international private medical insurance or business travel insurance?

It's important that individuals and their families are covered when working and living overseas. But how do you know what sort of cover you need? We can help you with this.

Here we explore the typical differences between a simple travel insurance plan and international private medical insurance (IPMI). Both products provide invaluable cover, but there are significant differences between the two and the distinct needs that they are designed to meet.

What is travel insurance?

  • It is insurance designed to provide emergency medical cover for individuals while travelling outside of their country of residence. It often includes cover for delays and cancellations as well as a level of personal possessions cover.

What is international private medical insurance?

  • It is insurance designed to provide medical cover for individuals while living and working overseas. This includes routine medical care.

How is it bought?

  • Travel insurance - single trip or annual policy. If annual renewable, this usually require re-underwriting each year
  • International private medical insurance - annual policy renewable without re-underwriting each year

When is it needed?

  • Travel insurance - when travelling overseas for limited periods at a time (as a rule, less than 3 months). Cover up to 18 months is available (e.g. young traveler/long stay) but age restrictions usually apply
  • International private medical insurance - when living and/or working overseas (i.e. on a 3-6 month+ basis) or for globally mobile individuals or families. In some areas this might be a legal requirement, such as Abu Dhabi

What does travel insurance typically cover?

Please note this list is designed to give an example and is not exhaustive: 

  • Accidents and emergencies; treatment in any country within your chosen cover until you are fit to return home (either to continue on NHS or through private medical insurance); countries except your home country and those where you are advised not to travel; depending on the policy bought, it may be limited to business only or leisure only and not a combination of both; policies covering business may restrict cover depending on the type of business; not all policies cover pre-existing conditions; limited number of days or trips overseas; personal possessions up to set limits; cancellation and curtailment within set limits.

What does International private medical insurance typically cover?

Please note this list is designed to give an example and is not exhaustive: 

  • Accidents and emergencies; elective treatment; ongoing treatment of chronic conditions (available with some products); treatment within the country of residence or any country that you are travelling to within your chosen area of cover and cover level limits; cover is available 100% of the time; pre-existing conditions may be covered for those who meet the qualifying criteria; unlimited days/international trips; no personal possessions cover.

As a rule of thumb, you should consider IPMI for:

  • individuals working outside their home country for more than 3-6 months per year or they are globally mobile
  • individuals working in countries where healthcare insurance is a legal requirement
  • assurance that individuals and their families are covered - especially where there is no NHS equivalent or the standard of healthcare is poor


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Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) is a trading name of Jelf Insurance Brokers Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Not all products and services offered are regulated by the FCA (for details see Registered in England and Wales number 0837227. Registered Office: 1 Tower Place West, London, EC3R 5BU.