As digital nomads, we don’t have a place to call home. For the past five years, we’ve been bouncing around the world, from Bali to Brazil. We work for ourselves and change locations often. So what do we do about health insurance for digital nomads?
We’re happy to say that we’ve found a great option when it comes to insurance for digital nomads – SafetyWing. We can even tell you about our success story with our claim for our humanitarian flight home from Colombia. Read on for our SafetyWing travel insurance review!
Insurance for Digital Nomads
Digital nomad health insurance is a tricky thing. Most of us are self-employed or freelancers, meaning we don’t get insurance from an employer. We’re also not your typical travelers, as we tend to stay in places for several months at a time.
And for us personally, we’re Americans which makes it even more complicated.
Some fortunate nomads (i.e. not Americans) actually have health insurance in their home country. But even they need to worry about travel insurance. Just because you’re Canadian doesn’t mean you’re covered when you have an emergency in Ecuador, for example.
For those who have insurance at home, travel insurance is a decent option. You’ll be covered in case of emergencies, but may have to be evacuated home for care. This might not work in a real emergency.
Plus, your standard travel insurance doesn’t cover you for things like check-ups or preventative care. That’s probably fine for someone on a short vacation as you can take care of those things at home. Not so much for a digital nomad…
For digital nomads like us, it really is a difficult situation. It’s quite expensive to keep an insurance plan back in the US and doesn’t make much sense when we spend most of our time out of the country. However, most travel insurance plans don’t actually cover us when we are in the US.
Can you see the issue here?
It’s not practical or affordable for us to pay for health insurance in the US as well as travel insurance. We’re part-time online English teachers and bloggers, after all.
We’re not alone, as many digital nomads find themselves in a similar situation. We have all been waiting for a company that offers plans for people like us. Thankfully we now have that in SafetyWing.
Our Experience with Travel Insurance
I’ll get into our SafetyWing travel insurance review in just a minute, but let me first explain our past experiences with (or without) travel insurance.
As Americans without health insurance at home, it never made sense for us to pay for standard travel insurance, like World Nomads for example. In case of a real emergency, they would just drop us back in the US where we’d end up in a huge financial hole. No thanks!
To be entirely honest, our strategy for the past few years has just been the Bon Jovi one. That is to say, we were just “livin’ on a prayer!”
Thankfully we haven’t had any big emergencies while traveling. Rachel has had a few ear infections from scuba diving in Thailand and Indonesia. Both instances required doctor appointments and medication.
While traveling, Rachel has also had to schedule appointments with gynecologists and chiropractors. I had a lot of dental work done in Puerto Vallarta that took several appointments.
In all of these situations, we paid out of pocket. The cost was very reasonable in all instances (i.e. spending $550 on my root canal and crown instead of the $2,300 it cost back home).
However, we definitely don’t recommend going without insurance. It leads to anxiety and it could be very costly in the end. It’s just that there wasn’t a really good option for health insurance for digital nomads until now.
Once we heard about SafetyWing insurance, though, we were intrigued. It was nice to see a company actually providing options for digital nomad insurance. Plus, the price for their Nomad Travel Insurance was only $36/person for 4 weeks. The peace of mind is definitely worth $72 a month!
Full disclosure – we are affiliates of SafetyWing and they offered us two months for free to start our plan. We didn’t have to use it in those first two months but still decided to keep it. Boy, are we glad did!
SafetyWing Travel Insurance Review
We were in Medellin, Colombia earlier this year when the city shut down and basically got stuck there. They closed all the borders and grounded all flights. Our plans of going to Panama and Mexico were officially dead in the water.
Spirit Airlines started running humanitarian flights to Ft. Lauderdale, but the first one sold out immediately. We had a chance for the 2nd one, but with a price tag of $455 each, we decided to stay put.
The lockdown kept getting longer and longer. We were starting to feel trapped and a bit concerned. Then we called up SafetyWing to find out if we were eligible for coverage on these humanitarian flights.
Rachel had a great experience on the phone with them. They confirmed we would be eligible (for the reasons stated in the next section) and walked her through the process. We booked the flight right away and actually got the last two seats!
Making the old “should I stay or should I go now?” decision was a tough one for us. As digital nomads without a real “home” to call our own, we were struggling with what to do. Thanks to the kindness of family offering us a place to stay and the help of SafetyWing, the choice to head back to the US was much easier.
One problem with SafetyWing Nomad Insurance for Americans is that we only get coverage for 15 days at home for every 90 days abroad. That would work in a normal year for us, but 2020 certainly is no normal year! As such, we had to cancel our plan for the time we were home but are renewing now that we’re back in Mexico.
Filing Our Claim With SafetyWing
As we all know, insurance companies don’t love paying out claims. Of course, we were concerned from the get-go that we said bye-bye to just under $1,000. We had hope that SafetyWing could come through, though.
Now, as far as our eligibility for the political evacuation flight, it was a bit confusing. I’m going to tag out and let Rachel explain that part for you.
Hey! Rachel here.
On March 19th, the US Department of State issued a global Level 4: Do Not Travel Advisory. SafetyWing created a COVID-19 resource page and it said that to qualify for the Political Evacuation benefit, you had to call a certain phone number within 10 days. They also said that you didn’t need to take a flight within those 10 days because they realized that may not be possible.
So I called that number and it took me to On Call International. They are a member of the Tokio Marine HCC group of companies. Tokio Marine is the insurance company that SafetyWing uses to underwrite its policies.
They gave me a case number and that case number is what qualified us for the benefit even though we didn’t actually leave Colombia for another month.
We filed the claim a few days after getting back to the US and then just played the waiting game. Several weeks went by and I contacted SafetyWing a few times. They were overwhelmed with claims due to the pandemic but confirmed they had our information. Every person I spoke to was friendly and answered all my questions.
Unfortunately, we eventually got a letter saying our claim was denied. It was honestly infuriating.
But we reached out to them once again. After all, we could point to the e-mail where they said we were eligible. They helped me find my mistake. I had forgotten to include that all-important case number from On Call International.
So we filed an appeal and waited some more.
It’s been about eight weeks since that appeal and I’m happy to say we have been reimbursed in full for our flight! That’s right – SafetyWing (well, really Tokio Marine) sent us $990 to cover the entire thing. That’s paying our rent and phone bill this month in Puerto Vallarta and is a huge help financially!
Now back to Sasha…
World Nomads Vs. SafetyWing Travel Insurance?
Most travel bloggers recommend World Nomads for insurance, and most are affiliates of them. We’ve read both good and bad stories about using them but have no experience.
Thankfully there’s now another, better option for digital nomad health insurance. SafetyWing insurance is a company of nomads for nomads. As such, they understand the difficulties of health insurance for digital nomads and are now offering a great solution.
This post isn’t really about comparing World Nomads and SafetyWing. We’ve never used the former so can’t say much about them. World Nomads only offers travel insurance while SafetyWing has multiple options.
What is undoubtedly true is that SafetyWing is a much more cost-effective option than WorldNomads. You can get their Nomad Travel Insurance starting at $40 for four weeks and it now covers COVID-19 treatment as well. It costs $73 a month if you also need coverage in the US.
My quote for a 4-week plan with World Nomads is $178 or $282 depending on which activities are covered. That’s a massive difference!
When you’re traveling as a backpacker and not a digital nomad, you’re doing more adventurous things like zip-lining through the jungle, scuba diving, or bungee jumping. World Nomads covers you for adventure activities which justifies the high cost.
But as digital nomads, we spend most of our time on our computers and it’s not that we don’t do adventurous things, just far less frequently.
Furthermore, since it’s meant to be travel insurance, World Nomads doesn’t cover you in your home country – another issue for American digital nomads such as ourselves.
Before the pandemic, SafetyWing insurance was just $36/month per person. We paid $288 a month total for the 4 months we were in Mexico and Colombia earlier this year. Then we got back $990 when we had to take a humanitarian flight home.
You don’t have to be a genius at math to know that we got our money’s worth!
Digital Nomad Health Insurance from SafetyWing
Not only does SafetyWing offer cheap travel insurance, but they now have new policies geared towards digital nomads. They recently launched their Remote Health plans for both individuals and companies.
Here’s a closer look at these new plan options from SafetyWing insurance:
SafetyWing Remote Health for Teams
For digital nomad start-ups, this is incredible news. You can now have people on your team from all over the world on the same global health insurance plan.
If you have a team of 10-19 people, you can get coverage for every team member for $139/month per person. This includes coverage for pre-existing conditions – a benefit that does not extend to smaller teams.
As a small business of just two, their Remote Health policy would cost us $153 each per month for their most basic plan. Adding coverage in the USA, Hong Kong, and Singapore brings it up to $287 per month.
We have the option to tack on $38 a month for dental, $23 for outpatient treatment, $12 for screenings and vaccines, and $41 for maternity. For an extra $12 a month, we could have a $0 deductible, which is $250 otherwise.
SafetyWing Remote Health for Individuals
SafetyWing also recently launched Remote Health policies for individuals. This is perfect for self-employed people and freelancers. Finally – a decent option for health insurance for digital nomads!
For a very small business like ours, it seems to make sense to each buy the individual plan. It starts out at just $130/month per person so it’s significantly less than if we paid for a team of two. The cost is $243/month for coverage in the US, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
To be clear, this is a full-on digital nomad health insurance plan. It’s valid in any country except for the aforementioned three. Once again, we get the shaft with health insurance thanks to our American passports (but that’s not SafetyWing’s fault).
It’s not that we don’t love being in the US visiting friends and family and traveling, but it’s tough as digital nomads when it comes to insurance. We’re left taking our chances with no insurance when we visit or paying almost double for coverage.
Just as you can with a team, SafetyWing gives you the option to tack on things like dental for an individual plan. The Remote Health plan with dental coverage costs $162 a month. You have to wait 9 months until you can use it, though, which seems to be pretty standard with dental policies.
For these digital nomad health insurance plans, it’s an extra $10 a month for a $0 deductible and $19 a month for outpatient. These don’t offer maternity coverage, but that’s not something we’re planning on needing…
The Cons of SafetyWing
Let me preface this section by saying we are affiliates of SafetyWing and we also have a policy with them. But want to paint a realistic picture here and tell you some of the things we don’t like.
Back in March when a lot of the world began experiencing massive spikes in cases and the CDC issued a global travel advisory against ALL international travel, SafetyWing implied that they could no longer cover treatment for the virus. In early April, they officially withdrew coronavirus treatment for people like us and countless other digital nomads that were all grappling with the decision to return “home.”
The problem with this was that a global pandemic like this had never happened before. There was nothing legally binding them to this and yet as of April, there was nowhere on Earth we could go and be covered for C-19.
Then they launched their Remote Health Insurance plan with very clear messaging that treatment WAS covered under those plans. The whole thing was kinda shady.
Finally, as of August, they announced that treatment would be covered on all their plans, including the Nomad Travel Insurance.
That’s great that they finally made that announcement but why did it take over 5 months?
The other sticking point is that electronics like laptops, phones, tablets, or cameras are not covered. Yeah, I had to do a double-take at that too.
They claim to understand digital nomads because they are nomads. Well, then why don’t they cover the things that allow us to do our digital nomad jobs?
I hope they change this.
At the moment, we’re just sticking with the SafetyWing Nomad Insurance plan. We’re planning on hunkering down in Puerto Vallarta for a while, where we already know we can find affordable and quality care.
I plan to get a general check-up while we’re here and Rachel plans to visit the OBGYN and chiropractor again. We also both plan to get a dental check-up and cleaning. Paying out of pocket for all of this over the course of a few months will likely be cheaper than upgrading to the Remote Health plan for now.
Since we don’t know when we’re headed back to the US, we don’t need to pay the extra cost to have coverage there. If we decide to head home for the holidays, we can upgrade our plan to include coverage there for a visit of 15 days or less.
In the future, we will most likely switch over to the Remote Health plan. If we continue working online and living the digital nomad lifestyle, it seems like the best option.
It’s just that we’re going to be stationary for a while and we already know where to get high-quality care at an affordable price here. That’s definitely one of the best things about living in Puerto Vallarta!
What are your thoughts about digital nomad health insurance? If you’re a nomad, we’d love to hear from you about what you do in terms of insurance. We’d also appreciate any SafetyWing reviews if you’ve had experience with them.
Full Disclosure – we are affiliates of SafetyWing and if you purchase a plan through our affiliate link, we will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. We appreciate any support!