69 $127.68 USD
Once you pay for the initial four weeks of service, you will be able to extend the coverage in four-week blocks until you hit the 364-day mark. At that point, the policy will end, and you will be able to start over if you are still on the road.
Before we dive into all the things that SafetyWing covers, let’s look at the few things that it doesn’t.
If you are planning on riding an off-road longboard down a cliff to base jump your way into online fame and fortune, SafetyWing isn’t the right choice for you.
The specific activities that SafetyWing won’t cover can be found on its website (or by dropping the company an email), if there is anything ‘extreme’ about it, your injuries won’t be paid for.
In fact, finding an insurance company that will cover extreme athletes can be challenging, as insurance actuaries tend to shy away from extreme situations. Unless they are extremely safe, statistically speaking.
Tell me if you have heard this one…a digital nomad walks into a bar…if they were there for $1 shot night…and became intoxicated…and was injured…SafetyWing isn’t likely to cover the cost of the injuries when they wake up the next day.
If you want to learn more about where SafetyWing draws the line between a few drinks with dinner and a 14-hour drinking Olympics somewhere off the coast of Cambodia, the company can answer your questions directly.
This one is pretty straightforward, unlike some blanket travel insurance plans, SafetyWing won’t cover the costs associated with a canceled trip. There are a number of non-medical things that the company actually does cover, but lost flights, trains, hotel bookings, and the deposits for elephant rides aren’t among them.
Expensive Countries Cost More
One of the nice features that SafetyWing offers is coverage if you return to your home country for a visit. Unfortunately, if that country has sky-high medical costs (looking at you…USA…) you will have to pay a premium for the time spent at home.
If you want to know more about how much you would have to pay for coverage on a home visit, just check with SafetyWing for more information.
How SafetyWing Covers Your Healthcare (and More)
In reality, SafetyWing is more than medical insurance. If you are unlucky enough to be caught in the middle of a natural disaster or suffer a grave injury, you will get a ton of help for the small premium and totally reasonable delectable.
Here is a partial list of what SafetyWing covers:
- Lost Luggage
- Any Emergency Medical Treatment (including acute onset of a pre-existing condition)
- Evacuation in the event of medical emergencies, terrorism, or political disruption
- Accommodation if you are the victim of a natural disaster
- Personal Liability in case you damage or injure a third party
- Costs associated with bringing a family member to you if you are hospitalized for a long period of time abroad and can’t travel home
- Travel Delays
Limits to Coverage with SafetyWing (all prices in USD):
- Acute Onset of Pre-existing Condition – Up to $250,000
- Emergency Dental Care – $1,000
- Local Ambulance – All normal, reasonable charges are covered
- Intensive Care Unit – $250,000
- Room / Board in Hospital – Semi-private room and nursing included
- Terrorism – $50,000
- Political Evacuation – $10,000
- Emergency Medical Evacuation – $100,000
- Replacement Accommodation after Natural Disaster – $100 / day
- Lost Checked Luggage – $3,000
This isn’t an exhaustive list of the events that are covered or the amounts that SafetyWing will pay on behalf of their clients. If you want to learn more about the full extent of SafetyWing’s program, check out its website, or drop them a line via email.
SafetyWing does three things very well and is a good company to consider if you need medical insurance for your digital nomad lifestyle.
- First, SafetyWing does not require its clients to have a permanent residence. This might seem like a small thing, but it would disqualify most of the other insurance programs listed below. People who are on the road all year long may not have the ability to maintain a legal residence in their native land, and SafetyWing knows they need insurance coverage.
- Secondly, SafetyWing is downright affordable. If you are under 40 years of age, a year’s worth of coverage with SafetyWing costs less than most airline tickets (ok…so tickets on many Asian and EU discount airlines are cheaper…). If you ever get into a situation where you need to have a major injury looked after, you will be glad you opted for the insurance policy, and not a posh weekend at a four-star resort.
- Third, SafetyWing is flexible. You don’t have to limit your travels to a single nation, or even region. With the exception of a handful of countries with expensive medical care, your SafetyWing policy will cover you in most of the countries on earth.
It is difficult to find a real competitor for SafetyWing, as most other health insurance plans require that nomads maintain a legal residence in the nation where they hold citizenship or residency. In this way, SafetyWing has distinguished itself in an industry that will likely see more customers, as nomadic banking and healthcare options grow.
Other Options for Nomads
If you have decided to hit the road, but plan on maintaining a legal residence in the nation where you have citizenship or residency, you have some options when it comes to insurance. All of the plans listed below are offered by reputable insurance companies, and many offer comprehensive insurance solutions (more than healthcare) for global travelers.
World Nomads is amazing insurance for highly nomadic people, but it isn’t a great choice for health insurance. The company was founded by nomads and is a one-stop-shop for insurance coverage on a wide range of things. The only issue is…it isn’t primary medical insurance.
Basically, World Nomads will give you an insurance policy that will fill in the gaps. If you don’t have primary medical insurance in your home country, any policy from World Nomads isn’t going to help you with healthcare in a far off land at all.
The policies from World Nomads will cover medical needs that primary insurance won’t, but it isn’t going to be a good solution for digital nomads who don’t have a primary insurance provider. If you do have a legal residence and are looking for comprehensive travel insurance, World Nomads is worth learning more about.
For people that live in the UK or EU, True Traveler is an insurance company that caters to travelers who want to have global insurance coverage, even if they like high-adventure. True Traveler was created in the 1980s and will insure activities that some other travel insurance firms shy away from.
True Traveler is based in the UK and will offer as much as 5 million GPB in insurance for a range of activities. If you are into taking risks in exotic places, True Traveler is a good option. The company is happy to create custom policies based on the activities you are planning to do and will allow you a lot more freedom to engage in risky activities.
On the downside, True Traveler policies aren’t really designed with a digital nomad in mind, and you won’t be covered for home visits to your country of residence. Of course, if you don’t live in the UK or EU, you can’t get a policy from True Traveler.
Allianz Global Assistance
Allianz is one of the biggest insurers in the world, and it has a program called Allianz Global Assistance that is tailored specifically for world travelers. Like most travelers insurance packages, Allianz requires that you have a legal residence in a handful of developed countries to qualify for the insurance.
As long as you meet the requirements for a policy from Allianz, the Allianz Global Assistance policy gets great reviews. It has won the “Best Insurance Provider” from Travel Weekly’s Readers Choice Awards for three straight years and also is widely praised by people who needed it when they hit a rough patch.
On the downside, Allianz Global Assistance offers zero options for customization, and the company has a reputation for being inconsistent when it comes to customer service. It also isn’t the cheapest option out there, which may put off younger nomads who simply can’t afford to pony-up for posh insurance.
Do I Need Medical Insurance?
The question of health insurance isn’t straightforward. In a perfect world, everyone would have access to basic medical care, without charge at the point of treatment. Almost everyone pays taxes, and public health is one of the best places for tax revenue to flow. However, we live in a world where money talks, especially when it comes to healthcare.
If you plan to travel for a long time, and won’t have a lot of money at your disposal at any given time, it is a good idea to plan ahead with medical insurance. Even if you plan to be in inexpensive areas, unless you know (for sure) how expensive medical costs are, having insurance to cover unexpected medical emergencies is a great idea.
Another consideration is the quality of healthcare. Places like Cambodia or Paraguay have low-cost medical care, but it may not be in a hospital that inspires confidence. Private medical care in a hospital that is up to the standards in your home country probably isn’t going to be cheap, no matter where you are in the world.
Which Company is Right for You?
The right kind of medical insurance for any given person will be determined by their individual needs. If you plan on traveling without a lot of planning, and no home poet, SafetyWing is probably the best option. If you have a registered address in a developed country, and existing insurance, you might look into one of the other companies.
It might come as a surprise, but there are many countries where you can buy affordable health insurance without legal residency. The costs may be a little higher than a local would pay, but it will be extremely affordable when compared to the developed world. Of course, you would likely only be covered in a given city or country, which makes it a poor choice for digital nomads.
Regardless of the kind of medical insurance you choose to buy, think about getting some kind of healthcare coverage if you don’t have some already. Bad things happen to the best of us, and you want to be able to receive the care you need when you need it the most.