Travel Insurance for TESOL

When planning to travel abroad you should you have adequate health insurance. With so many different types of coverage available it can be very confusing deciding which plan is right for you. Here’s what to look for.

Don’t leave home without it

All European Union citizens are entitled to the same level of medical care in any other country of the EU as they would receive at home. To secure this coverage as a UK citizen, you must obtain form E111 from the Department of Health and Social Security before you leave the UK.


If you plan to stay for more than a few months, you should check what your local social security contributions entitle you to and decide whether you need to take out a private health care scheme. A private scheme gives you more flexibility about where you are treated, but you should check carefully exactly what your coverage is. It is also possible to obtain coverage for repatriation in a real emergency.

Home Country Coverage: your existing health plan cover

This section will be of particular importance to citizens of the US (and other countries that do not have a good, free, state-funded health service) who typically have their own private health and medical insurance polices.

For US citizens, if you already have strong benefits at home, it is wise to double-check what exactly is covered while you are out of the country. Most health plans limit coverage to a maximum of 30 or 60 days outside the States, and HMOs and PPOs will likely impose severe – out of network – penalties for all but the most basic emergency care. More importantly, you will want to insure you have 24 hour access to emergency evacuation if you are sick or hurt in an area where quality care is not available. For those over 65, Medicare will not cover treatment outside the U.S. If you do not have any domestic coverage, travel insurance is a must. Once you have answered these questions, you will need to know what benefits and policy provisions to look for in a travel medical plan.

Short Trips (two weeks or less)

Assuming you have solid coverage at home you may only need a small supplemental plan, with features like emergency evacuation and 24 hour worldwide assistance, along with a limited benefit for medical expenses (£10,000 to £50,000 is typical). These plans are readily available through your travel agent and may include lost luggage and trip cancellation protection too. Be wary of plans that require you settle all bills yourself and then seek reimbursement when you return home.

Intermediate Trips (two weeks to six months)

The longer you are away the less likely it is your own plan will cover you and therefore the more importance you should place on the medical benefits of the plan. In addition to a higher emergency evacuation benefit, your plan should cover between £100,000 to £1 million in medical expenses. Other features to look for include coverage for a family member to come to your assistance if you are taken to hospital in a foreign country and an option to include “hazardous activities” such as scuba diving, skiing and bungee jumping.

Longer Trips (six months+)

The travel insurance you purchase will most likely be your primary or only health insurance. Be sure that your plan includes all of the above, with higher maximum benefits (£1 million or more) as well as some provision for coverage when you return home. If you spend a year abroad but return home for a vacation, make sure you are still covered.

Multiyear or Open Ended Trips

Standard medical plans are usually limited to one year, with the option to renew for another. If you anticipate being abroad for a longer period of time, look into a permanent international major medical plan. This type of coverage contains all the benefits of a travel medical plan, but once you are accepted you can maintain coverage year after year simply by paying the premium. Most importantly, you are covered for medical treatment anywhere in the world, including back at home. Note that these plans are medically underwritten, and people with prior health problems may have trouble obtaining coverage.

All of the plan types discussed share some common features; you will normally have a deductible and co-insurance payment or premium to meet, and pre-existing conditions are usually excluded. Worldwide assistance is sometimes done by the plan administrator, or through an independent assistance company. The market for these plans is growing rapidly and new companies enter the market all the time. Be sure the company you are dealing with has at least five to ten years’ experience in the international market. Doing a little research before you go can mean security and peace of mind while you are away, and allows you to concentrate on the exciting and fulfilling adventure that international travel and work can be!

Brian Garity, founder of International Health, has specialized in international health insurance for over ten years.

Filed in: Travel