If a business has a contract with a company such as International SOS, does this amount to having travel insurance?

Or could the individuals traveling for work with this business still be liable for potential out-of-pocket medical expenses?

I had assumed that using International SOS - and similar companies - did amount to having travel insurance, but I've just noticed that they don't really specify that they provide insurance. They do, however, appear to provide services that are often paid for by travel insurance.

For example, Wikipedia says:

International SOS specialises in medical assistance, travel security advice and information, emergency services, healthcare, evacuation and repatriation services.

Apart from the security advice and information, all of these services are usually covered under travel insurance. Obviously coverage for cancellations and lost/stolen luggage don't appear to be covered by International SOS; I'm more concerned about medical expenses as these are the 'unknowns' that can get quickly out of control in an emergency.

So my question is... as a traveler traveling with my employer, covered by an International SOS plan, am I good, medical-insurance wise? Or should I be asking my employer to take out additional travel insurance?

As a followup question that could potentially help define this, what if it was a trip requiring a Schengen visa - would this meet the Schengen travel insurance requirements?

EDIT: The business is on the 'Corporate Comprehensive Program', if that helps. Peter in the comments found a link to the personal membership plan comparisons, which might provide some of the puzzle pieces.

  • 3
    The question of you being covered by travel insurance when on a business trip seems like a discussion you should be having with your HR department
    – Peter M
    Jul 21, 2016 at 2:11
  • @PeterM Agree - just trying to get a better general understanding before doing so. I actually thought it was covered for a previous trip, but only just realised it might not be, so wanted to arm myself with some knowledge first :)
    – Tim Malone
    Jul 21, 2016 at 2:12
  • As per buymembership.internationalsos.com/compare it really depends on which plan your company subscribes to. (that link is for personal memberships, but I assume the corporate packages are similarly structured)
    – Peter M
    Jul 21, 2016 at 2:29
  • 3
    I don't think it would be that unreasonable to ask your HR department for a copy of the policy so you could see exactly what is covered. Jul 21, 2016 at 4:23
  • 2
    In addition, their policy has a lot of exclusions I would personally be wary of this; especially as its different than the exclusions for Schengen insurance provided by AXA. Jul 21, 2016 at 5:05

1 Answer 1


No - they're not an insurer, as their website says:


We help you provide specialist support to your organisation for your specific medical and security needs via dedicated assistance services that are fully aligned with your insurer.

We have proven working interfaces and processes with an expansive range of expatriate and travel insurers directly providing administrative support for claim submissions when required.

We ensure the relationship between your organisation, International SOS and your insurer is as smooth as possible by using direct billing agreements with insurance carriers.

With us, you can provide real-time medical case information to your insurer, enabling them to verify insurance coverage and achieve their claims management directly on your behalf. Information provided by our assistance specialists’ captures important details that if missed could lead to future complications and unnecessary costs.

Diagram showing relationship between insurer and International SOS

Our Approach > How we work with your insurer, International SOS, 4 Dec 2016

What they're saying is that much of the work they do for companies ends up being paid for by that company's insurance.

Though International SOS is not it, your employer certainly will have an insurer, not least because otherwise they (your employer) would be liable for medical and other costs which you might incur as a result of injuries or illness on a business trip. (Under the legal systems of most Western countries, at least).

Duty of Care legislation holds businesses liable for protecting the health and safety of their traveling employees.

Countries in North America (U.S., Canada), Europe (France, Germany, Belgium and Spain) and Australia have comprehensive Duty of Care legislation. For example, failure to uphold Duty of Care obligations in the United Kingdom can result in civil and criminal liabilities not just for companies, but for individuals at those companies as well. In Germany, liabilities for sickness and health-related costs actually extend to family members who may be visiting the expatriate in various host countries.

Understanding and Reducing Business Travel Risks for Employees, Corporate Compliance Insights 11/19/2014 [emphasis mine]

While many travellers make no distinction between the practicalities of their leisure and occupational travel, employers, not the employee, carry the liability for business trips.

Safety and financial issues to consider when travelling for business, Personnel Today, 1 Dec 2012 [article subject is UK jurisdiction]

should I be asking my employer to take out additional travel insurance?

You should simply ask your travel department or HR department for details of your company's travel insurance. Explain that you'd like to check what's covered; if you feel you need an excuse, say that you want to reassure your family that you're covered against accident or illness overseas.

If your employer didn't have insurance then you still wouldn't be liable (because your employer would be, rather than you personally) but if the employer is large enough to have a contract with International SOS then it's pretty much inconceivable that they don't already have travel insurance - such an omission would be an act of major incompetence, and would be a massive risk that International SOS (as well as the company's auditors, lawyers, and even travel agents) would be alerting them to.

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