International medical coverage is such an important issue for those who travel abroad, and since becoming brand ambassadors for Individual Health and GeoBlue, we have written a whopping 22 articles on the many different reasons why comprehensive health coverage is something you never want to find yourself stuck overseas without. Travel without health insurance.
Because you don’t have to be on an adventurous trip for something to go terribly wrong, and you could be in the very best of health, however the fact is that environmental factors are beyond your control. All it takes is one major health incident to bankrupt you for life, or worse, see you refused emergency medical care because you don’t have the insurance and can’t afford to pay. Traveling without health insurance in this instance could very well cost you your life. Can I get away with traveling without health insurance?
So why do so many travelers still travel without it? You wouldn’t go away without your tickets or your passport, so why risk going away without a proper health insurance plan? Do people travel without insurance?
I’ve been phrasing that as a rhetorical question across my 22 posts to date, however hadn’t stopped to actually address why. Why do travelers risk everything to travel without insurance which could ultimately save their life?
The following are a list of reasons why travelers head overseas without health insurance, and if you happen to be one of them, hopefully we can make you realize the critical importance of changing your mind.
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You Never Get Sick
Many people choose to forgo health insurance on the grounds that they are proactive about their health and prioritize taking proper care of their body. However travelers are often under the misconception that health insurance is for the small stuff; a cold, the flu, or a nasty bruise. But it actually exists for emergency situations and life threatening events beyond your control. People who travel without travel insurance.
International health insurance is there to cover you in the event that you need an emergency operation, let’s say your appendix decided to burst. Or if you need an emergency evacuation so that you can afford a helicopter transfer. It’s there to protect you in case of a disaster. And if you come down with something serious which doesn’t discriminate between someone with healthy or unhealthy lifestyle, you’re going to need to rely on that insurance.
It’s fantastic that you’ve never been sick before, and that you take extremely good care of your health, however we need insurance for life-threatening conditions which can arise no matter how health conscience you are. It’s for covering you in those instances which are out of your control, because there are always environmental factors beyond what you can take responsibility for.
You Had Insurance, Didn’t Use It, So Didn’t Renew It
Maybe you think that you may as well save a few dollars on your next trip because it’s not really something you’ve ended up needing in the past. I honestly wouldn’t blame you. I thought that too.
But thinking that you wont renew your health insurance because you haven’t needed to use it in the past is a dangerous thing, especially when the cost of international health insurance really isn’t that much. No one wants to pay for something they’ll rarely use, if at all, but if you can afford to travel, you can afford health coverage. Not going to renew my travel health insurance.
Sure the risk is small, but that is exactly why insurance exists – to take care of those small risk situations, which you can’t afford to happen. And they do happen. Hundreds of thousands of tourists find themselves in the same position every year; purposely avoiding the hospital despite being in dire need of medical care, simply because they don’t have the budget to foot the hospital bill. Whats the chance I get sick overseas without health insurance?
So even if you’ve never needed to rely on your health insurance overseas before, there’s no way of knowing that you’ll never need it at all. One major health incident could bankrupt you for life.
You Already Have Health Insurance at Home
Too many people are traveling and living abroad with the misunderstanding that their domestic health cover is going to take care of them in the event of a tragedy or medical emergency. But your regular health insurance won’t cover you while abroad.
So if you trip on a cobblestone street and break your nose, somehow trigger an asthma attack and can’t breathe, get hit by a Tuk Tuk in Asia, or even slip and break your back while on an Amazon cruise, not having medical insurance which specifically covers international travel, for lack of a better phrase, means you’re screwed. Dont have health insurance overseas.
Western Medicine Isn’t Your Thing
It’s a decent point that western medicine is not always the best way to treat any and every illness, and a lot of society has become far too reliant on using the emergency room as their “to go”. However health insurance is there to cover you in serious and life threatening situations, and often western medicine is going to be your only resort.
Your preference may be to use natural remedies as a cure, and that’s fantastic for general sicknesses and minor accidents which occur in day to day life, though natural remedies and holistic medicine in life-threatening situations won’t help. What happens if I dont have travel health insurance?
Health Care is Cheaper Overseas
Medical tourism can be very cheap, and if you’re traveling to a country where the healthcare is close to free, by all means research how much the out of pocket costs would be. However health insurance which covers international travel is also very cheap, and comes with more benefits and perks than you would receive from walking into a clinic off the street.
For instance, when you’re in a foreign land and an emergency happens do you speak the local language? Health insurance in many cases may cover a translator for you. Do you know which medical facilities are qualified to treat your needs? A good health insurance plan will direct you to the best doctors regardless of the country you’re in. For instance insurance with GeoBlue – they work with an elite network of doctors in over 180 countries and their mobile app tells you which clinic is closest to you.
When considering medical tourism instead of insurance, bear in mind that hospital bills, even in developing countries can be outrageous and put you into serious debt. Five days in South Africa for one traveler for a broken arm and a shared ward reached close to $10,000.
Also consider the standards of healthcare in the country of your destination, as these could be totally different to what you are used to at home.
You Only Worry About Things When They Happen
Travel insurance is one of those things that you never want to understand the value of but, if you have to, you don’t want to regret having brushed off its importance. And sure, no-one likes to worry about the things which haven’t happened yet. Though something as simple as taking out an insurance plan to cover your health is such a small thing to do to prevent a great deal of financial burden and emotional stress should something actually happen to you. How many people travel without health insurance?
This approach might be working for you now, and you may think that you’ll consider something else once it stops working for you. But if you don’t have health insurance when you need it, then it’s far too late when this approach stops working for you.
It’s Your Choice and It’s Something Which Only Affects You
Believe it or not, you’re not the only one affected by your choice to travel without health insurance. It can affect both local governments and your immediate family too. Why do people travel without insurance?
Families have bankrupted themselves trying to get a loved one home on an evacuation and for follow-up medical care. Or found themselves in desperate situations trying to scrape together the funds to cover a life threatening situation abroad. You may not feel the need to travel with insurance and cover your health in case of an emergency event, however in doing do you could be sticking your family with upwards of $100,000 in debt.
Local governments too, have been starting to feel the increasing strain of having to cover the medical costs of tourists who travel without insurance. And in many cases, some destinations are now making health insurance a mandatory condition of entry into the country to specifically cut these costs.
For instance in many countries around the world, hospitals are required to treat all medical emergencies regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. People without insurance and don’t have the ability to pay accumulate soaring medical bills, and then the government gets stuck with the bill when they either file bankruptcy or just can’t pay.
You Have No Idea What to Look For & Fine Print is Confusing as Hell
If you’ve put in the time to research your destination and the cool and exciting things you’re going to do, you can take the time to research what to look for when buying international health insurance.
Sure, fine print can be incredibly confusing to have to read through, and you might not have any clue as to what you should include or where you should start your search. But we can make it super easy for you:
Insurance With GeoBlue
We go through Tim Jennings at Individual Health for insurance with #GeoBlue – an exceptional worldwide insurer with a network of elite doctors in over 180 countries and a hugely helpful mobile app for quick and easy access to quality care for anything from emergency needs, to filling a simple prescription, to translating your symptoms, to finding the right doctor at home or abroad.
Their policies offer the most complete set of benefits and services in the industry and essentially provide a worldwide, all-access pass to an exclusive level of care. GeoBlue doctors and hospitals bill them directly so you don’t have to even worry about filing a claim, and you don’t have to lay out any cash.
Though let’s say you’ve been knocked unconscious and rushed to a medical facility which is not part of the GeoBlue network. GeoBlue makes their best attempt to arrange direct payment no matter which medical provider you see. Most of the time they are successful and there is no cash outlay for you as the patient at all.
In the instance that you’re required to pay a rural provider outside of the GeoBlue network for health services, it’s easy to submit claims online via your phone or computer, and you’re reimbursed within days.
Contact Tim Jennings at email@example.com or click for a free quote.
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This post was completed in our capacity as Brand Ambassadors for Individual Health and GeoBlue. Photo credits: Foreign female doctor under subheading “healthcare is cheaper overseas” by DFID – UK Department for International Development. Gloved hand with medicine bottle by DVIDSHUB.
We are so fortunate that we work internationally and therefore have international health care coverage. Just takes one more thing off our plate that we don’t have to worry about/ figure out!
Absolutely – fabulous perk of a job which includes overseas travel. Does company insurance cover you on a regular vacation too outside of those trips for work? I’ve never had insurance as part of employment so it has me wondering :)
I understand the reasons why people wouldn’t want to get insurance, but I always cringe when people think they don’t need it like: “oh I’ll be alright, we’re just going for a few days.” because anything could happen! Some of the reasons are scary though like expecting the medical bills to be cheap in another country, it’s a very dangerous assumption! I checked Geoblue out after your last post, I really like their approach with connections with doctors all over the world :)
Absolutely Mel – doesn’t matter if you’re away for a week, a month or just one day – if something happens on the first day you still need insurance to cover it. One of the girls from the States came to Australia and visited me in Canberra – she was one week into her 4 month trip and broke her ankle fairly badly. So you need to be covered regardless of how long a trip is.
GeoBlue really have a fantastic system set up – feel free to reach out to Tim at Individual Health if you have any other questions … he’s a wealth of knowledge on the topic :)
We always made sure to have cover during our 17 months trip in Asia, as a result of reading excellent posts like this! We can’t stress the importance of having decent medical insurance when travelling.
We’ve claimed at least twice now and my god it wasn’t cheap!
I’m glad we could help influence you towards the importance of having health cover Stefan :) Medical insurance shouldn’t even be a question, it should just be a must.
GUILTY! And also, I’m a nurse and most nurses are know it alls and think we can just diagnose ourselves anytime we want. Won’t be going to the hospital unless I’m dying! LOL. Maybe that’s just me. Kidding aside, since I’m based in the Philippines where medical care is a lot cheaper than back home, thank God it hasn’t become a problem for me yet!
I should add “I’m a nurse” to my list then Erica haha. I can understand that in a situation where you’re a trained medical professional there would be the mindset there that you can diagnose yourself. Medical coverage really still is so important though because if your in a situation where god forbid find yourself knocked unconscious or something like that, you’re not going to be able to make the decision to go to the hospital yourself.
I really hope you continue your travels without issue – absolutely urge you to at least look into health insurance coverage though – it’s very cheap!
Oh absolutely. Great point. My husband is actually working on it but like I said…my know it all state of mind keeps trying to persuade him that we’re fiiiiiiine. Lol. I lost the battle just recently, as a matter of fact.
Great article! Couldn’t agree more about the importance of international health insurance. I did not expect to be hit by a motor cycle in Thailand a few years ago and was so glad I had health insure. That covered my $20,000 bill, basically no questions asked. I would never travel without it!
Thanks Tyler – so sorry to hear about your motorcycle accident, but glad insurance kicked in!!! That’s not a bill you want to have to swallow. Some people think that traveling through South East Asia is fine because medical will be cheaper than home, but they don’t realize that the costs do rack up into bills which are quite huge.
Travel safe XX
Another one to add to the list – you’re not insured at home, so why bother when you’re abroad?
Thanks in large part to the ACA, the rate of uninsured people in the US has gone from 18% in 2014 to a little under 12% now (Gallup). For ten years, I was part of that percentage. I took about five international trips within than time frame. I could afford a few random vacations. I literally could not afford insurance. So when I traveled without it, I was taking no more of a risk than I was in my day-to-day life at home – perhaps less of a risk, given your point that healthcare is often cheaper overseas.
The only upside I saw to travel insurance during that time was that they’d transport my body home if I died. It was selfish, but the chance was small enough that it was a risk I was willing to take. Once you get in the mindset of living uninsured, you accept that sort of risk as part of life.
That’s a great point too Polly. I’ll have to add that to the list. I’ve heard from a lot of people who have actually started a life of full time travel and one of the perks they mentioned of life on the road was being able to afford health insurance for the first time. It’s much cheaper traveling and being insured on an international heath plan than it is in many countries at home, the States being one of them.
I once traveled without insurance too, on the mindset that it was a risk I was willing to take, though I had a few close calls which were enough to scare me into realizing it was something I just had to do. And I’ve since heard so many traveler stories, one after another after another, where not having had insurance after being in an accident abroad has just totally ruined their lives.
Definitely look into GeoBlue if you’re looking at taking another trip abroad – it’s obviously a personal choice to travel with or without it, though my personal feelings are that it’s just too much of a risk to go without. The worst case scenario’s aren’t worth the risk. For both your family and yourself.
Safe travels XX
I admit I haven’t used travel insurance before but it’s something I’m starting to look at as I get older.
Touch base with Tim at Individual Health and he’ll be able to answer any questions you have about taking out a policy for the first time :)
I’m one of the travelers who use all of the above excuses not to get travel insurance. I wonder if all my travels without insurance would cover the costs of a major issue?
Depends on what kind of major issue you run into. Probably not quite honestly, travel insurance can be as cheap as $30 a month if you get a super basic plan, and some of the comments above have mentioned having bills of $20,000 for a motorcycle accident, Deb and Dave from the Planet D would have had bills of over $50,000 just for their helicopter evacuation last year in the Amazon. Those bills can get really high really quickly without you having even blinked an eye!
I hope we’ve managed to convince you to at least look into covering yourself with health insurance. It’s very affordable so not worth the risk to travel without :)
I am NEVER ever ever going to try my luck. I was thankful I had insurance the time I fainted in the street in the US and, before taking me to the ER, the paramedics asked whether I had health insurance. A very simple treatment costed (and I am speaking of year 2001) well over $2000 USD. So happy I invested on health insurance then. I’d always rather be safe than sorry. I can’t get why people won’t travel with it.
Sorry to hear you had a fall in the US Claudia – though also very glad that you were covered with healthcare at the time. Anyone traveling throughout the US specifically without healthcare is playing with fire. Doesn’t even need to be a major emergency here to completely bankrupt you for life. $2000 for a quick hospital visit after feinting is ridiculous!!!
We didn’t use our travel insurance during one year, so we decided not to renew it. Also, we were in Thailand, medicine here is cheap, plus we are in good shape, let´s wait. When we start travelling full time again we buy it! Silliest mistake ever! After two months my husband got really sick, was rushed to the hospital with kidney infection and kidney stones. Bottom line, two days of hospital, medicine, and lab exams costed us almost the same amount as one year travel insurance for both of us. Lesson learned! On the day we got out from the hospital I bought our travel insurance again!
Great post Meg!
From the sounds of it, it at least sounds like you got away without too much of a horrendous medical bill, so I’m glad for you for that :) But getting into the mindset that travel insurance is something we don’t need really can be a dangerous thing.
Can’t ever get too complacent that it’s not worthwhile because we haven’t used it in the past. And at least you didn’t have to learn the super hard way!!
Travel safe – hope your husband has fully recovered Nat X
Actually, as full time travelers, our travel insurance health coverage is superior to that which we would get and pay dearly for in the U.S. under Obamacare. Just another reason to keep traveling! We would dream of traveling without it.
I’ve had a few people mention that actually Betsy! It’s amazing that one of the things which holds some people back from full time travel (an uncertainty about healthcare) is actually one of the biggest perks!
I can’t stretch enough (also see my comment on one of your previous blogs) how dumb it is to travel without insurance. I mean, what if you get stepped on by an elephant? Or get bitten by a snake? Who is going to take care of the cost? I’m not sure of cost of travel insurance in other countries, but in Holland it’s about 200 euros a year for 2 people and I can’t get my heart to it not to pay it anymore… I would never forgive myself if I needed medical help and my family would need to help out because I can’t afford it…. I hope your article will make people realize you really should get insurance!
Glad you’re also on board Antonette :) 200 Euros for the year for 2 people is literally nothing in comparison to the costs of medical bills if you do find yourself in one of those horrible situations, and even if you have it for a number of years before anything were to happen, the cost overtime is still nothing in comparison to what insurance can save you from! Never worth the risk.
Travel safe! X
You can gamble the odds but this is not a smart decision in the longer term for sure. I have enough experience behind after ten years of constant travel to testify to it. These guys at GeoBlue seem to know what they are talking about. When I quit my job to travel and my job doesn’t cover me anymore, i will be sure to have a chat with them! :)
Absolutely Mar – the longer you travel and stay on the road the higher your chances are for needing to rely on some kind of insurance at some point in time. It’s so fantastic that work places are including health coverage for those who travel internationally – definitely have a chat with the guys at Individual Health about GeoBlue is you do decide to venture out on your own at some stage soon :)
I really do agree. Getting an international health insurance is really a must for every travelers out there, we would really never know what happens along the way. It’s better to be prepared than go bananas when the emergency arises.
Absolutely Karla – nothing wrong with making sure you’re safe and not sorry!!
To be honest, on several occasions I did travel without insurance, but I started getting it after I went to Europe where it was mandatory that I have it. Now, I always take the option.
I think that it’s going to start becoming more common that countries mandate that you have it too. An easy way that governments can save money on the cost of covering the hospital bills of those who injure themselves when visiting from overseas.
Love how you are combating so many reasons to avoid coverage. My husband and I are currently shopping for a good plan to fit our needs, and sounds like GeoBlue may be a perfect fit! Thanks so much for the research and recommendation!
Definitely reach out to Tim at Individual Health then – they offer some fantastic options and plans so you’ll be well taken care of :)
I must admit we travel without international health insurance coverage. All those reasons apply to us! WE better rethink this policy of ours. Thanks, Meg!
I’m glad we could convince you to consider taking out a policy Carol. It’s really not worth the risk when it comes to your health :) Let us know if you have any questions – and do feel free to reach out to Tim at Individual Health for more information about GeoBlue. He’s a wealth of knowledge and can help you out with a quote :)
I read this yesterday and can relate to everything! I was backpacking Latin America for three years without a health insurance. Now I know this is really important! Thanks, Meg!
I’m glad we could convince you to rethink your stance Trisha! It really is one of the most important things to have with you when you travel – it’s never a good idea to play Russian roulette when it comes to your health!
Let us know if you have any questions – and do feel free to reach out to Tim at Individual Health for more information about GeoBlue. He’s a wealth of knowledge and can help you out with a quote :)
Great tips. Admittedly, I only started getting additional travel health insurance in the last year – and even though I’ve never needed to “use” it – I am always thankful for the just in case protection.
Having it and not having to use it is always better than not having it and having to use it – and health insurance for overseas travel is so affordable that it’s worthwhile just for the peace of mind that you’re covered if something does actually happen.
Travel safe Elena :)
Good tips, especially about the effects on your family and loved ones, and about reading up more about health insurance. It can seem annoying and time consuming, but it definitely is rewarding if you end up needing it – and better be safe than sorry!
Thanks Mary – and absolutely re your choices affecting your loved ones – people don’t think about that at all, when really it’s ruined so many families because of one person’s decision and then it’s heartbreaking to have to mortgage everything to get them back from overseas.
Always better to be safe than sorry!
I admit to being slack when it comes to insurance paperwork because I always think I’m so un-adventurous that I couldn’t possibly use it but I now realize that most insurance claims aren’t from doing wild activities but everyday moments that just got a little off kilter.
Absolutely – Deb and Dave are the prime example – Amazon pleasure cruise probably one of the least adventurous activities they’ve taken on to date but it just so happened to be the one where he slipped. Doesn’t have to be an adventurous, death defying trip to put you in danger.
Feel free to reach out to Tim at Individual Health if you have any Q’s about GeoBlue :)
Great tips… Thanks for sharing
Previously, I was traveling several times without insurance, but from the day I read your post, never made that mistake again.
Thanks once again.
You’re welcome Alxea, I’m glad that the post was insightful for you, and that you’re now traveling with insurance. It’s never worth the risk. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it though! Safe travels :)
Nice tips. I have no insurance for me and my family and planning to travel safari areas of the world like 2-3.
I wondering what can happen If we don’t have insurance. After reading this atleast I need to get insurance for my toddler.
Glad the post was helpful Tracey – I would definitely recommend getting insurance for everyone, it’s quite affordable, so if anything does happen you’re not worrying about having to foot the bill. Really anything could happen, something as simple as tripping and falling and putting out your back (happened to one of my friends), or being bitten by something that gives you a reaction, food poisoning etc. It’s always best to covered so you don’t have to worry about any of these scenarios :)
I hope you have an amazing safari!
I was traveling several times without insurance.I read your post, never made that mistake again. Thanks once again.
Glad to hear you’ll be covered for your future travels Riham – it’s really never worth the risk :) Safe and happy travels!