Digital Nomad Health Insurance: Everything You Need to Know Before Hitting the Road

UPDATED: May 9, 2024
PUBLISHED: May 11, 2024
confident backpacker exemplifying digital nomad health insurance

Navigating the world of health insurance is complicated enough within the United States. Add international borders and health care regulations, and things can get overwhelming. When preparing to move abroad as a digital nomad, typical private medical coverage doesn’t necessarily work while you’re outside of your home country—while travel insurance might not be designed for longer trips or anything other than emergency care. 

Sharita Jennings, a lawyer and digital nomad, was living in Portugal when she took advantage of her international travel insurance and went for an OB/GYN checkup. 

“In my experience in the States, I wouldn’t have gotten an ultrasound unless something was wrong, but it was routine here,” says Jennings. That routine ultrasound was the reason that Jennings discovered a fibroid. She paid out of pocket and was reimbursed by the health insurance company without a problem. 

Now, Jennings says that her priority when looking for health insurance abroad is a plan that doesn’t just cover emergencies, stressing that preventative health care is a priority for her. 

“I like to use IMG Global Medical Insurance because it has coverage for preventative health care,” says Jennings. “I’ll get my annual primary care and OB/GYN appointments abroad because they’re much cheaper, and I prefer the quality.” 

Digital nomad health insurance: Understanding individual needs

Parita Patel, an insurance adviser based in Florida, helps people find private insurance. She emphasizes the importance of assessing individual health care needs when choosing health insurance. She says that before selecting a plan, digital nomads should consider some crucial questions, such as the presence of pre-existing conditions, required medications and lifestyle factors like frequent travel.

“Everybody needs to look for health insurance that satisfies their needs,” says Patel. “Do I have medications? Do I have specialists that I’m seeing? Am I traveling?”

She points out that while some plans may state they cover emergencies no matter where you are, the reality is that what defines an emergency isn’t so simple. 

“If I break my leg, I think that’s an emergency,” explains Patel. “To insurance companies, if I’m not flatlining, it’s not an emergency.”

Coverage to look for when buying digital nomad health insurance

Natalie Giannascoli, a health insurance adviser, underscores the significance of coverage beyond borders for digital nomads. Giannascoli recommends plans utilizing a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) network, which allows coverage in all 50 states and provides flexibility in choosing healthcare providers.

“Plans that utilize a PPO network are best for people who travel often, as the network allows coverage in all 50 states,” says Giannascoli.

In addition to PPO networks, digital nomads should prioritize insurance plans that offer comprehensive telemedicine services, enabling access to virtual health care visits and consultations from anywhere in the world. Giannascoli and Patel both emphasize the importance of a plan that includes some kind of telemedicine to bridge the gap between U.S. and international medical experiences. 

Supplementing with international coverage

Giannascoli also recommends that digital nomads supplement their insurance with international coverage, especially for extended stays abroad. This additional coverage safeguards against billing complexities and ensures comprehensive protection during international travel.

“Some health policies cover a certain number of days if one travels outside the country, but there are travel policies that provide coverage for longer periods of time,” explains Giannascoli.

Patel agrees, suggesting additional international coverage for those traveling internationally for more than two weeks. 

Tailored health insurance options for digital nomads 

Giannascoli also highlights specialized insurance options tailored to the unique needs of digital nomads. These plans not only provide coverage for individuals and their families but can also serve as tax benefits for their businesses, offering flexibility in coverage and travel purposes.

“Having a large network that can be used anywhere in the country, especially in remote areas, is most beneficial,” says Giannascoli.

Digital nomad experiences

Sebastian Lopez, an online fitness and nutrition coach, uses Passport Card for his health insurance. He says his top priority when looking for health insurance abroad was finding coverage for accidents, surgeries and life-threatening illnesses like cancer. 

“I also wanted super flexible health insurance with great customer service,” says Lopez, “and insurance that covers everything it says it covers, including doctor and dentist visits.”

Lopez recalls a time when he used his Passport Card’s health insurance in Spain. It was simple: He used the payment card that the Passport Card provided to pay for the visit. 

Alternatively, some digital nomads opt entirely out of health insurance depending on their location and the cost of health insurance in that area. 

Kartik Vasan and Smriti Bhadoria are digital nomads and content creators traveling through Latin America. As freelancers, they’ve tried different types of health insurance abroad. However, they found it difficult to reach their minimum deductible. 

“We don’t have medical insurance anymore because we realized we can’t afford it for anything small,” says Bhadoria. “We keep a $10,000 emergency fund aside if anything major happens rather than paying ridiculous monthly premiums for insurance we might never use.” 

Be proactive in choosing a plan that works for you

There are quite a few health insurance companies that cater specifically to digital nomads, such as Passport Card and SafetyWing. However, it’s best not to leave those decisions to the last minute. Because there are so many details in the fine print, Giannascoli stresses the importance of proactive decision-making when selecting health insurance; waiting until the last minute can result in settling for inadequate coverage.

“The biggest mistake people make when choosing their health plan is that they wait until the absolute last minute to make a decision,” notes Giannascoli. “When people are against the clock, they settle and don’t give themselves the chance to fully review the options available to make the most informed decision.”

Photo by Jose Luis Carrascosa/

Iona Brannon is a freelance journalist based in the U.S. You can read more of her work at