When I was younger, I went on a mission trip to Ireland to evangelize and minister in schools and local churches, but in all of the fundraising that I acquired, I was not aware that those funds would cover something called missionary insurance. I simply thought that mission trip expenses equaled plane tickets and other small details. But here I am now, in college studying missions, and I’ve come to learn about the details and necessary steps to be taken when it comes to doing missions work.
What is missionary insurance? Missionary insurance is a coverage plan that works to provide safety for both short term and long term missionaries through emergency evacuation, portable health coverage, abduction/ransom incidents, and much more. The list goes on and on. Ultimately missionary insurance varies in the options you choose but is much the same as other types of insurance
Now let’s look into the different kinds of coverage, which ones are most necessary, and what providers are best in the field.
The Different Types of Coverage for Missionaries
The type of insurance you choose is dependent on many different things. For instance, age, gender, location, and duration. All of these factors dictate in a major way just what you need; the missionary to Australia or the UK for example, will not face the same threats as the one who goes to a developing country where Christianity is illegal.
First, determine these factors and then choose your plan accordingly.
According to Visitors Coverage, missionary insurance typically includes the following:
- Health and Medical Expenses
- Furlough Coverage
- Political Evacuation
- Emergency Medical Evacuation
- Repatriation Benefits
- Return of Minor Child
- Optional Pre-existing Condition Benefit
- Accidental Death and Dismemberment Benefit
Now that we have a basic understanding of missionary insurance, let’s dive into what these actually cover so that you can confidently choose plans that are most applicable to you.
Portable coverage is an invaluable tool that enables missionaries to transfer their health coverage from one country to the next.
Basic health coverage generally applies to the country in which you are staying long term, portable coverage, however, means that you can go from one nation to the next without having to worry about whether your medical expenses are covered.
Missionaries often go on furlough. This means they take a short break and come back to America for a set period of time. The problem with this is that you’re not living in America and thus do not have any coverage set in place for while you’re back home, but you also do not need an extended coverage plan while you’re in the States since you’ll be paying for something you will not use for long.
This is why furlough coverage is a helpful tool, it enables missionaries to maintain their insurance overseas while also being covered in America without paying additional fees for another insurance plan.
There are many reasons why a missionary might need to evacuate a country in a hurry. I know of one story, in particular. Missionaries who opened a school and were doing mission work in a restricted country had been suspected of proselytizing. Luckily they were able to discover this before they were arrested and thus left the country within hours of finding out that they were about to be arrested.
They had American students who were studying under them, and though they were safe, they didn’t hear of their mentor’s departure until a day or two later, and it was in the form of a letter.
Another example is of my aunt and uncle and their four children, who were also missionaries in a restricted nation. They had been missionaries there for a long time and had made much headway in the community, but extremists found out that they were Christians and placed a price on their heads.
My aunt and uncle only found this out after the U.S. Army showed up at their door and told them that they needed to get out of the country now. And reluctantly, they did.
Instances like these are a good example of how helpful emergency evacuation insurance can be, helping to cover the cost of political, health, or other various emergency situations.
Accidental Death and Dismemberment Benefit
Missions can be dangerous, and no matter what context of the world you’re in, unfortunate situations can take wherever you are. That’s why this one is beneficial to have.
American’s have this type of insurance for day to day life, but in a scenario where danger is significantly increased, this can bring peace of mind.
Kidnap and Ransom Insurance
Kidnap and ransom insurance is essential in high-risk areas. This coverage covers the cost, depending on your provider, of step by step negotiating help, ransom demands, evacuation.
It seems like an unlikely thing to happen, but it happens in Western first-world countries just the same as third world, war-torn, and lawless places.
Top Missionary Insurance Providers
Whether you’re an individual, a family, or an organization seeking out a coverage plan, there are options to choose from. Below, I have compiled a list of the top insurance agencies in this particular market to better help you decide on the plan you feel best fits your situation.
Each of these resources help with both short term and long term missions to accommodate the individual, family, and organization.
Recommendations From a Seasoned Missionary and Sending Agency
We recommended TalentTrust for use for our missionaries in YWAM. It is a way to love one another in community as well as extended family so that they don’t have to carry your long-term care if needed or to finance an emergency.
What type of coverage to carry depends upon how available and how affordable the local medical care is. In Malaysia they had excellent and affordable medical care for the general or smaller needs. We recommended that our staff carry major medical and disability in case of long-term needs. We also recommended that they carry coverage that can be used when they are on sabbatical.
Short-term teams need to carry insurance for major medical that enables them to be airlifted or have access insurance in their home country. This is more costly for Americans because American health insurance is costly.— Melanie Hurlbut – Missionary to Malaysia
Recommendations from Bethany Gateways — A Sending Agency
For our missionaries, they all purchase IMG’s Outreach International policy (see here). It is very comprehensive, has evacuation clauses, and very low deductibles (typically $0 to $1000 for the whole year, which is amazing). Also, usually costs less than $600 for the whole year. They work on a reimbursement basis, so often missionaries will have to put the initial expense on a credit card. Usually, costs for medical use overseas (in less developed areas for sure) are so low it isn’ a big deal to pay in cash upfront and then get reimbursed. They reimburse within 30 days.
Samaritan Ministries – is a health-care sharing cooperative (like Christian Healthcare Ministries, Liberty Share, and Medishare) where the ‘middle man’ of insurance is cut out and the body of Christ who are members within these networks simply share their monthly ‘share’ with others who have medical bills. It keeps costs down, is affordable, and also universally usable around the world. In the case of Samaritan Ministries, they will reimburse health care costs in any country of the world within 90 days of receipt, and also encourages ‘medical tourism’ to get better quality care and much lower rates. In other words, they will subsidize the cost of traveling for major procedures in order to save the entire network money. www.SamaritanMinistries.com
Aetna has a good global (ex-pat) policy as well, although this is typically purchased as group insurance.
GeoBlue is Blue Cross / Blue Shield global ex-pat policy that has a US-based benefit baked in to the policy, but the primary benefit occurs in foreign contexts. It is very much your conventional insurance policy, and is typically bundled as a group plan through organizations.
IMG – is a non-insurance option (like Samaritan) that has a variety of long-term health coverage options.
In all cases, we source our people through our primary agent, who is an expert in missionary insurance: Good Neighbor Insurance – https://www.gninsurance.com/
In all cases, it is imperative to have more than a ‘catastrophic’ policy that only covers care above a certain threshold (very high), so that care is sought after when it is needed and not delayed. Especially in a foreign context, this isn’t an option. Even worse, is not carrying care. Many missionaries can pay for healthcare so cheaply out of pocket it doesn’t seem to make sense to pay for a policy until there is a major medical problem and they want a procedure done in a more developed part of the country where quality assurance is standardized.
Tips for Finding the Best Agency
It’s important to go with a missionary insurance provider over a travel agent or travel insurance. Why? Because missionary insurance is tailored to the needs of the missionary whereas travel insurance is more generic.
Missionary insurance providers and brokers know what the Christian missionary is going to need while overseas, and this will help to save money by selecting only the benefits that you need.
Travel agents can help of course, but they will not be as familiar with the needs of the missionary and could thus select the wrong packages and plans.
Cost of Missionary Insurance and Conclusion
The cost of missionary insurance also depends on these same factors, predominantly age and duration. For short term trips, it generally costs $1-2 a day and it is recommended to contact a broker who can put together a good plan through multiple agencies according to your specific needs, this helps to get the lowest deductible and save money.
Emergency evacuations can be tricky and expensive depending on the remoteness of your location, therefore it is important to discuss this with your broker or agency.
No plan is cut and dry and depends on your provider as well as the details we discussed earlier in the post.
Whatever you choose, it’s important to choose something. We face dangers enough in our homeland, but danger increases significantly when we go overseas. Your best bet is to call a provider and get a quote and they will be able to assist you in finding exactly what fits your needs best.