Medical insurance for travelers is important. Nay, essential. Coverage and cost depend on several factors, but to steal that credit card company’s slogan, “Don’t leave home without it.”
No one wants or expects to get sick on a trip. Nor do they anticipate needing stitches or a cast, let alone an emergency appendectomy. “Seeking local experiences” doesn’t usually include the visiting the healthcare system. Alas, sometimes these things happen.
A real-life lesson: What happens without travel medical insurance
I learned the value of travel medical insurance when I attended a writers’ conference a couple of years ago. One of the speakers, a freelance writer, told us how she had avoided obtaining medical coverage because it seemed like an unnecessary expense. Besides, she was healthy and was always careful when she traveled. Until she was on a press trip in South Africa and the car she was riding in got t-boned.
Without insurance, she couldn’t afford to be transported back to the States. She spent three months alone in the hospital there, following surgery and traction for a shattered pelvis, then in rehabilitation. The cost–while less than healthcare in the U.S.–was staggering. And because it happened internationally, it was not covered by her domestic healthcare plan. She begged us all never to travel without coverage.
So, what should you know?
- Some insurance policies do not cover treatment or emergency services outside the U.S. and its territories. Medicare does not cover care outside the U.S., unless you also carry a supplemental (“Medigap”) policy. Know what your coverage is!
- If you have an existing medical condition–also called a pre-existing medical condition–you must purchase your travel medical insurance within 14 days of paying the deposit on your trip. An existing medical condition is any illness or disease that your health care provider has advised you about, documented your symptoms of, or given you treatment for. As with trip cancellation and interruption policy, you can’t wait until you think you might need it. After 14 days, you’re out of luck.
- You must also be able to travel at the time you purchase your travel medical insurance. You can’t hope or expect to get better. And–this is important!–if you are traveling with someone, your companion must also be able to travel at the time of your purchase. If not, your claim to cancel the trip may be denied. Yes, this sounds unfair, but remember, we’re talking about insurance companies.
- If you must cancel because of an existing medical reason, the entire non-refundable cost of the trip must have been insured. Say you insured the trip within 14 days of making the deposit. You estimated the cost of the trip at that time. If that cost goes up, you have to adjust the policy. This sounds wacky, I know. Don’t shoot the messenger here.
- Some existing conditions may not be automatically covered, so check carefully if you have a mental or nervous illness. Examples are Alzheimer’s disease or a bipolar diagnosis. Find a policy that includes your condition.
I know it seems like a hassle. But the good news is that once you know the ground rules, you can travel with peace-of-mind, knowing that if anything happens, you will get good care and it will be covered. I’ve had excellent experiences with Allianz Global Assistance; I especially like the 24/7 hotline for any travel glitch. Look around and find what’s right for you.
More travel insurance information:
Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have endorsed. I only endorse products that I use and trust. While clicking this link won’t cost you any extra money, it will help me keep this site up and running. Please check out TravelSmart Woman’s disclosure policy for more details.
Want to know more about affiliate marketing?? Click here.