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Medical tourism

Travel insurance does not cover medical tourism (e.g. going overseas for a medical procedure), including cosmetic surgery.

What you need to know

  • Travel insurance rarely covers you for medical tourism trips.
  • You will need a specialised health insurance policy that covers costs associated with your procedure.
  • Travel insurance only covers unknown events – not procedures you knew about in advance.

Does travel insurance cover medical tourism?

No. Travel insurance does not cover medical tourism (e.g. going overseas to receive medical treatment). It only covers unforseen events – for example, getting sick and needing medical attention while you're overseas. It does not cover pre-planned medical procedures.

It may be possible to get health insurance for medically necessary procedures. Some companies have arrangements with hospitals overseas. However, it will never cover cosmetic surgery (and neither will travel insurance) because it is not considered medically necessary.

What is medical tourism?

The term medical tourism refers to the practice of combining elective surgery with a holiday abroad. It is now a multi-million dollar industry in Australia, with an estimated 15,000 of us travelling overseas every year for cut-price treatments that includes plastic surgery, breast implants and enhancements, weight loss procedures and dental treatment.

Finder survey: What features are important to Australians when taking out travel insurance?

Medical cover86.04%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1112 Australians, December 2023

Are you covered by the reciprocal health care agreement for cosmetic surgery overseas?

A reciprocal health care agreement (RHCA) is an agreement in place between the Australian government and the government of a foreign country. Under such an agreement, Australian citizens can receive subsidised access to basic health care treatment that is immediately necessary. There are currently agreements in place with the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Belgium, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia, Finland and Norway.

However, RHCAs do not provide any cover for Australian travellers undergoing elective treatment, so you won't be covered for overseas cosmetic surgery or any resulting complications.

Should you get travel insurance cover?

Just because you're planning to undergo elective surgery during your trip doesn't mean that you won't be able to take out a travel insurance policy. It just means you won't be able to receive cover for any losses related to the surgery.

However, you will be able to receive cover for all other losses you incur on your holiday provided they are not related to the surgery. Travel insurance can provide cover for the following:

  • Overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses. If you suffer an unexpected illness or injury on your journey, you'll be covered for the cost of ambulance transportation, medical treatment, hospital accommodation and repatriation if required.
  • Additional accommodation and travel expenses. If you can't travel due to an injury or illness overseas, the extra accommodation and travel expenses you incur as a result will be covered.
  • Cancellation fees and lost deposits. If circumstances beyond your control force you to cancel or cut short your trip, for example, if your travelling companion suffers a serious illness, the cancellation fees you are charged and any non-refundable deposits you have paid will be covered.
  • Luggage and personal belongings. The cost of repairing or replacing lost, stolen and damaged personal belongings will be included in cover.
  • Travel delay. When your trip is delayed by circumstances outside your control, you'll receive funds to cover your additional meals and accommodation expenses.
  • Accidental death and permanent disability. Lump-sum benefits are payable if you become permanently disabled or die as a result of an injury suffered on your journey.
  • Cash and travel documents. Theft of cash and the loss, theft or damage of your important travel documents are all covered.
  • Rental vehicle excess. If your rental car is crashed, stolen or damaged, you'll receive cover for the rental vehicle insurance excess you need to pay.
  • Personal liability. Travel insurance also offers protection if you cause bodily injury to someone else or damage their property during your journey.

Still need travel insurance?

If you're heading abroad to receive medical treatment, you won't find a travel insurance policy that'll cover you for losses related to your cosmetic procedure, but it's a good idea to protect yourself from other common insurable events.

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