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It’s not uncommon for travel insurance to be mentioned in the same breath as International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI). But as any experienced expat will tell you, there’s a big difference between going on holiday and living abroad for any length of time. So if you want to avoid getting caught short with the wrong type of cover, here’s a heads up on how the two products serve very different purposes.
The first thing you need to know is that International PMI is usually 100% about your health. It doesn’t reimburse you for delayed flights, lost luggage or damage to your sunglasses, but if you need a doctor, nurse or physiotherapist, you’re generally in safe hands. Depending on the type of plan you take out, you are usually covered for any routine in-patient and out-patient treatments, emergency admissions and even chronic conditions. Plus you can access thousands of hospitals and clinics worldwide.
Travel insurance is very different. It’s a way of protecting you and your possessions against accidents and mishaps while spending time abroad. And although it often includes some sort of health benefits, they tend to be limited to accidents, emergencies and short-term treatments – rather than everyday doctor’s visits. So if you were to need ongoing medical attention, you would more than likely have to return home.
With travel insurance, most health care benefits are also capped – either financially or in terms of time – and give you very little choice as to when and where you can be treated.
It’s probably no surprise to hear that IPMI plans don’t always cover you for pre-existing medical conditions when you join. But what you might not realise is that some do and any exclusions that are listed can often be reviewed after a set amount of time. Plus, once you’re up and running, you know there will be no new exclusions added to your plan unless there’s a break in cover.
Travel insurance isn’t quite so flexible. Pre-existing conditions are always excluded from the outset and even on an annual cover plan, you are re-underwritten when it comes to renewal. The point is, it’s a short-term product for short-term needs and even though it has lots of useful benefits, it isn’t intended as a long-term health care solution.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that although every provider is different, it’s very rare that you’ll find a travel insurance plan with anything like the added value services of IPMI. You might be given an emergency number to call and an online login to check your policy details, but that’s usually as far as it goes.
In contrast, IPMI providers like AXA PPP International are there to help you with all your health care needs – any time, any place, anywhere. Whether it’s locating a local doctor, advice on a particular treatment or wellbeing tips on how to stay healthy overseas, they have multi-lingual helplines, access to instant medical information and a team of experts on hand to help with every last detail. So if you’re looking for health and wellbeing support, it really is the only option.
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