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Insurance and health care for digital nomads: Some things you should know.


Jürgen Pretsch


February 14, 2022


06:56 PM

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In the popular imaginary, digital nomads’ lifestyle is connected to a sense of freedom and carefree approach to life. Constant blog and Instagram posts show highly mobile professionals enjoying idyllic locations around the world, simply assisted by their personal computers and phones.

Precisely, digital nomadism has reached the mainstream through a pitch that emphasizes the benefits of living in the fringe of traditional careers and corporate standards. There is some truth to that but, in many cases this pitch simplifies the strings attached to a digital nomad’s life. Even when moving around different locations, enjoying a more adventurous routine, digital nomads still need to maintain a discipline that allows them to operate with some certainty.

What happens in case of illness? How to respond to unforeseen but plausible life events without the stability of a fixed geographical position? Answering these questions require research, preparation and consistency. Health care and insurance are some those issues that complicate the otherwise ‘chill nomadic lifestyle’ of some modern professionals. The experience with healthcare systems varies depending on the country or even the region of temporary residence.

In some cases, local healthcare systems function at a very efficient level for foreign nationals. This is particularly the case in more developed countries. However, the dynamic can be very different in other locations. The same thing happens when trying to understand the insurance options. If digital nomads move with their families, this adds a new layer of complexity. There is always an assumption that digital nomads work as freelancers. But in the case of a location-independent individual under contract with a particular company, insurance options can become tricky to navigate for the employer as well.

These are some of the main factors to consider when trying to make it as a digital nomad.

The need and cost of health insurance

Digital nomads usually work as freelancers and travel on a budget as they constantly have to be looking for the next source of income. Lacking a fixed salary that can be expected on a regular basis, digital nomads need to control their expenses. Buying travel, health or emergency insurance can be an effective way to avoid unexpected bills in case of accidents or sickness. The free-spirited lifestyle of digital nomadism doesn’t have to clash with managing insurance and payments in an affordable way.

Beyond obtaining peace of mind and the certainty of coverage in case of any problem, buying health insurance may be a requirement to travel. Many new digital nomad visa schemes require individuals to buy health insurance and, in some cases, other kind of protections. Receptive countries also want to have the certainty of insured individuals during their stay and will demand a policy that must cover the duration of the visa.

The Covid-19 pandemic has introduced new requirements to health insurance policies. Basically, local authorities would like to avoid the associated cost with testing, treatment of illness produced by coronavirus, including vaccination in some cases. This increases the need to fully research and understand insurance options depending the location and individuals’ diverse circumstances.

Your passport influences the type of coverage you’ll get.

Not only your passport, which is an expression of your nationality but the specific country of residence determines health insurance policies. This makes it harder for digital nomads; a group of people that frequently changes their location. If you’re moving around constantly, it isn’t practical to switch insurance policies all the time or wonder what type of coverage you can get in each place. There are available insurance options that will provide comprehensive international coverage or that will have special alternatives for location independent people.

Duration, payments.

Income influx patters are important to considered as well. Not every digital nomad receives weekly or monthly payments. Those that work on longer projects, and only get paid after completion, should adapt their insurance payments accordingly. Part of the research before buying insurance should include payment options because some policies allow people to pay regularly, based on annual subscription, etc.

If you’re using a digital nomad's visa program, like the Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) program, you know that you can stay in the country for up to a year. However digital nomads not always know how long they’re going to be moving around. Insurance options that can be renewed while being abroad are ideal. In this way you can choose a month-by-month option when uncertain about the duration of travels without any major inconvenience.

International vs. local? Private vs. public?

The first instinct of almost every digital nomad is to acquire international private insurance. However other options may be available depending on the circumstances. The answer to this question comes down to how long are you planning to stay in a country. For longer periods it might make sense to go with local private insurance. Local companies and policies are in a better position to help you navigate local healthcare systems and emergency situations. Some countries, such as [Costa Rica]( rica) have robust public national insurance options.

Many countries already have a well-structured system to deal with the needs of expats. Though digital nomads have different travel patterns, it should be easy to find the right option and accommodate it to the particular needs of individuals. As digital nomadism continues its ascension toward the mainstream, new insurance and healthcare options will arise to satisfy the growing demand for these services. It is all about dedicating time to research and find the option that accommodate your needs.

The Solution

The evolution of insurance for the revolution of travel. Insured Nomads aims to change the way people travel, with safety and assurance.

Jürgen Pretsch is a professional researcher and consultant, but first and foremost, he is a "serial expat" and contemporary "digital nomad". Having lived in nearly a dozen countries, Jürgen has produced extensive research for major private institutions and governments. At the moment, Jürgen is pioneering work relating to expatpreneurship, and will continue to provide resourceful articles in the global mobility space.

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