All too often we hear from holidaymakers who are confused by the difference between health insurance and travel insurance.

Although both insurances provide an element of medical cover, the overall purpose of each product massively differs. And, by not understanding exactly what these differences are, you run the risk of being left completely out of pocket if you purchase the wrong type of product for your circumstances.

So, let’s look at the main differences between the two insurance products.


What is health or international health insurance?

Health insurance generally gives you access to private healthcare while you’re in the UK and covers you for a variety of medical matters, including diagnosis and treatment for some medical conditions.

Some health insurance policies can also be extended or bought separately to cover medical treatment and routine matters abroad. This type of insurance is known as international health insurance and is often popular among those who live or work overseas for prolonged periods.

Health or international health insurance policies on average cost around £1,455 per year, per person, differing depending on the age of the insured, general health of the insured, level of cover included, and region of cover.

The amount of cover included in both a standard health insurance policy and international health insurance policy varies depending on the type of plan in place, but often includes cover for:

  • Hospital stays
  • Routine check-ups
  • Cover for pre-existing conditions
  • Cover for chronic conditions
  • Choice of medical providers

Health insurance policyholders are also often able to add additional benefits to their policy including dentistry, maternity care, out-patient treatment, and repatriation.


What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance policies are designed to protect you against a range of different scenarios that could happen while you’re on holiday or out of the country for a limited amount of time.

Travel insurance policies can be bought on a one-off occasion, for example, to cover a week’s holiday to Spain, or to cover several holidays over a year.

Single trip policies are better suited to those who only take one or two holidays a year and prices start from as little as £5.74. Whereas Multi-trip policies are more preferential for those who enjoy travelling more frequently. Prices for annual Multi-trip policies start from as little as £11.95.

The exact price will depend on how many people are on the policy, the age of those on the policy, the level of cover, where they are travelling to, how long they are travelling, and if anyone on the policy has any medical conditions.

Regardless of the price, the majority of travel insurance policies will cover you for unexpected events including:

  • Lost luggage
  • Cancellation of a trip
  • Delayed trips
  • Emergency medical treatment

However, most travel insurance policies will only cover emergency treatment in a public hospital as these are generally regulated by the state, and treatment will only be covered until you are well enough to return home to the UK. You won’t be covered for any long-term treatment once you are home and you won’t be able to visit any practice for routine check-ups while abroad with this type of cover.


So, what’s the difference between health and travel insurance?

Aside from the huge price difference, the main difference is that the medical cover included in a travel insurance policy is only there for medical emergencies that may occur during a trip. It cannot be used to claim for costs incurred through general illnesses or used to cover planned medical procedures. You can also usually only receive treatment from public or state hospitals, that can be chosen by your insurer.

Whereas health and international health policies can be used for more generic health problems and permit you to seek help in a non-emergency situation. They give you a lot more choice when it comes to where you receive your treatment and can also be extended to cover other private services, such as dentistry.

So, if you’re planning on going on holiday or travelling for a couple of weeks or so, you should probably consider getting a travel insurance policy. However, if you’re going to be living abroad for a few months or even years and are worried about falling ill while you’re abroad, international health insurance might suit you better. Depending on your personal circumstances, at some point you might also need both types of cover in place.