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Travel insurance and elective surgery overseas

Does travel insurance cover for elective surgery overseas?

If you’re heading overseas to get your eyes lasered, your teeth whitened or even for a boob job, make sure you’re covered before you go under the knife!

Travelling overseas for cosmetic surgery is more popular than ever – and you can easily see why with competitive prices and the rising quality of healthcare abroad.

Singapore, India and Thailand in particular are increasingly popular destinations for medical tourism (as it’s known) with huge numbers of Australians travelling overseas for procedures each year.

But, does travel insurance actually cover you for elective surgery overseas?

Travel Insurance exists to cover the unforseen, not situations where risk is likely.

So really it’s common sense to realise that a standard policy is not going to cover you for surgery overseas or any relating complications.  

Cosmetic surgery overseas is considered high risk and therefore it’s rare for travellers who are going overseas specifically for medical procedures to be covered at all.

What does this mean?

If the purpose of your trip is specifically for cosmetic surgery, many insurers will not only exclude you for medical cover, but will also exclude you for all other travel insurance benefits too. That means you wouldn't be covered for theft, cancellation, rental car excess and more.

Good news!

We’ve done some research and found that 1Cover (underwritten by Lloyds), American Express & Citibank (underwritten by Chubb Insurance Australia Limited), Budget Direct (underwritten by Auto and General), Covermore (underwritten by Great Lakes), InsureandGo (underwritten by Mitsui Somotomo) and Travel Insurance Direct (underwritten by Lloyds), will still allow you to buy a policy. You'll be covered for other travel insurance benefits (such as travel delays or personal liability), but will not be covered for anything relating to the surgery, or any complications that arise from the surgery.

So, for example, you wouldn’t be covered if you’ve had the surgery and are too sick to return home on your scheduled flight. Because the flight cancellation is due to reasons relating to the surgery then your flight would not be covered.

So what are your cover options?

With the increase in medical tourism, so becomes the demand for cover. Because of this there are a few polices out there that are specifically to cover those travelling overseas for medical treatment. Yippee!

We investigated and found the following companies that provide cover for Australians:

  • nib.com.au/nib-options are now offering 12 months care for Australians going overseas for medical procedures
  • Globalhealthtravel.com.au - Global Protective Solutions provides benefits for people travelling for the purpose of receiving medical care outside of their home country
  • destinymeditravel.com.au/medical-travel-insurance Custom Assurance Placements, LTD, also offer insurance for medical tourists

Is it worth it?

Although certain cosmetic procedures abroad may be cheaper than in Australia, you should still consider the costs of flights, accommodation and any possible medical complications into the full cost of your treatment too. After taking into account all the costs involved your may find that the difference in price is negligible. It's important to think long and hard before jetting overseas to go under the knife. You have been warned! 

Disclaimer: The information in this guide should be taken as general advice only and the full policy details should be reviewed to see if the policies are right for your own circumstances.

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