Even before the global COVID pandemic, people were transitioning to remote work as quickly as their employers would allow it. With or without their bosses’ knowledge, those same employees worked from locations where they felt like living and working.
As the pandemic recedes, many workers who went home to work and shelter in place have continued working remotely. Other countries have noticed too―many offer visas and perks exclusively for remote workers, also called digital nomads.
Taking a vacation is different from living the digital nomad life. When you are roaming the world without an end date and need a prescription refill or annual exam, normal travel insurance won’t cut it. As a digital nomad, you occupy that middle space between traveler and expat; many factors will play into your insurance needs.
Read on to learn what insurance a digital nomad needs.
Let’s start with the ‘why’. If you have good medical insurance in your home country, you may be surprised to learn that some of the coverage you’ve come to rely on isn’t available in typical travel insurance plans.
A travel insurance plan has a start and end date – even annual plans do – and plenty of exclusions exist.
The following is the medical-related coverage digital nomads need while traveling and working remotely:
1. Medical Coverage – you want to find a plan that covers routine care as well as emergencies. You can buy a long-term medical insurance plan that’s ideal for working abroad. Some have benefits like coverage for pregnancy and dependents too.
Important: even if you purchase a medical plan for your digital nomad life, it may not cover you within your home country. That means if you return home for the holidays and get into a car crash, you need to have health insurance that covers you back home.
2. Evacuation and Repatriation Coverage – this coverage pays for medical evacuations and the transportation of your mortal remains if you die in another country. Some evacuation coverage kicks in if there is a natural disaster, or security situation you want to escape. Research the risks where you plan to travel to decide if you need those options.
3. Pre-existing coverage (possibly) – this overrides the exclusion for pre-existing medical conditions, which is common with travel insurance plans. If you have any condition that could re-occur, you need this.
Pro tip: here’s how to know if you need pre-ex coverage.
1. Medical Assistance – this coverage can help you find a medical provider that speaks your language, among other services. Very helpful if you’re suddenly in need of a doctor’s care in a new place.
2. Medical Reunion Coverage – this coverage pays for a person from back home to visit you if you are hospitalized while away.
3. Coverage for pandemics – this coverage was added into many, but not all, plans. If you become ill with Covid while living in another country, you may need medical care. If the plan you purchase excludes COVID-19, for example, you may have to pay for the medical treatment out of pocket.
Unless you’re paying upfront for a lot of your travel, trip cancellation and interruption coverage may not be necessary.
On the other hand, if you are paying a lot of money before leaving your home country, like 4 months’ worth of rent on a cottage in the Philippines, it may be worth considering this coverage. If you plan to travel often between countries as you live the nomad life, this coverage may be worth having.
Medical and evacuation are the big, expensive ones, and of course, there are plenty of other coverages to consider as a digital nomad:
When looking for digital nomad insurance, consider the location, your personal risk tolerance, and what coverage you have at home. Once you have a list of things you want to cover, start searching for annual travel insurance plans that can cover those risks. Often, you’ll find that the amount you spend will be less than what you pay for a year of health insurance at home.
Pro tip: Make sure to find out whether the plan can be renewed while abroad. If not, you may have to return home, start a new plan, and go abroad again.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.