Having a location-independent type of lifestyle means that you have the flexibility to work even in the most far-flung places in the world. Just as long as you can connect through the internet, you are pretty much okay working anywhere. As a digital nomad, you know how important it is to answer the call to roam when it hits. There’s another important for you to consider, that is your insurance.
I know, I know. I can already hear the groans coming from you. It is a boring topic, and everyone knows the difficulty of finding the right one to fit the lifestyle. However, it is still an important and essential topic to talk about. I’ll try to keep everything as simple as possible and as enjoyable as insurance can be.
The Three Basic Types Of Digital Nomad Insurance
Scouring the internet for information regarding what insurance a digital should get, got me to realize that there are three insurance types a digital nomad considers – long-term travel insurance, international health insurance and travel medical insurance. We will be taking a closer look at each one and comparing it to their traditional counterparts.
Long-Term Travel Insurance
Most companies that offer long-term travel insurance provides a one-year extendable or renewable plan. These long-term travel insurance plans are specifically designed to meet the lifestyle of globetrotters who are answering their wanderlust and is perfect for digital nomads. Traditional travel insurance offers a short-term overseas stay period only. It doesn’t fit with the digital nomad lifestyle since many of us travel the globe for years before returning home.
As free-spirited as we are, there is no arguing about us being bound by the fact that we are human. We do need to have some form of insurance when we feed our wanderlust. Traditional travel insurance that offers limited coverage period and minimal health coverage does not cut it for the digital nomad lifestyle. The good news is, several companies have acknowledged the “unusual” lifestyle. They now have an array of plans that are specifically designed to meet the demands of a digital nomad. There are also insurance companies that are made and run by digital nomads for digital nomads.
Most long-term travel insurance has higher and broader coverage compared to a traditional one. Although, my research showed me that long-term travel insurance lasts a maximum of one year only with the feature to renew, extend, or purchase more while on the go. That feature is another reason why it is perfect for digital nomads. Extended travel, globetrotting, and country hopping are regular occurrences in a digital nomad’s life. It is why an insurance plan that can be purchased, renewed, or extended while you’re traveling is a favorite of many.
International Health Insurance
Travel insurance has some medical coverage but not as extensive as the coverage of health insurance offers. With that in mind, anyone who has some pre-existing medical condition might not get the kind of coverage wanted with just travel insurance. The same idea applies between international travel insurance and international health insurance. These are just some of the reasons why some prefer to have separate health insurance from their travel insurance.
Traditional health insurance gives you medical coverage as long as you are back home. On the other hand, international medical coverage gives you medical coverage outside your home country. With the digital nomad lifestyle, health insurance that can offer global coverage is highly recommended. There is no sense in buying any insurance that will not meet the type of lifestyle a digital nomad lives.
Now, you may think that having travel insurance that offers some medical coverage is enough for you and you might be right. However, there are special cases where international health insurance is a must. The best special case example is digital nomads who roam the world to experience extreme sports. These people with an adventurous streak in their blood will be most likely to want more comprehensive coverage for their insurance. The meager coverage the travel insurance offers will just not cut it.
In addition to these exceptional cases, are nomads who have a pre-existing medical condition that requires scheduled treatment and check-ups done now and then. They are still able to travel with specific instructions given by their physicians. They will need a different set of medical coverage than your traditional health or travel insurance can offer. If you are among these people, who travel to various locations to get access to a better and higher level of service you might want to look for medical tourism packages.
Travel Medical Insurance
Now, this is where things make more sense. From the way travel medical insurance is crafted, it can easily be described as a cross between travel insurance and health insurance. Digital nomads love this type of insurance because of how well suited it is for the lifestyle. It covers trip insurance with the option of adding equipment or gear coverage and a wide range of health coverage.
Most companies that offer this kind of insurance has different levels of coverage you can choose from. Some also offer additional modules you can add to your base plan to cover specifics you may want to include. These can make your insurance more comprehensive.
Digital Nomad Essential Insurance Coverage
With so many companies acknowledging the existence of digital nomads and the unusual way of living these people have, you’ll find that there are plenty of options to choose from. In this section, we’ll be enumerating some essential features digital nomad insurance should have.
Emergency Medical Coverage
Emergency medical coverage is different from medical coverage in the sense that the previously mentioned covers emergency cases that require medical attention only. All three types of digital insurance have emergency medical coverage. The only thing you will need to decide on is if the coverage the plan offers is enough for you. Usually, emergency medical coverage includes injuries during travel, unexpected illness treatment, and sometimes, emergency dental treatment.
Medical Evacuation And Repatriation
Medical evacuation and repatriation are when the insurance covers the transportation of the patient from the hospital then back home. It can also transport to another medical facility that is better equipped to deal with the patient’s condition. It may be via land or air transport depending on the coverage of the insurance plan.
Another aspect of this coverage is the emergency medical evacuation feature. It is when you are transported from the site where you got injured to the nearest medical facility. It can come in handy when a patient’s injury or illness is beyond the capacity of the medical facility to handle, and when you get an injury during a trek or hike in the mountains.
Repatriation covers the transportation of the patient’s remains back home or to the nearest crematorium or funeral facility. In some cases, it can also cover the embalming, container of the insured’s remains and the shipping costs.
Personal Possession Coverage
This type of coverage covers your personal belongings such as your baggage, electronic equipment, and relevant documents you carry during your travel from loss, theft, damage, and delay. I cannot stress enough how valuable having this type of coverage present in your insurance. Digital nomads rely very much on technology to make a living and having a damaged laptop due to mishandling is not a pretty scenario.
Also, everyone who has experienced the hassle of having your baggage delayed or misplaced due to airline neglect or fault knows how frustrating and costly it is. This kind of coverage will help you offset the costs from this scenario.
Trip Cancellation And Trip Interruption Coverage
Now, this is a must for a digital nomad and for anyone who plans to travel. You may have a definitive plan on when you will travel. But sometimes there are just instances when the only option for us to take is to cancel our trip. Insurance plans that have this coverage will help offset the expense from canceling a booked trip given that the reason is a valid one.
Trip interruption happens when you are already on your trip, and for some valid reason, your trip needs to be cut short. It is mostly is due to reasons ranging from injury or medical emergency, natural disaster, weather problems, and safety issues due to a political crisis.
To simplify things, trip cancellation deals with valid and reasonable circumstances that come up before your trip starts that leads you to cancel your scheduled trip. Trip interruption, on the other hand, deals with valid and reasonable scenarios that happen during your trip, which leads to your trip getting cut short.
Travel Delay And Missed Connection
It is not enough to have trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage only because travel delays are an often occurrence, especially in the case of digital nomads. Delayed trips or flight can cost you more than you intended to spend on your journey. This coverage reimburses your accommodation, meals, and transportation costs due to a travel delay.
The missed connection will mostly deal with the expenses you incur when you miss your connecting flight due to reasons stated in the policy. Most likely, these reasons would include delays caused by mechanical breakdowns, weather problems, and accidents en route to the airport.
Round The Clock Medical Assistant Operator (not coverage but an essential service)
It is not coverage, but I think it is still vital that your insurance has this service included in their plan. Accidents and emergencies do not pick the time of day it happens, and having around-the-clock medical assistance can be beneficial in times of crises. And since digital nomads come from different places and walk of life, some companies have a multi-lingual team that could assist any time of the day.
Optional “Add Ons” or “Riders”
Different companies offer different plans with varying coverage that you can choose from. But sometimes, you want a specific type of coverage added to your base plan. It is where riders come into play. They are modules that can be included in your base plan, depending on your preference. It is an optional feature but will surely give your insurance plan a more comprehensive coverage if included.
Note: Not all companies name their riders the same, but the ones that are listed below are just some of the most common you’ll find.
This rider covers regular or routine check-ups, cancer detection test, physical exams, and other preventive procedures or tests. It may be an optional module to include in your base plan. But having this will give you the chance to spot illnesses and diseases that have no outward symptoms right away in its early stage. Early detection of such illnesses and diseases can significantly improve the likelihood of curing it without surgery or radical treatment.
Most digital nomads prefer to forgo this rider. Most of the time, it is cheaper to pay for the tests or procedures, especially if they are in a country that has health programs designed for expats.
Dental Coverage Rider
I haven’t come across a plan that offers dental coverage for digital nomads. Some have emergency dental procedure coverage, but my research mostly showed plans having no non-emergency dental coverage. It is, however, a rider that you can include in your base plan for most of the companies I viewed. It covers routine dental check-ups, as well as preventive and major dental procedures and treatment.
It is one more coverage that many digital nomads forgo because, again, it is sometimes a lot cheaper to pay for the service when the need arises. It may be cheaper to do the pay-as-you-go style. But dental coverage for those who have exceptional cases (braces, TMJ Disorder) can benefit more from getting this rider.
Cancer Treatment Rider
Let’s say that your insurance covers the routine check-ups, tests, and physical exams, but then all of a sudden you got diagnosed with cancer. From hospitalization, chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatment, cancer treatment will take a big chunk out of your funds. Here is when a cancer treatment rider comes in, it is designed to cover treatment, radiation, and other procedures and tests in correlation with the cancer treatment.
If you already have a history of cancer in your family, you already know that you are predisposed to a higher chance of getting diagnosed with it sooner or later. Instead of wondering how you will deal with it if ever you are diagnosed, it is better to include a cancer treatment rider in your plan. With the kind of food and lifestyle we now have, it is no wonder that cancer diagnosed rate is climbing up. In my opinion, this is a sensible rider to get, digital nomad or not.
Security Evacuation Rider
Digital nomads are adventurers by heart, and it is this adventurous heart that pushes them to explore and roam the globe. Nevertheless, digital nomads are also exposed to plenty of security risks as they hop from place to place. A security evacuation rider will provide coverage and extraction during civil unrest where you are in danger, terror attacks, and natural calamities. Sometimes companies who specialize in this field employ trained professionals, veterans, and military help as part of their extraction and rescue team.
Pre-Existing Condition Coverage
As the name implies, this is a rider that will provide coverage for pre-existing medical conditions that the insured already sought medical attention and treatment before applying for insurance. It is essential to know that applications for insurance that has a pre-existing coverage will undergo a medical underwriter. This underwriter will then either approve your application with certain limitations, suggest additional premiums to cover for the condition or outright deny your application.
There is no better way to know if you will get approved for insurance for your pre-existing medical condition unless you apply for one. The good thing about having this rider is that you will have some form of coverage even if it is minimal. Anyone who has been diagnosed with a recurring pre-existing condition is the perfect candidate to consider this rider.
Reason Why It Is Difficult To Get Coverage
There are only two significant problems that bog down digital nomads when it comes to applying for insurance. Both issues are the result of the lifestyle that digital nomad has. Thanks to the emergence of new insurance companies and consumer trends, these are now being addressed.
No Permanent Address
Digital nomads are roamers and plenty roam for long periods without returning home. Having no permanent address can be a real issue when applying for insurance since companies sometimes require a permanent residency address. You will even come across companies that need US residency address to qualify for their plans (yep! I know how you feel). Now here is another absurd thing about digital nomad insurances.
Some companies claim that they offer international health insurance but exempts the US in their coverage. I’m not yet finished; there is more. Including the US in your coverage will result in paying double the price of the plan without US coverage in it. (I know, right!)
No Regular Fixed Income
Yes, this is a hurdle for some but not all. You have a job it’s just that your salary highly depends on how much you are willing to work. Having a regular fixed income is not something a digital nomad has control over. There will be months when workloads are plenty and steady while there are months when it slows down to a trickle.
Not having a regular fixed income affects insurance policies that require regular monthly, quarterly, or annual payment can be a tricky road to take. It is doable and possible, but it will take careful management of income and a closer look at how much can spend on insurance.
However, purchasing life insurance before you start your digital nomad career may work partially for you. It is a recommended course of action by a few. What you need to do is purchase life insurance back home. It will serve as your primary insurance and then buy long-term travel insurance for when you travel. You can continue to pay your life insurance even if you are traveling. Also, renew or extend your travel insurance if you haven’t fulfilled your wanderlust desire yet.
This option cannot be considered as an insurance option because you are just paying in cash when an issue arises. Pay-as-you-go is not a very recommended option because it is synonymous with leaving your health and safety to chance (shudder). I am not saying that you can’t choose this option; in fact, many digital nomads have started their journey with this option.
The dark side of this option is that when a major medical emergency happens, you will end up paying a but*load of money to get treatment. It can put an untimely hamper to your digital nomad career.
To Insure Or Not To Insure? That Is The Question
To answer that very Hamlet-ish question; to insure. No doubt about it. No matter how complicated a digital nomad lifestyle is, getting covered must be a top priority. Opt for the plans that cover the basics, and then you can build your career. The peace of mind of having insurance is worth every penny anyone spends. You’ll be able to enjoy your travel more, laugh with your heart, smile, and sleep better if you are covered.
I read somewhere that insurance is considered as one of the hidden costs of the lifestyle. I want to give my own two cents on this statement; insurance should not be viewed as a hidden cost of this lifestyle. It should instead be considered as an investment. Insurance is like a gun, in a sense that I’d rather have it and not need than not have it when I need it.
But I do see and understand how it can be viewed as a hidden cost of the lifestyle. It is a necessity because of how much travel a digital nomad does in his lifetime. Since the digital nomad lifestyle is a unique one, premiums and prices are quite higher compared to the traditional ones.
To give you a quick recap of what we’ve covered, here is a summary of the whole article. Insurance is a tricky subject for digital nomads, but there are three major types to consider. A list of the basic coverage that should be included in digital nomad insurance followed by the optional riders you can include in your plan is discussed. The primary coverage is the things that you need to make sure that your insurance provides. The riders are the things that you may want to think about first before, including in your plan. We wish you luck in finding a way through this crucial area of the digital nomad lifestyle.
I’m the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I’m location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.