Important read: Australians overseas and COVID-19
Have you found yourself stuck overseas due to sudden restrictions? If you're an Australian away from home, your travel insurance policy might be able to help.
Here are some actions to take:
- Contact your insurer to see if you can extend your cover while you're overseas. It's unlikely, but still worth a shot as long as your policy hasn't expired.
- Ask your insurer what you're covered for. You may not be covered for COVID-19 related claims but you could be covered for other medical expenses, or your belongings.
- If travel insurance can't cover you, try looking into local insurance options such as travel insurance from whichever country you're in, or even some form of health insurance.
You may not get all the cover you want, but at least it's something.
- Yes you can. There are policies that allow you to take out travel insurance if you're already overseas.
Already overseas? Get covered with these brands right away.
General conditions for getting travel insurance while abroad
Though there are many insurance providers who don’t offer this type of cover, there are respected brands who do offer protection to Australians who are already abroad. As mentioned above, you will need to be an Australian resident in order to take out cover overseas. Some important points to consider when looking at cover if already overseas include:
- Must be returning to Australia? Most insurers will require for you to purchase your policy while overseas and have a return ticket booked to Australia with your journey ending in Australia.
- Same level of cover? Cover provided by already overseas policies is the same as that offered by a policy purchased under normal circumstances, i.e. before departing on your trip. All the usual benefits and features such as cover for emergency medical expenses, cancellation fees and lost luggage, are provided.
- When will the cover actually become active? Depending on the insurer you choose, there may be a waiting period before your cover takes effect before you can be covered for claims related to injury or illness. This means that you will not be covered if you suffer a serious injury or illness until the waiting period is complete. As an example, 1Cover has a waiting period of three days, from the start date stated on the policy where you will not be covered for medical, cancellation, trip interruption costs related to the injury or illness in this period.
- Are you within the age limit? You should be aware that most policies have age limits similar to normal travel insurance policies, with cover typically not available to travellers aged over 69 years of age.
- Do you have a pre-existing medical condition? You may not be eligible to take out cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition that is not automatically covered. This is because your insurance company may require you to submit additional documentation about your medical history and even undergo some medical tests in order to be covered.
- When is the policy confirmed? Once you’ve applied for cover, your insurance provider will send you an instant confirmation email with your certificate of insurance and details of your policy. Keeping your information in a safe and secure place will ensure you have access to it if you need to make a claim or contact the insurer’s emergency assistance team.
- Maximum period of cover you can apply for? You can purchase cover for a maximum of 12 months. If you wish to extend your policy, you will need to contact your insurer and request an extension. This will usually have to be done within a week of the policy expiry date.
Is it possible to get full coverage if I'm already overseas?
Yes. Already overseas travel insurance policies will generally offer the same level of coverage found on other plans. Where policies can differ is in the eligibility requirements. Your overseas policy should still cover you for:
- Overseas medical assistance and hospital expenses. One of the most important features offered is overseas emergency medical assistance, which includes medical costs, ambulance fees and medical repatriation to Australia if required.
- Cancellation or amendment to your trip. Cover is offered for cancellation fees and lost deposits when unforeseen circumstances force you to cancel or cut short your trip. For example, if you suffer a serious illness and are unable to travel, non-refundable expenses from your pre-paid travel and accommodation will be covered by your policy.
- If a relative dies and you are forced to return home, the cost of cutting short/cancelling and resuming your trip will be covered. There’s also a hospital cash allowance if you are hospitalised for more than 48 consecutive hours while overseas. A death benefit is payable if you die because of an injury sustained during your journey
- Theft, damage or loss of your belongings. If your luggage or personal effects are stolen, lost or damaged during your trip, you're already overseas travel insurance policy will cover the cost of their repair or replacement. Cover is also available to purchase essential clothing and toiletries if a transport provider delays your luggage.
- If your passport, travel documents or travellers cheques are lost or stolen during your journey, your policy will cover their cost of their replacement. Similarly, if your cash is stolen or if you become a victim of credit card fraud, you will be reimbursed for your loss.
- Other benefits. Other benefits and features include disruption of journey, personal liability, rental vehicle excess, and alternative transport expenses to get you to a pre-arranged event (for example a wedding) on time.
- Pre-existing conditions: Most insurers will not provide cover for any pre-existing conditions that are not automatically covered under your policy.
Can I get travel insurance if I am already overseas and don’t plan on returning home?
If you’re living overseas for an extended period, chances are you’ll want to take out travel insurance at some stage to further explore the region you are living in. But when it comes to taking out cover with an Australian provider, one of the requirements is usually that you must end your trip in Australia. If you’re living in another country and have no plans to return home in the foreseeable future, you might want to consider taking out cover with an international provider instead. There are a number of insurers offering expat travel insurance to holders of Australian passports and if you’re planning to make round trip journeys from the country you’re residing in or one way trips to other destinations, one of these insurers may be a better option for you.
- Globelink - covers Australian passport holders in the UK for round trip journeys and one way trips up to 12 months, with optional repatriation cover back to the UK or Australia
- ACE Expatriate Insurance - covers employees staying overseas on company business for medical expenses, maternity cover, repatriation cover and dental and optical ancillary benefits
- World Nomads - covers Australian residents overseas, with the option to buy, extend and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatives to travel insurance if already overseas? You may be covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement
If you are an expat Australian living in a country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with Australia, you may be tempted to forgo travel insurance and rely on this form of health cover instead. Under such an agreement, you would have access to some health services and subsidised medicines available to citizens of these countries, which include New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Malta, Slovenia and Norway. The problem with this is the level of cover provided is very limited and only includes essential treatments and basic medical services and only under certain conditions. Services not covered include;
- Non-essential treatments
- Ambulance cover
- Dental and other ancillary services
- Para medical services
- Medical evacuation to your home country
- Treatment as a private patient in a private or public hospital
- Elective surgery
- Treatment that has been prearranged before your arrival.
For this reason, it would be wise not to rely entirely on RHCA cover and to take out private travel insurance as well to ensure you are fully covered.
Is it safe to take out a travel insurance policy with an overseas provider?
Just as you would when choosing an Australian insurance product, you should look at two main factors when comparing international travel insurance;
- The insurer – are they a well-known and respected company? You can find out more about an insurer by visiting their website and reading their history, years in business, who underwrites their policies etc. You can also visit insurance comparison websites and online discussion forums to see what kind of a reputation they have with regard to customer service, complaints handling procedures, number of claims paid etc.
- The policy – does it offer the level of cover you need? Insurers normally offer a basic, mid-range and comprehensive cover option, so make sure the policy you are considering covers everything relevant to your situation. Also, how flexible is it? Can you add or remove components to tailor it to your needs? What are the exclusions and are they acceptable, without limiting your level of cover? Does it include repatriation to your country of residence? What are the individual benefit limits and are they high enough?
All these things need to be considered and if either the policy or the provider falls short of your requirements, you should shop around for a more suitable option.
Tips for comparing travel insurance policies if you are already overseas
There are a number of tips you should be aware of to help ensure you end up with the best already overseas travel insurance policy to suit your needs.
- Is where you want to travel to covered? The first thing to do is consider where in the world you’re planning on travelling. Does the policy you want provide cover for that particular region? Would you be better off selecting a worldwide plan?
- What activities will you be covered for? Then you can consider the activities and experiences you plan on enjoying while travelling. Will you be just relaxing beside the pool most of the time or are you planning on engaging in higher-risk activities like skydiving? Some policies will exclude certain activities, so make sure you know what is and isn’t covered.
- Will you be covered for medical repatriation to Australia? If taking out travel insurance while overseas, it's important to find a policy that will cover the cost of medical repatriation to Australia where necessary. In the event of an accident or illness your insurer will determine with the local medical authorities whether or not it is necessary for you to return to Australia.
- What excess will you pay? Some insurers will apply an increased excess for already overseas policies.
- What is the waiting period? Most insurers will apply a waiting period of about 7 days before cover will commence.
- Need to return to Australia? Check the fine print of each policy to determine whether you need to have departed from and be returning to Australia in order to be covered. Some policies will require this but others won’t.
- Anything else hidden in the fine print? As with any other type of insurance policy, it’s essential that you read the product disclosure statement to familiarise yourself with the policy. This will give you an idea of the benefits, features, limits and exclusions on different policies, helping you decide which one is most suited to you.
- How do the policy features and benefits stack up? Like with any policy, it's important to actually check what features you will be covered for under the policy and the maximum amount that will be paid in the event of a claim.
- Need cover for the family? Most insurance companies offer Family cover so that you can cover your spouse and children under the one policy. Cover for dependents under the age of 21 is generally provided free of charge.
- Does the price match the quality of cover? It might be tempting to pick the lowest price cover but it's no good being stuck with a dud policy that doesn't give the level of protection you need. Low cost cover will generally mean a higher excess charge and lower benefit levels.
Take the time to obtain quotes from multiple insurers for comparison purposes. Of course, don’t simply be sucked in by the cheapest price, it pays to look at exactly what is offered under each policy. finder.com.au’s comparison tools can be a great help when determining the true value of each policy.
Can I extend my policy if I am still travelling overseas?
Yes, most insurers will allow you to extend your period of cover but the request will usually have to be made within a certain number of days before the policy expiry date. As an example, 1Cover will require that you apply for an extension of cover at least 7 days before the policy lapses. The general process for extending your cover is:
- Call the providers call centre or email the provider directly
- Provider will assess your reason for extending cover and provide you with a quote
- Pay for the extension of cover either online or on the phone
When will I not be able to extend my cover?
- For any pre-existing conditions unless specified by the insurer
- For medical conditions that you suffered during the first period of cover on your original policy
- If you have not notified your insurer of events that may lead to a claim under your original policy
- If you are over the maximum age eligible to apply for an extension under your insurers policy
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