Digital Nomad Health Insurance: A Go-To Guide

While traveling the world, you’ll want to consider investing in a good digital nomad health insurance policy option. As the pandemic is still an ongoing concern, having some form of health or travel insurance with COVID coverage may be required for some international travel destinations.

“If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.”

– Julie Bishop

These wise words from Julie Bishop, the former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, have been indoctrinated into travel insurance marketing worldwide.

But is the mantra true? Is health insurance essential when gallivanting around the globe as a digital nomad?

In a word: yes. 

While you could cover minor injuries and illnesses out of pocket—especially in low-cost locales like Thailand—the situation would become dire should something serious happen.

A gruesome accident or debilitating disease could see you facing an astronomical medical bill (been there, done that). And if you decided to save cash by forgoing health insurance, you’d be in dire financial trouble (thankfully, I didn’t).

Therefore, the question should be: what health insurance is best for me?

Travel Insurance Versus International Health Insurance

As digital nomads tend to travel perpetually rather than in short stints, the ideal health insurance differs from the everyday vacationer. You’ve got two options to consider: travel insurance (secondary) or international healthcare insurance (primary).

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is the cheaper option but offers less coverage for the full-time globetrotter.  

Most travel insurance policies require residency in your home country. Some only provide coverage for up to 12 months, not great if you’re bouncing around the globe living a long-term nomadic lifestyle—we only recommend flexible, on-going policies in our list below.   

The main caveat, however, is that travel insurance only provides secondary healthcare coverage, i.e., whatever goes wrong during your trip. 

Should you have a chronic or pre-existing condition, travel insurance won’t cover any related claims. And should you need prolonged treatment—say, lengthy rehabilitation after a horrific scooter crash—the provider will fly you home and leave you to lick your wounds. The bottom line: travel insurance isn’t suitable if you don’t have a primary health insurance policy in your homeland. 

International Health Insurance

International health insurance offers similar inclusions to domestic private health insurance, but it’s valid virtually anywhere in the world. 

You’ll get treatment for on-going ailments under an extensive international network of world-class hospitals. Best of all, you won’t be flown home to fend for yourself when the going gets tough. 

Most digital nomads from countries with universal healthcare—for example, Britain and Australia—opt for travel insurance because they can duck back home for treatment if need be. But if your country of origin/residency doesn’t have an affordable public healthcare system—we’re looking at you, America—and you don’t have private health insurance there, then international health insurance is the safest bet. 

Insurance Policy Conditions

While you’ll be hard-pressed to find any insurance policies specifically intended for digital nomads, there are at least some options that may be suitable for the lifestyle. It’s essential to read the fine print and fully understand the conditions before signing up for any insurance policy. 

Before perusing the mind-numbing Policy Disclosure Statements (PDS) of your preferred provider, keep the following key points in mind:

  • Insurance Type: Can you return home for coverage in an emergency?
  • COVID-19 Coverage: Will the provider cover events related to COVID-19?
  • Sports & Activities: Is your passion or high-altitude trekking or SCUBA covered?
  • Pre-Existing Conditions: While international health insurance often covers existing conditions, many travel insurance policies will not
  • Premium: Can you afford the monthly payments?
    • If not, can you tweak the deductible or policy limit to obtain a cheaper premium?
  • Coverage: Do you need coverage for minor ailments, or can you afford to pay out of pocket?
  • Travel Claims: Travel insurance may cover theft and delays while health insurance will not.
  • Destination: Avoiding the United States will see you save on your premium.

Best Travel Insurance for Digital Nomads

Safety Wings Travel Insurance

Type: Travel Insurance

COVID-19 Coverage: Some coverage- see policy for details

Safety Wings has become a hit among the digital nomad set for their low price premiums and simple, month-to-month payment plan. Applicants receive instant coverage up to $250,000 with a $250 excess that’s voided for many smaller claims. But beware: high-risk sports, cancer treatment, and pre-existing conditions don’t come included in the deal. 

How To Apply: Receive an instant quote online

World Nomads Travel Insurance

Type: Travel Insurance

COVID-19 Coverage: Some coverage depending on your residency

Long-standing favorite World Nomads has tweaked their travel insurance policy to appeal to perpetual jet setters. Upgrade to the Explorer plan to cover a range of extreme sports and activities. 

It’s a tad pricier than other travel insurance options, but the claims process is easy to navigate, and the inclusions are hard to beat. 

How To Apply: Receive an instant quote online

IMG Global Travel Insurance

Type: Travel Insurance

COVID-19 Coverage: Some coverage- see policy for details

IMG is an industry leader in ex-pat health insurance, and its popular ‘Patriot’ policy appeals to digital nomads who already have primary health insurance. Expect excellent coverage for a range of medical conditions for a low monthly price, especially if you stay outside the U.S. 

The provider lets you tweak deductible and policy limits to adjust the monthly premium. Adventure sports and medical evacuations are optional add-ons for those who think they’ll need them. 

Processing times are slow, however, and there’s a long list of exclusions—pay close attention to the terms and conditions. 

How to apply: Fill out the online form for a quote

Best Health Insurance for Digital Nomads

CIGNA International Health Insurance

Type: International Health Insurance

COVID-19 Coverage: Some coverage- see policy for details

While Cigna doesn’t specifically target digital nomads, its comprehensive international health insurance is ideal for year-round travelers with no permanent domicile. The premiums are relatively high, but you get 24/7 support and access to a global network of 1.6 million hospitals.

How to apply: Fill out the online form for a quote

Integra Global International Health Insurance

Type: International health insurance

COVID-19 Coverage:  Some coverage- see policy for details

Integra Global offers three nomad-friendly tiers of international health insurance, and you can adjust the deductible to fine-tune your premium. The deductibles are calculated per year rather than per incident, and it’s possible to obtain cover for pre-existing conditions. 

The provider works with any licensed hospital or doctor, although there’s no direct billing, so expect to pay upfront and wait for reimbursement. 

How to apply: Fill out the online form for a quote

While there are countless other insurance providers on the market, we’ve consolidated the top five options into one simple list. Your next step is to obtain quotes and read through the terms and conditions to work out which policy is best for you. 

Although it’s a bit of a chore, choosing a suitable health insurance policy could save your life one day—this isn’t something you can just ignore. 

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