Updated October 2019
There are many, many reasons you should purchase health insurance when traveling abroad, the most obvious being to protect yourself in the case of an emergency, though some countries are beginning to require health coverage as a mandatory condition of entry, meaning travelers no longer have the choice to travel without it.
Expat hubs around the world are beginning to require mandatory health insurance before issuing a visa, and more and more countries are deciding to refuse entry without it. Many travelers don’t realize that without the correct insurance, they could be turned away from the destination they are visiting before they make it past airport arrivals.
The following countries are among those jumping on the trend of making health insurance mandatory for those wishing to travel or live overseas.
Countries Which Won’t Let You In Without Health Insurance
Cuba makes having health insurance a mandatory requirement for all visitors entering the country, and this rule applies to all travelers from overseas as well as to Cubans living abroad.
Those who can’t provide immigration with proof of coverage will be forced to buy insurance from the local Cuban insurance provider who have an office set up in the immigration area of the airport.
Just note that the cover purchased in Cuba is likely to be less comprehensive than most local policies from your home country, and are generally likely to have more expensive premiums.
Health insurance is mandatory for visitors to enter the UAE (Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc), and everyone applying for a visit or tourist visa needs to have proof of coverage, regardless of the nationality, age or gender. Only travelers who don’t need visas on arrival are exempt.
This rule was implemented almost five years ago by the UAE government, and has been slowly rolled out since then. Some companies and tour operators that offer package tours will offer to arrange health insurance policies for you.
Residents and foreign expats applying for a new visa or visa renewal must be able to demonstrate that they are covered by medical insurance to stay in the country.
Tip: To get all the right documents for your visa application, take a look at VisaBadge (a free, online platform for visa documentation).
Travel insurance which includes comprehensive health coverage is mandatory for all cruises to the white continent, and every Antarctic operator will require proof of insurance before issuing your tickets.
Your regular health insurance is not enough for Antarctica due to the remoteness of the destination. You need coverage for emergency evacuation, sickness and repatriation, and we suggest looking for an insurer that offers unlimited cover due to the high cost associated with the distance that needs to be covered should you fall ill.
Make sure you know exactly what is covered, especially if you’re including optional activities such as camping, kayaking, or skiing. Insurers will rarely openly state these activities and it is up to you to read the fine print on your policy document to make sure you’re covered.
Not all Antarctica travel insurance policies cover land based activities. For more information on Antarctica travel visit the Chimu Adventures Antarctica Resource Centre.
Qatar makes medical insurance compulsory for expats, a measure which was brought in to balance the ballooning health care costs of foreign nationals relying on state care.
Private companies have been legally obliged to pay premiums on behalf of all expatriate employees since 2015.
Another expat hub, Turkey requires all foreigners under the age of 65 traveling on long stay tourist visas to have unlimited comprehensive cover for in-patient treatment.
All expats need compulsory health insurance if they want to obtain residence permit in Turkey, though they recently removed the requirement for retired expats living in the country over the age of 65.
Policies are required to have benefits which have a minimum limit of 2,000 lira for outpatient treatment; the equivalent to $815 USD. While citizens of member countries to the European Union have access to healthcare throughout Europe with the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic), this is invalid in Turkey.
Foreign nationals might get access to travel and live within the US without having health insurance, however the cost of health care within the United States is so high that “any visitor without insurance plays with fire”.
Data recently released by the World Health Organization and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development puts the average cost of a routine appendix removal in the US at $8,156, in comparison to $3,408 in the UK, $2,245 in Spain and $953 in Argentina.
According to Dr. Sonal Bhoot, a dentist in Lee’s Summit, Mo, it’s estimated that a day in hospital in the States can cost anywhere from US$1,500-$12,500. When compared to other countries, that’s astronomically high.
So, while you don’t need health insurance to get past US immigration, we include it in this list because it’s not one you want to risk (no country is worth the risk of traveling without insurance, but the USA especially).
Europe: 26 Schengen Countries
The Schengen Area is a zone in Europe where 26 countries have acknowledged the abolishment of their internal borders. Anyone who needs to apply for the Schengen visa to enter Europe must have international health insurance.
The 26 countries in the zone are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
A letter from your insurance company is required, and this needs to mention that you will be covered in Europe for any medical, evacuation and repatriation expenses during your whole stay. The medical expenses have to be covered for at least $35,000 or 30,000 euros.
While France has already been mentioned above as one of the countries in the Schengen zone, there are additional requirements in France for students and non-working expats who may be exempt from the Schengen visa.
Non-working European expats under retirement age have to meet rigorous standards of cover, and proof of private health insurance is part of the visa application for long stays.
For students who are over 28 years of age, and planning on staying long term (longer than 90 days) you will be required to show proof of private health insurance valid in France as part of the visa application.
When applying for a long stay visa you will have to provide a certificate which covers health, dental care, hospitalization, accidents, pharmacy, disability and death.
In Collaboration With IndividualHealth.com
As travelers and expats increasingly hop from country to country, it’s crucial to find insurance to cover you wherever you travel. For expats and digital nomads especially, it is vital to make sure your insurance is transferable to each new country of residence.
In terms of where to start looking, Timothy Jennings at Individual Health is a reputable health insurance broker who has worked in the international and US domestic market for more than 30 years.
He offers travelers a range of different options on plans and coverage including short-term travel medical (generally less than 6 months), annual renewable coverage for expats, and coverage for business groups worldwide.
Tim works mainly within the International Markets, specifically catering health care plans to the outbound US Traveler and Expat, to expats entering the U.S, and foreign nationals traveling outside their home countries with no American ties.
After representing most of the International Programs available through U.S. Brokers, he now focuses almost all of his efforts with GeoBlue, a company which exceeds the needs of just about all travelers, and is a leader in global cover throughout the world. Tim is one of a limited few U.S. based brokers that works full-time in this field. Contact him for a quote today.
Learn More About:
GeoBlue Health Insurance
GeoBlue is a trade name of Worldwide Insurance Services, LLC (Worldwide Services Insurance Agency, LLC in California and New York), an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
Since 1997, Worldwide Insurance Services has been dedicated to helping travelers and expatriates identify, access and pay for quality healthcare, all around the world. Sold in connection with certain Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies, each GeoBlue policy is U.S. licensed and offers the most complete set of benefits and services in the industry.
- GeoBlue members enjoy:24/7 Phone, Web and Mobile Support
- Prompt Access to Trusted Doctors and Hospitals
- Cashless Appointment Scheduling
- Paperless Claims Resolution
- Destination Health Intelligence
GeoBlue and the US Traveler
One of the most important aspects of International Cover is the relationship between you and your insurer. After all what good is the health insurance if you cannot find a doctor you trust. GeoBlue has an elite network of doctors from most every specialty ready to see you in over 180 countries.
Only a small fraction of doctors around the world meet GeoBlue’s exacting standards—participation is by invitation only. GeoBlue seeks out professionals certified by the American or Royal Board of Medical Specialties who speak English, and they factor in recommendations by over 158 Physician Advisors from all over the world.GeoBlue assembles in-depth provider profiles so their members can choose with confidence, and they put formal contracts in place to ensure preferred patient access. GeoBlue doctors and hospitals bill them directly so their policy holders don’t have to worry about filing a claim.
For members choosing a GeoBlue plan that offers benefits in the United States, they gain access to the largest national network and facilities that have been awarded the coveted Blue Distinction for superior medical outcomes. In the U.S., more than 80 percent of physicians and 90 percent of hospitals contract directly with Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.
International Health Insurance for Expats Living Abroad
International Health Insurance has been around for a long-time. Very much like Individual Health’s domestic plans in the U.S., their International plans provide the International equivalent of a major medical plan only enhanced to meet the needs of the global traveler.
As global lifestyles continue to emerge, the demand for comprehensive international health insurance has grown rapidly. For the global expatriate the increase in selection from tier one insurers offers them a choice not previously found.
Many off-shore insurers have missed the mark because of limited benefit, long waiting periods, harsh exclusions, pre-certification penalties and lack of portability.
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