Global Health Insurance Coverage Choices: Travel Insurance Edition


This article is brought to us by Cooper, Claridge-Ware, an independent International Health Insurance Brokerage headquartered in Hong Kong, China with more than 55 years of experience in helping expatriates and travellers around the world find the best insurance solutions possible.


So you’re traveling overseas. You’ve packed your bags, the flights are booked, and you’re all set to depart on your next great adventure.

Or are you?

One major area of consideration that often gets overlooked by modern-day travelers, the world over, is their healthcare. Namely, what would happen if they were injured or became seriously ill while outside of their home country?

There are a wide range of global health insurance coverage options available to travelers around the world. Some policy variants are suitable to cover trips of only a few days in a single location while others can provide year-long protection across every country you may visit.

In the first of our series of articles about your medical protection overseas we will be looking at various Travel Insurance plans and the coverage they offer.

Travel Insurance is the most basic of your options for overseas health insurance coverage. From comprehensive plans offered by companies like World Nomads and AXA, to the “Rolls Royce” of short-term medical coverage offered by IHI-Bupa, there are a number of travel health insurance plans that travelers can choose from.

Travel Health Insurance is generally designed to provide time-specific medical insurance coverage and should be purchased to cover an exact length of time. As such, to get the most out of your travel insurance plan you will need to know exactly how long you will be traveling for, bearing in mind that the day you leave your home country, and the day you return, are both counted as “travel days” under the policy.

For example, if you were taking a trip to Costa Rica, and you were leaving home on April 14th and returning on May 15th, the total duration of your trip would be 32 days. You would then need to purchase a travel insurance policy that provides 32 days’ worth of protection.

The policy premium will normally be calculated based on the length of your journey, although some international insurance companies will also factor your age into the equation. To give you an idea of how this works we can use the Worldwide Travel Options plan from IHI-Bupa to illustrate the premiums of an international travel plan.

The Worldwide Travel Options policy charges a basic premium of US$52 to take out the policy, and will then charge a per-day price, based on your age, for each day you will be traveling. In the case of a person aged 17 to 36 years old this will be US$4.28 per day. With the 32-day Costa Rica trip the total premium of the policy’s medical coverage will be US$188.96.

Notice how we mentioned the policy’s medical coverage in the previous sentence. This is important as many Travel Insurance plans will also offer you the option to include protection against delay of travel, lost luggage, and even trip cancellation. Depending on the insurer this may be included in the basic policy price, or may incur an additional surcharge if you want that type of protection.

While there are annual Travel Insurance options, these plans will normally limit the length of your trip to a specific duration. For example, the annual option of IHI-Bupa’s Worldwide Travel Options will cover you for as many trips as you may take over the course of a year as long as no single journey exceeds 30 days in duration. As such, the annual option of a Travel Insurance plan may not be useful to travelers who plan on spending a significant amount of time outside of their home country.

The premium for the annual coverage under the Worldwide Travel Options policy works in the same way as the single trip premium. However, because there is no specific trip length, these plans will cost a flat fee depending on your age; an individual aged 17 to 36 years old will pay US$185 for their first year of coverage with the premium dropping to US$133 in the event that they renew the plan.

Now, you will have noticed that in all the above examples we have stayed with IHI-Bupa’s Worldwide Travel Options plan. The reason for this is due to the fact that this is the best international travel health insurance plan currently available on the global market. Why is it the best? Simply put, there is no limit on the amount of coverage the policy will provide. If you were to suffer a serious accident or injury while overseas this policy would cover all of your medical expenses with no deductibles or copays.

A look at the coverage of IHI-Bupa's Worldwide Travel Options plan.

A look at the coverage of IHI-Bupa’s Worldwide Travel Options plan.

Additionally the IHI-Bupa plan is not geographically specific; this policy will cover you in any country you visit during the coverage period you select. There are a number of excellent travel insurance options for health coverage, including the previously mentioned World Nomads and AXA policies, but it’s simply not possible to do better than the Worldwide Travel Options plan from IHI-Bupa.

To compare the Worldwide Travel Options policy we can look at a plan like AXA’s Smart Traveller offering. Available locally from various markets around the world, this plan has much lower levels of coverage than that offered by the IHI-Bupa option, as total medical coverage is normally in the region of US$128,205 depending on the location where the policy is purchased.

While this may be sufficient for most medical treatments, the actual function of this plan is to essentially “patch you up and get you back home” where it is then assumed you will receive further treatment under your home nation’s healthcare system. Again, while the Smart Traveller policy provides “umbrella” coverage for non-medical protection, offering benefits for Personal Accident, Loss of Baggage, Travel Delay and Overbooking, the limits on these benefits are much lower than those will be found on the IHI-Bupa policy.

AXA's Smart Traveller is used here to compare insurance coverage.

AXA's Smart Traveller is used here to compare insurance coverage.

The reason for the lowered coverage under the AXA Smart Traveller policy is simple; this plan is much cheaper than the Worldwide Travel Options plan from IHI-Bupa. A 9 day journey will cost US$35.53 under the AXA plan, with each day over 9 days costing an additional US$2.05 for the highest levels of protection.

The annual policy for an individual traveler is US$228.20, and while this also limits the duration of each single trip, the limit is actually higher than the 30 days offered by IHI-Bupa, as the AXA Annual travel insurance policy will provide coverage for as many trips as you take during the course of a single year as long as no single trip exceeds 90 days in duration.

It is important to note that the IHI-Bupa Worldwide Travel Options product is a truly international plan that is sold in the same form across the world. The AXA Smart Traveller policy, however, is a localized coverage option and the premiums, benefits, and terms of the plan may vary depending on its sale location.

It’s clear there are a wide range of options for short-term medical insurance coverage that are perfect for spending a short period of time away from one’s home country. But due to the wide range of options, it’s important to shop around and compare, extensively, the different plans and coverage options. As a general rule of thumb, the cheaper the policy the higher the likelihood that the coverage will be low or that conditions may apply to the protection being offered. While there are exceptions to this rule, it helps to be cautious regarding any deals that appear too good to be true.

In the event that you require an independent assessment of the travel insurance policy that best meets your needs it is a smart idea to approach a brokerage able to offer a wide array of options.

The Bottom Line:

Travel Health Insurance is a good purchase if you are intending on traveling outside of your home country for trips of 1 day to 1 year in duration. Just remember that there are limits (such as the 30 or 90 days of coverage offered under an annual option) and that the cost of a 12-month single-trip plan can be very high when obtaining the best possible coverage.

Next Time:

If you have decided to stop in one of the countries you’ve visited for an extended period of time, join us next month when Cooper, Claridge-Ware will be looking at, and discussing, the full range of local health insurance options around the world.

About Cooper, Claridge-Ware

Cooper, Claridge-Ware (CCW) is an independent International Health Insurance Brokerage headquartered in Hong Kong, China. With more than 55 years of experience in helping expatriates and travellers around the world find the best insurance solutions possible, CCW helps to simplify the process of identifying, and obtaining, high-quality medical coverage no matter where you may be.

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An International Health Insurance Brokerage headquartered in Hong Kong with 55 years of experience in helping expatriates and travellers find the best insurance solutions.