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Expatriate or travel health insurance?

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It is important to know what your status is in the eyes of an international health insurer. The consequences can be serious.


1-What are the differences and why


A traveller (or tourist) is a person who temporarily travels to a foreign country.

The local health insurance of his country of nationality does not cover him abroad, so he needs to buy a travel international medical insurance. Travel insurances are special solutions, adapted to the international, an insurance policy issued in English, the insurer has a team of multilingual advisers, agreements with international hospitals, direct-billing can be arranged, and is able to organize a repatriation to the other side of the world.

These insurances are often not expensive for the main following reasons:

-it is subscribed for the duration of the stay only.

-in the event of a serious medical problem, the insurer repatriates the insured to his country, where the local insurance that he is supposed to have will take over. The international insurer therefore does not bear the risk of having to cover the cost of treatment for a long period (with rare exceptions).

-finally, once the insured has repatriated or returned, the insurance policy ends. If the insured wishes to resubscribe, for a new trip, all the medical problems he has had will no longer be covered.

-it offers coverage of medical expenses for illness and accident only. Sometimes it only covers emergencies, or even emergency hospitalization.

- the maximum coverage is often quite low.


An expatriate is a person who lives abroad. He needs health insurance for resident, often called expatriate insurance.

There are countless different contracts and insurers. Overall, here is what characterizes them:

- the contract is annual and automatically renewable (with exceptions depending on the insurers). The insurer thus undertakes to cover the insured as long as the latter renews his contract each year. The insurer undertakes to cover all medical problems from the subscription of the contract, and knowing that some contracts are lifelong, that is to say without limitation in time.

-it is possible to find very broad and very high coverage, including dental, maternity, health check-up.

-maximum coverage can reach to several million dollars, to cover the highest hospital costs.

-insurers can offer extended services, for example online portal to manage accounts and claims, mobile app, telemedicine, second medical opinion, direct-billing, insurance card, etc.

-It is possible to benefit from a much more personalized and quality customer service.


2-What is the problem


Most people who go to live abroad have well-defined situations with regard to their status. But some situations are ambiguous. This is the case when a person lives in a foreign country most of the year but retains important ties to their country of origin and travels there regularly. In these circumstances it happens that some people do not consider themselves expatriates. They continue to benefit from their health coverage in their country of nationality and during their stays abroad they are satisfied with travel insurance. This is a risky situation. Example, an expensive hospitalization in the foreign country occurs. The insurer may decide to investigate and find out that the person is, in fact, a resident in the foreign country, not a tourist, therefore not eligible for the travel insurance taken out, and cancels the insurance. I have had several cases over the past 10 years.


This situation must be avoided because even if the insured finally manages to demonstrate and convince the insurer that his residence is still in his country of nationality, he will probably have had to advance all medical expenses and manage his repatriation himself before being refunded, eventually.


To avoid this situation, I simply recommend choosing expatriate health insurance when the person lives most of the time in a foreign country. Thus, the possibilities of litigation are ruled out and in the event of serious medical problems the insured is better protected.


For additional information, a personalized study, quotations and advises, please contact me here: [email protected]


Mr. Romain CAMILLO

Broker expert in health insurance

14 years in the insurance business. 10 years in Thailand.

Master's degree in business law (University) ; Master's degree in international taxation (Business School)



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