The most common questions on international health insurance

Are you planning a holiday? It’s important to get insurance against accidents and illnesses – not just for journeys around the world, but for short trips too. Get all the key information regarding insurance cover abroad here.

What is international health insurance?

International or travel health insurance covers emergency medical treatment abroad. Neither compulsory basic insurance nor accident insurance offer full insurance cover abroad, so it makes sense to take out international insurance. WORLD travel health insurance and our TOP and COMPLETA supplementary insurance plans with integrated international cover will protect you against the financial consequences of an accident or illness abroad.

What is the difference between travel insurance, travel health insurance and international health insurance?

The purpose of travel insurance is to cover general incidents on short trips. Usually, it does not cover any medical expenses. Some of the things it does cover are:

  • Cancellation costs
  • Lost luggage
  • Lost property
  • Travel curtailment costs

Some providers allow you to increase the cover of your travel insurance to include illness and accidents. It’s much easier, however, to opt for travel insurance from your health insurance company, such as WORLD, which you can take out at any time.

And what is international health insurance? The term “international health insurance” means the same as travel health insurance.

Tip: lots of supplementary insurance plans include cover abroad. Depending on how much cover is provided, additional travel insurance for accidents and illness may be superfluous. Check your policy. We will be happy to advise you.

Is international health insurance necessary?

The costs of medical treatment abroad are often much higher than in Switzerland. Compulsory basic insurance does not fully cover these costs for you in many countries. Even if you have to return to Switzerland for urgent treatment, the costs of repatriation are not covered, and neither are search and recovery costs. You can cover the financial consequences without breaking the bank by taking out travel health insurance. What exactly will the health insurance company pay for abroad? Benefits vary depending on your chosen supplementary insurance plan.

Overview of insurance cover abroad

Which countries do I need international health insurance for?

It makes particular sense to take out international health insurance when travelling outside Europe. This is because, in those countries, basic insurance only covers up to double the amount of the costs you would have to pay in Switzerland for the same treatment. And compared to Switzerland, some other countries have very expensive healthcare systems – for example the US, Australia, Singapore and Japan.

Tip: are you looking for last-minute international health insurance? WORLD travel health insurance is straightforward, and you can take it out at short notice in combination with basic insurance from Helsana.

Find out more about WORLD

Do I also need international health insurance in Europe?

Within the EU/EFTA/UK region (all EU countries, Iceland, Norway and the UK), benefits are covered by the destination country’s social security system. This applies for both outpatient and inpatient treatment – but only in a general ward of a hospital. Treatments can quickly become expensive, for example if you need to be admitted to a private hospital in France or Spain in an emergency. The same applies if your European Health Insurance Card is not accepted. International health insurance is also required anywhere in the world to cover the costs of repatriation. Basic insurance also does not cover any excesses that are charged to you at the place of treatment.

When is international health insurance recommended, or even obligatory?

Essentially, you need international health insurance every time you travel abroad if you want to be sure that there are no gaps in your cover. If you are studying abroad, however, international health insurance may be obligatory, depending on the country. The same applies if you are posted abroad by your company. And some countries require you to have international health insurance before they will issue you a visa. Depending on your destination, the statutory requirements regarding insurance cover may vary for students, expats or travellers. We will be happy to advise you. You can find information on longer stays abroad here:

Emigrating: what happens regarding your health insurance?

International health insurance: rapid, on-site assistance

The Helsana Emergency Call Centre is available around the clock. We take care of the necessary emergency measures such as approving costs in accordance with your supplementary insurance plan, arranging repatriation on medical grounds, or helping you find a local doctor or hospital.

What does international health insurance cover?

International health insurance is a supplementary insurance plan, and covers, for example, your costs for

  • Outpatient and inpatient emergency treatment worldwide. This applies to certain benefits provided in a general ward of a hospital that are not covered by basic insurance.
  • Repatriation to Switzerland or transportation to the nearest suitable hospital if this is medically necessary.
  • Missing person searches, rescue and recovery.

These kinds of benefits are covered by Helsana’s TOPCOMPLETA and WORLD supplementary insurance plans. Requirement: please contact our Emergency Call Centre immediately on +41 58 340 16 11 in the event of an emergency.

All benefits abroad at a glance

What will your health insurance company’s basic insurance pay for abroad?

If something happens to you outside Switzerland, your health insurance company’s compulsory basic insurance will cover the costs of emergency treatment received in public hospitals and recognised medical practices abroad. The sum insured by basic insurance is limited, however. The maximum cover is twice the amount of the costs that would be incurred in Switzerland for the same treatment. This limit is often sufficient for emergency outpatient treatment provided in the EU/EFTA/UK region (all EU countries, Iceland, Norway and the UK). In all other countries around the world, however, treatment recipients incur substantial costs in some cases. And for inpatient treatment in private hospitals, the costs are not fully covered even in European countries. Basic insurance does not cover any excesses that are charged in the destination country. There is another gap in cover when it comes to transportation and rescue costs. Your health insurance company will not pay out any benefits for search and rescue costs incurred abroad, or for medically necessary repatriation, under basic insurance.

How much does it cost to be repatriated to Switzerland from abroad without supplementary insurance?

It depends on where you are. If you are repatriated in an ambulance jet from Greece, for example, this will cost around CHF 20,000. If you need to be repatriated from Thailand or the US, the bill will be around CHF 100,000. These costs can quickly become problematic without international health insurance.

Which international health insurance plan suits me best?

It all comes down to your needs: What benefits are important to you? Do you also need legal expenses cover abroad, perhaps? How often do you go travelling? And how long are you away for? When choosing international health insurance, pay attention to the scope of benefits, as well as the following points:

Taking out international health insurance: what to consider?

  • How long you will be travelling: depending on the supplementary insurance, different time restrictions apply for cost coverage. The international cover provided by TOP and COMPLETA is intended for sporadic trips. WORLD is long-term international health insurance for periods abroad of up to 12 months.
  • Specific risks: do you have any pre-existing conditions, are you pregnant, or are you a professional athlete? This could mean that special conditions apply in your case. We will be happy to advise you.
  • What benefits are important to you? Do you only want to be insured for unforeseen emergencies? Or perhaps you want to have planned medical treatment carried out abroad? Only COMPLETA covers this. Ask us for advice.
All benefits abroad at a glance

Can I take out travel health insurance at short notice?

You must fill out a health declaration in order to take out supplementary insurance, such as TOP or COMPLETA. It takes four to six weeks to have this checked. Want to travel at short notice? Then our WORLD travel health insurance is what you need. Since there’s no need to complete a health declaration, you can take it out as soon as the first day of the next month. WORLD does not cover treatments for pre-existing conditions, however.

All details regarding WORLD travel insurance

What do I need to do in the event of an emergency abroad?

In the EU, Iceland, Norway and the UK (EU/EFTA/UK):

  • Go to a state-recognised hospital, a state-recognised medical practice or pharmacy. Tip: if they recognise your insurance card, you’re in the right place.
  • Present your insurance card. State-recognised institutions will accept it. This means that the costs can be processed directly with Helsana. The medical care you receive will be subject to the fees and legal provisions of the country in question.

Non-EU/EFTA/UK countries:

  • Please contact the Helsana Emergency Call Centre immediately. The number is on the back of your insurance card.
Call the Emergency Call Centre now (+41 58 340 16 11)

What about if I have an accident?

You should also inform your employer as soon as possible. This is because you are insured for accidents through your employer if you work at least eight hours per week for the same company. This applies to both occupational and non-occupational accidents.

What do I need to think about before I travel abroad?

  • Many countries require you to have a visa to enter. If you want to apply for a visa, you need confirmation from your health insurance company for this.
  • Take a well-stocked travel first aid kit with you. Every country has its own risks. Find out what these are and equip yourself for any minor emergencies and first aid needs. You can get help from the Travelcheck hotline, for example, which is available free to anyone with TOP or COMPLETA insurance.
Call the Travelcheck hotline (058 340 16 22)
  • Always carry your insurance card with you. The uniform back of the card is valid as a European Health Insurance card. It is accepted by all public hospitals, doctors and pharmacies in EU/EFTA/UK countries. If for any reason the card is not accepted, our Emergency Call Centre is available for you around the clock.
Front and reverse side of an insurance card for compulsory health insurance. Call the Emergency Call Centre (+41 58 340 16 11)

I have to pay bills for doctors and hospitals abroad. How can I get the costs reimbursed?

Present your insurance card when you are in EU/EFTA/UK countries. It is accepted by all public hospitals, doctors and pharmacies. In all other countries, you should do the following:

  • Ask for proof of payment.
  • Send the invoice, the proof of payment and the medical report to Helsana.
  • Submit the form “Survey on illnesses or accidents while abroad”.
  • We will review the documents and refund you the insured costs.

What is classed as an emergency?

Within the EU/EFTA/UK region (all EU countries, Iceland, Norway and the UK), unforeseen treatments due to illness, accident or pregnancy that become medically necessary while you are abroad are classed as emergencies.

In all other countries (outside the EU/EFTA/UK), an emergency is when you have an accident or illness, you require immediate medical treatment and a return to Switzerland is not feasible.

Do you have any questions?
058 340 18 80Our Customer Service International team would be pleased to help you. (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

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