MedicalForNomads

SafetyWing Review

SafetyWing insurance review

Safetywing Nomad Insurance Review

What They Won’t Tell You

Quick Summary: SafetyWing offers what it calls “Nomad Insurance” tailored for digital nomads, covering travel needs in over 175 countries. This is very standard and actually excludes routine check-ups, preventive care, and pre-existing conditions. Because of this, it’s affordable and flexible, ideal for short-term travels, but lacks comprehensive coverage for long-term expats, including direct billing and significant health issues like cancer. Overall, it’s more suited for low-budget travellers than nomads seeking extensive medical insurance.

Brief Overview Of SafetyWing Insurance

Ok so, SafetyWing offers Nomad Insurance. This is a policy tailored for digital nomads by providing medical and travel coverage across over 175 countries. 

According to SafetyWing, it’s designed for those with a flexible lifestyle. It features a renewable 28-day subscription model that adapts to unpredictable travel schedules so you can quickly cancel or restart if needs be. 

The policy includes emergency medical services, evacuation, and some travel-related expenses. Notable for its affordability, it also covers children under 10 at no extra cost. 

However, it excludes routine check-ups, preventive care, pre-existing conditions, and certain high-risk activities. This is exactly what we will be covering in this SafetyWing insurance review today.

SafetyWing covering a tourist for an emergency abroad

SafetyWing Insurance Will Cover You On Holiday

In a direct but simple summary, SafetyWing Insurance is designed to cover travellers on holiday. Now, this is ideal for those looking for protection against unforeseen medical emergencies while travelling. 

However, for expats living overseas, the limitations of a travel insurance policy like SafetyWing becomes quite apparent. And I’ll express that again, this is a travel insurance policy, not a medical insurance plan. 

While it does provide a safety net for emergencies, it typically doesn’t cover the broader spectrum of healthcare needs that expats might have. The expensive stuff too. 

For instance, things like managing chronic conditions, accessing regular prescriptions, or needing maternity care are aspects of healthcare that travel insurance does not traditionally cover.

In my experience, expats require a more comprehensive medical insurance plan that provides continuous coverage and caters to their long-term healthcare needs. 

This plan is best for backpackers or people on a budget

  • Particularly, it’s suited for backpackers or people travelling on a budget who need essential coverage without a hefty price tag.
  • It’s ideal if you are travelling for a short time and then considering going home.
  • It’s not ideal for longer healthcare and should not be considered as a replacement for medical insurance otherwise you will be left badly out of pocket.

We’ve got an awesome blog post on what travel insurance covers here. This breaks down the relevancy of travel insurance when it comes to medical and relates very well to this blog here.

Backpacker touring around travelling

You Will Be Required To Pay a $250 Deductible Every Time by SafetyWing

Another typical travel insurance technique which although is low, can add up over time. Upon further review of SafetyWing, we found their deductible. The $250 deductible every time you make a claim can significantly impact nomads living overseas. 

This structure means that for every separate medical incident, you’re out of pocket before the insurance contributes. For nomads who may require multiple treatments or consultations, these costs can quickly accumulate.

For example, if you’re an expat and you visit a doctor for an infection, then a few weeks later you need treatment for an injury, you’re paying the first $250 for each of these incidents.  That is going to add up very quickly… 

In my opinion, a deductible per claim isn’t ideal for nomads. There are many other medical insurance policies that do not require any deductibles which is exactly what nomads and expats are looking for in a good policy. We’ve got a whole discussion on deductibles here.

What does this mean for you?

  • More overall cost
  • Less value from your healthcare plan
  • Out of pocket expenses 
  • Deter you from going to the hospital 
Advice from us: If you are in a position that you are requiring ongoing healthcare and support then this certainly is not the plan for you. Avoid this and change providers. If you are a backpacker on a 3 month trip, then maybe this will suit you.

SafetyWing Offers Monthly Plans Which Can Be Helpful

Now, it isn’t all negative. I would say that monthly stop and start plans can be helpful. Especially for those at the beginning of their nomad journey. They offer flexibility for those who aren’t sure how long they’ll be in one place or whose travel plans are frequently changing. 

This pay-as-you-go approach set up by SafetyWing means you’re not locked into a long-term commitment, which can be ideal for short-term travellers who are ready to move to a better healthcare plan. 

Again, circling back to genuine nomads and for expats living overseas, monthly plans might not be as cost-effective. The cumulative cost of monthly premiums can end up being higher than an annual plan. 

In my experience, expats and nomads benefit more from an annual plan that provides continuous coverage. It’s more economical in the long run and ensures that you’re consistently covered, which is crucial for maintaining peace of mind while living abroad

Calendar to represent monthly subscription fees
Advice: People who are expats living overseas, you should consider preventative care. If it’s fully covered by your insurance (like ours) then you can go to the hospital as many times as you need being fully covered and without out of pocket costs. This is the same for prescriptions and things like this.

They Do Not Provide Direct Billing To Hospitals

Direct billing allows the insurance company to settle medical expenses with healthcare providers directly. This is something that SafetyWing does not offer. Instead, they will push you through to a claims process. 

Nomads and expats must then cover the medical costs themselves and later seek reimbursement. Now, I don’t know about you but as a nomad myself, having to find the time on top of everything that is happening to submit a claim is the last thing I want to be thinking about.  

On top of that you’ll need proof of paperwork, bills etc. This is just too many extra steps. Let’s be realistic. The stress of managing out-of-pocket costs, coupled with the potential delay in reimbursement, can add an extra layer of difficulty during what is already a stressful time.

Ideally, nomads and expats need an insurance plan which provides direct billing to the hospital instead of a claims process. This is time saving, gives peace of mind and is usually found with most major medical insurance plans

It’s crucial to have a policy that minimises these financial and administrative burdens, allowing you to focus on your health and recovery.

What does this mean?

  • You’ve got to do all of the claims paperwork 
  • Much more added stress to your life 
  • Long delays in refund processing times
  • You’ll have to pay your bills upfront
  • If you don’t pay your bills, you likely can’t leave the hospital 

The Maximum Payout Is Actually Very Low At $250,000…

This one shocked me a little bit. When I was reviewing the policy for SafetyWing’s nomad insurance, I saw a maximum payout of $250,000. This is actually much lower than you might think, especially for genuine nomads and expats. 

Take, for example, a complex medical procedure or a serious illness that requires long-term treatment; these costs can quickly escalate and potentially exceed the payout cap. I’ve seen first hand bills up to $650,000. 

For an expat who has settled in a country with high medical costs, reaching this limit could mean facing hefty bills without the safety net of insurance. But also, common when it gets to problems like cancer, surgeries, ongoing healthcare. 

For younger backpackers travelling with a limited budget, this level of coverage might suffice, as they’re often looking for the most cost-effective solution for short-term travel. They’re generally at lower risk for major health issues and are more concerned with immediate, low-cost care for acute incidents.

This again confirms to me that this nomad insurance should be called backpacker insurance, because it’s suited for them and no nomads or expats.

For nomads and expats, this is a big red flag

  • As I’ve briefly covered above, this would be a huge red flag for me. If you’re reviewing your SafetyWing insurance after being in hospital and see it only covers up to $250,000 and your bills are even $300,000 you’re going to be in a bad place.
  • In an ideal scenario for genuine nomads and expats, you want at least $1,000,000. This will keep you on the safe side and provide peace of mind knowing you are covered and safe.
Doctors telling the customer she still owes thousands

SafetyWing's Nomad Insurance Can Cover Some Loss Of Luggage

So one feature of SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance is the coverage for any loss of luggage. Now, this is a massive thing in travel insurance. So again this suggests to me that this is not nomad insurance at all. It’s just a fancy travel insurance.

This benefit is great for backpackers who typically travel with their possessions and need protection against the inconvenience and cost of losing their luggage.

However, for expats who live overseas and are less transient, the loss of luggage is less of a concern compared to comprehensive healthcare coverage. Expats are more likely to have settled residences and don’t face the same risks associated with constant travel.

Let’s be real, nomad insurance needs are more focused on long-term health care, including regular check-ups, ongoing treatments, and potentially complex medical procedures, which are not typically covered by travel insurance policies. That’s what we are interested in right?

This distinction highlights why SafetyWing’s nomad insurance, with its luggage loss coverage, is more aligned with travel insurance and may not be the best fit for expats seeking extensive medical insurance.

Advice: Check your travel insurance policies and see if they come with high deductibles or high out of pocket costs. If this doesn’t suit you, then consider a move towards something more comprehensive or better suited for your lifestyle.
travel insurance with out of pocket costs
Advice: For those frequently living or travelling abroad, investing in medical insurance is a strategic choice. It ensures continuity of care and safeguards not just your health but also your financial security.

SafetyWing Will Not Cover You For Cancer Test & Treatments

This is a big one for expats and real digital nomads. The exclusion of cancer tests and treatments in an insurance policy is a significant issue.

Cancer is a critical health concern that can require extensive and often expensive treatment, including diagnostics, surgery, chemotherapy, and ongoing care. For expats & nomads, who may not have access to the same healthcare benefits as they would in their home country, comprehensive coverage is essential.

For expats, especially those who are older and at a higher risk of serious health conditions like cancer, the financial implications of not having this coverage can be enormous.

Cancer treatment costs can quickly run into tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars and lead to significant financial hardship if not covered by insurance.

Again, to circle back around. The lack of cancer coverage indicates that a plan like SafetyWing is structured more towards low-budget backpackers and younger individuals who may prioritise affordability over extensive coverage.

Expats and nomads actually take care of their health, so a plan like this isn’t going to suit them at all.  

Why is this bad?

  • If you’re living overseas, you want to have the same coverage as you do back at home publicly. This is super important. 
  • The cost of these types of healthcare bills are extremely high. Getting caught by one of these could cost you a huge amount. 
  • These healthcare issues are serious, the matter of life and death.

For Global Travellers, You Are Only Covered in 175 Countries

This is good, considering there are 192 countries in the world. However, why they aren’t doing global coverage confuses me a little bit. I think it’s more appealing for nomads to be covered anywhere in the world for ease of mind. 

Look, it’s important to understand that while global coverage is a key aspect of travel insurance, it’s not the only factor to consider. The quality of coverage, the limits of the policy, and specific exclusions are equally important. 

For many travellers, especially those who plan their destinations in advance and can ensure they’re travelling within the covered countries, a policy like this could be well-suited. Still, it does highlight some areas that SafetyWing is falling short on. 

Overall, although this isn’t the biggest problem, as a nomad you’d at least like to see coverage worldwide. If you have a business meeting somewhere and suddenly fall sick. Could you not be covered?

That’s the last stuff you need to worry about. Consider a plan that is worldwide if you move around a lot. 

175 global coverage for SafetyWing

Limited Coverage In Your Home Country

Not sure about this either. Strange that they have set limited coverage for your home country but again solidifies that it’s exactly for backpackers not nomads. If you’re a digital nomad but you need to go home for 6 months and you’re not covered, what kind of insurance is that?

The same for remote workers, sometimes they need to go home for 3-6 months of the year and back to the office. This plan would not be suited for you at all. Ideally, you’ll be looking for a plan that doesn’t have a limitation like this. 

It would make sense as a backpacker, planning to return home for good and consider a better healthcare plan in their country, but for nomads living overseas this would not work. 

For long-term nomads and expats, comprehensive coverage in both your country of residence and your home country is crucial. 

It ensures continuous protection and reflects the nature of a globally mobile lifestyle. It’s important to choose a policy that recognises and caters to this need.

People who might not care about this:

  • Holiday makers 
  • Short term sabbaticals 
  • Backpackers 

Extremely Limited Coverage For Outpatient Care (Routine or Preventive Checkups)

This was the nail in the coffin for this review of SafetyWing. If you are a digital nomad, then you NEED ongoing coverage for outpatient care including routine or preventive checkups.

These are the essentials for thing like, check ups, prescriptions, minor surgery, therapy, mental health and more. All of which could add up to be a significant cost on your end. 

As someone who understands the importance of comprehensive medical insurance, I find it concerning when policies don’t cover these essential services. For nomads, who may not have regular access to a consistent healthcare provider, the ability to get routine checkups and preventive care is crucial. 

Good outpatient coverage should include a range of services such as doctor’s visits, prescribed medication, imaging and lab tests, physiotherapy, and even alternative therapies. Find out more about outpatient care in this blog here. 

This kind of comprehensive outpatient care is what I believe nomads should look for in a medical insurance policy to ensure they are fully protected and can maintain their health while living their adventurous lifestyle.

Limited outpatient care by SafetyWing, lady unable to get the care she needs

SafetyWing Insurance Review

So, here’s my full SafetyWing nomad insurance review based on these factors and ranked out of 10.

Coverage Extent 5/10

SafetyWing’s coverage extent seems to be tailored more towards the needs of travellers rather than long-term expats. The lack of direct billing, limited coverage for outpatient care, and exclusions for significant health issues like cancer are notable gaps. Therefore, I’d score it a 5 out of 10 for coverage extent.

Affordability 8/10

Considering the plan is aimed at backpackers and those on a budget, it’s likely to be more affordable than comprehensive expat health insurance. However, the $250 deductible per claim could add up. I’d give it a 8 out of 10 for affordability, with the caveat that you get what you pay for.

Ease of Claims 5/10

Without direct billing, the claims process could be more cumbersome for policyholders, as they would need to pay upfront and then seek reimbursement. This could be a significant inconvenience, so I’d rate it a 5 out of 10 for ease of claims.

Geographical Coverage 7/10

Covering 175 countries is quite extensive, but for those travelling to every corner of the globe, there could be gaps. For a global traveller, this might not be sufficient. I’d score it a 7 out of 10 for geographical coverage, acknowledging that it covers most, but not all, countries.

Conclusion

So there we have it. My comprehensive review on SafetyWings insurance for nomads. I’ve tried to debunk as much as I can and provide insights for real nomads who might buy this and be left short. 

While SafetyWing Insurance may offer an affordable and flexible option for those on short-term travels or backpacking trips, it’s important for nomads, particularly those living overseas or travelling extensively, to consider the limitations of such a policy. 

The lack of comprehensive coverage, especially for outpatient care and serious health conditions like cancer, along with the limited geographical coverage and the potential financial burden of a deductible for each claim, suggest that this insurance is not ideally suited for the unique needs of long-term nomads and expats.

Education is key when choosing the right insurance for your nomadic lifestyle. It’s crucial to look for a policy that provides extensive medical coverage, including preventive care and direct billing options, to ensure you are protected no matter where your travels take you. 

For those who have made the world their home and office, investing in a robust medical insurance plan that matches the scope of your travels is not just a necessity, it’s a priority for your health and peace of mind.

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Damon

With a decade of experience in medical insurance, Damon crafts solutions for nomads and global entrepreneurs. Often seen at global seminars or featured in industry publications, he’s dedicated to simplifying medical insurance for all.

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