Travel Medical Insurance: What We Wish Everyone Knew

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Travel Medical Insurance

When you are planning a grand adventure, the last thing you want to think about is insurance. Whether you are headed off to explore the world by studying abroad in China or venturing out on an African safari, you may want to consider protecting yourself from unforeseen circumstances.  

Buying a travel medical insurance policy can help give you peace of mind for unforeseen trip cancellations and medical emergencies. There are many different coverage options and a lot that you should know before choosing your plan. This article will help you determine if you should consider travel medical coverage and where you can start to compare coverage from different companies.

What is Travel Medical Insurance?

Travel medical insurance is a specialized health insurance plan designed to cover emergency medical care while you are out of your typical country of residence. Some policies provide short-term coverage, and some provide long-term coverage.

Types of Travel Insurance

The CDC identifies three types of insurance policies specifically for travel. They are travel medical insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical evacuation insurance. With one of the three plans or a combination of them, you can significantly reduce your chance of having unexpected out-of-pocket expenses caused by trip cancellations or the cost of medical care. Be sure to compare policies to find out which ones will provide you the best coverage while you are on your trip. Read below for a brief explanation of the policy types provided by the U.S. Department of State.

Travel Cancellation Insurance

Travel cancellation insurance provides reimbursement for trip cancellations, travel delays, and lost baggage. Some travel insurance policies provide health insurance coverage and emergency medical evacuation, but you will need to check your policy to know for sure. 

Travel Health Insurance

This is a supplemental health insurance policy that provides coverage for medical care that your insurance will not cover while you are overseas. It may include emergency evacuation with specific limits to the amount it will cover. 

Medical Evacuation Insurance

Medical evacuation insurance provides coverage for medical care and is specifically useful for emergency medical evacuation, or repatriation to your country of origin. Evacuation coverage is especially important in remote areas that do not have adequate medical facilities. You can purchase this as part of a travel health insurance policy.

Doesn’t My Health Insurance Plan Provide Medical Coverage When I Am in a Foreign Country?

According to The U.S. Department of State, very few health insurance companies will provide emergency medical evacuation back to the United States. Also, this service alone can cost more than $50,000.

Your health insurance may cover some medical expenses when you are in a foreign country, but there are likely limitations. Be sure to check your policy carefully before traveling. If you are unsure that you will receive benefits while you are away, you should consider purchasing a travel medical insurance plan.

Check Your Credit Card Policies

Some credit card companies offer travel insurance as a benefit for holders of eligible credit cards but you have to look carefully. Before purchasing a policy, you should check with your credit card company to see if you are covered. Here are some credit cards that provide coverage according to an article by ValuePenguin:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Chase Freedom
  • United MileagePlus Club Card
  • United Explorer Card
  • The Hyatt Credit Card

Who Needs Travel Medical Insurance?

If your health insurance policy does not cover you in a foreign country, you will need travel medical insurance for any medical emergencies. It is easy to convince yourself that you will not fall victim to the types of emergencies that would require travel medical insurance, but the best philosophy to have is “better safe than sorry.” Preparing yourself for an emergency can save you thousands of dollars in medical costs, and may even save your life.

Besides being safer, some travel situations require or suggest that you purchase travel medical insurance.

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If You Plan on Studying Abroad

Your university may require you to purchase travel medical insurance. Likewise, some student Visas require a travel medical plan, depending on the policy of your destination country. Fortunately, there are student plans available to meet these needs.

When Visiting Certain Countries

You may be required to have a travel medical plan while visiting. The United States, Cuba, Russia, Ecuador, and Antarctica are some of the countries that require medical coverage while visiting. Additionally, any country that requires a Schengen visa also requires visa holders to carry health coverage. 

For Guided Tours

Some touring companies require travel medical coverage for specific group tours like African safaris. Check with the tour company to find out their policy, and any recommendations they may have.

Planning to Visit an Underdeveloped Nation

If you are traveling on a mission trip or to an isolated country, you definitely should consider travel medical coverage. It will ensure you can be life-flighted to a larger, more medically prepared location in an emergency. 

Before Setting Sail

Some cruise companies encourage cruisers to purchase travel medical coverage for emergencies. Remember: you’re responsible for any bills you incur in the ship’s medical station.

Basic Travel Insurance Plan Terms You Should Know

Benefits

This shows you the types of coverage you will receive from the policy once you have paid your premium and have done what the policy requires you to do.

Coverage

This details what services are provided to you under the policy, and any exclusions that the policy will not cover. Make sure to read this section of your policy carefully to prevent unexpected medical costs.

Deductibles

The out-of-pocket amount, as determined by your insurance company, that you must pay before your policy contributes to any treatment costs. If your plan does not cover the medical treatment, then any payments you make will not apply to the deductible.

Emergency Medical Evacuation 

Emergency medical evacuation provides emergency transport to the nearest hospital when an injured or ill person is in danger of losing their life, a limb, or a bodily organ. 

Repatriation

Repatriation is the term used when emergency medical evacuation returns someone to their country of origin. Angel MedFlight, an air ambulance company, regularly returns 3-4 travelers per month to their home countries due to medical emergencies. In the event of a medical emergency or untimely death, knowing your insurance policies coverage and policy limits can help get yourself or your loved one home as quickly as possible.

Because it is so costly, there are separate policies available for emergency medical evacuation. Having a medical evacuation insurance plan can help ensure that an insurance company is handling the proper procedures for you in getting the appropriate authorization from the insurance company. 

Pre-existing Conditions 

If you have had an illness, disease, injury, or condition that has affected you within the last 60 to 180 days, you may want to consider coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. Usually, pre-existing health conditions are excluded from travel medical insurance. To get around that, you will need to complete an exclusion waiver with an insurance company that offers it with their international travel policy. Without the waiver, you will likely not be able to recover your money for a trip canceled due to your pre-existing health conditions. Most insurance companies require you to insure all prepaid costs for your trip to be eligible for this coverage.

Accidental Death and Dismemberment Coverage

Additionally, some policies offer coverage for accidental death and dismemberment as well. Most basic policies do not provide AD&D. However, there are many mid to upper-grade policies that do. AD&D delivers 100% of the policy limit in the event of accidental death, and 50 – 100% of the policy limits for the loss of a limb(s). Furthermore, if you compare policies, you can even find AD&D coverage on some of the lower-cost plans.

Travel Medical Insurance

Where Can I Find the Best Travel Medical Insurance?

There are many good travel medical insurance companies and policies. Moreover, researching and comparing different policies will help you find the best fit for your travel insurance needs. There are short-term policies that will provide coverage for a one-time trip. You can also buy multi-trip policies that can be valid for shorter periods (3 months, 6 months, or 12 months) and long-term policies. Consumers Advocate provides a selection of some of their top recommendations. To clarify, here is some information regarding the plans available from those companies:

TravelInsurance.com is a site that prompts you to fill in a form with your information and the benefits you would like included in your policy. It uses that info to provide a comparison of the top options for you, including the cost. 

Generali Global Insurance

They offer up to $250,000 in travel medical coverage, $1,000,000 in evacuation coverage, and cover pre-existing conditions.

Standard Policy

  • Trip cancellation (100% of trip cost)
  • Trip interruption (125% of trip cost)
  • Travel delay ($1,000 per person payable at $150 per day)
  • Baggage coverage for lost or damaged items ($1,000 per person)
  • Baggage Delay ($200 per person)
  • Missed connection ($500 per person)
  • Medical and dental coverage ($50,000 per person)
  • Emergency medical evacuation ($250,000 per person)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment ($50,000 per person, $100,000 per plan)

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Preferred Policy

  • Trip cancellation (100% of trip cost)
  • Trip interruption (150% of trip cost)
  • Travel delay ($1,000 per person payable at $200 per day)
  • Baggage coverage for lost or damaged items ($1,500 per person)
  • Baggage Delay ($300 per person)
  • Coverage for sporting equipment ($1,500 per person)
  • Coverage for sporting equipment delays ($300 per person)
  • Missed connection ($750 per person)
  • Medical and dental coverage ($150,000 per person)
  • Emergency medical evacuation ($500,000 per person)
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment Air Flight accident coverage ($75,000 per person, $150,000 per plan)
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment ($25,000 per person, $50,000 per plan)
  • Coverage for financial insolvency

Premium Policy

  • Trip cancellation, (100% of trip cost)
  • Trip interruption (175% of trip cost)
  • Travel delay ($1,000 per person payable at $300 per day)
  • Baggage coverage for lost or damaged items ($2,000 per person)
  • Baggage Delay ($500 per person)
  • Coverage for sporting equipment ($2,000 per person)
  • Coverage for sporting equipment delays ($500 per person)
  • Missed connection ($1,000 per person)
  • Medical and dental coverage ($250,000 per person)
  • Emergency medical evacuation ($1,000,000 per person)
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment Air Flight accident coverage ($100,000 per person, $200,000 per plan)
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment ($50,000 per person, $100,000 per plan)
  • Coverage for financial insolvency
  • Coverage for pre-existing conditions
  • Rental car damage ($25,000 per person/per plan)
  • Trip cancellation for any reason (75% of the trip cost is covered)

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Travelex Travel Insurance

They offer customizable insurance coverage with different benefit levels and up to $500,000 for emergency medical evacuation.

Travel Basic

  • Trip cancellation and interruption, up to 100% of the cost of the trip
  • Trip delay (up to $500 payable at $250 per day)
  • Emergency medical and dental ($15,000 with a $500 dental limit)
  • Emergency medical evacuation (up to $100,000)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment ($10,000 in coverage)
  • Pre-existing medical condition exclusion waiver
  • Can cancel for business reasons
  • 30-day maximum trip length

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Travel Select

  • Cancellation, up to 100% of the cost of the trip
  • Interruption, up to 150% of the cost of the trip
  • Delay (up to $750 payable at $250 per day)
  • Emergency medical and dental ($50,000 with a $500 dental limit)
  • Emergency medical evacuation (up to $500,000)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment ($25,000 in coverage)
  • Pre-existing medical condition exclusion waiver
  • Can cancel for business reasons
  • 30-day maximum trip length
  • Children 17 and under are covered at no additional cost
  • Sports equipment coverage is available
  • 365-day maximum trip length

RoamRight Travel Insurance

They offer several comprehensive coverages to select from and gives the option to upgrade. Here are just a few of their plans:

Essential Travel Plan

  • Trip interruption and cancellation coverage for up to the cost of your trip
  • Missed connection and itinerary changes ($200 per person for up to a 6-hour delay)
  • Trip delay ($500 per person payable at $100 per day for a 12 hour or longer delay)
  • Medical benefits ($15,000 in benefits with a $500 dental limit and $50 deductible)
  • Medical evacuation coverage (up to $150,000)
  • Reimbursement for lost or delayed baggage (up to $750)

Preferred Travel Plan

  • Cancellation coverage for up to the cost of your trip
  • Trip interruption coverage for up to 150% of the cost of your trip 
  • Missed connection and itinerary changes ($500 per person for up to a 3-hour delay)
  • Trip delay ($1,000 per person payable at $200 per day for a 6 hour or longer delay)
  • Medical benefits ($50,000 in benefits with a $750 dental limit and $50 deductible)
  • Medical evacuation coverage (up to $500,000)
  • Reimbursement for lost or delayed baggage (up to $1,000)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment (up to $10,000)

Elite Travel Plan

  • Cancellation coverage for up to the cost of your trip
  • Cancel for work reasons for up to the cost of your trip
  • Trip interruption coverage for up to 150% of the cost of your trip ($1,000 for return air)
  • Missed connection and itinerary changes ($750 per person for up to a 3-hour delay)
  • Trip delay ($1,500 per person payable at $200 per day for a 6 hour or longer delay)
  • Medical benefits ($50,000 in benefits with a $750 dental limit and $50 deductible)
  • Medical evacuation coverage (up to $1,000,000) 
  • Reimbursement for lost or delayed baggage (up to $2,500)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment (up to $25,000)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment common carrier (up to $100,000, airline transport only)
  • One child under 18 for each paid adult is eligible for coverage at no cost

AXA Travel Insurance

AXA offers accidental death and dismemberment on its lowest-cost package, non-medical emergency evacuation, and up to $1 million in emergency medical evaluation. 

Silver Plan

  • Trip interruption and cancellation coverage for up to the cost of your trip
  • Trip delay ($500 per person payable at $100 per day)
  • Medical benefits ($25,000 in coverage)
  • Emergency medical evacuation coverage (up to $100,000)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment ($10,000 in coverage)
  • Common carrier accidental death and dismemberment ($25,000 in coverage)
  • Reimbursement for delayed luggage (up to $200)
  • Reimbursement for lost luggage (up to $750) 

Gold Plan

  • Trip cancellation coverage for up to the cost of your trip
  • Interruption coverage for up to 150% of trip cost
  • Trip delay ($1,000 per person payable at $200 per day)
  • Medical benefits ($100,000 in coverage)
  • Emergency medical evacuation coverage (up to $500,000) 
  • Non-Medical emergency evacuation, ($50,000 in coverage)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment ($25,000 in coverage)
  • Common carrier accidental death and dismemberment ($50,000 in coverage)
  • Reimbursement for delayed baggage (up to $300)
  • Reimbursement for lost baggage (up to $1,500) 

Platinum Plan

  • Cancellation coverage for up to the cost of your trip
  • Interruption coverage for up to 150% of trip cost
  • Delay ($1,250 per person payable at $300 per day)
  • Medical benefits ($250,000 in coverage)
  • Emergency medical evacuation coverage (up to $1,000,000)
  • Non-Medical emergency evacuation, ($100,000 in coverage)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment ($50,000 in coverage)
  • Common carrier accidental death and dismemberment ($100,000 in coverage)
  • Reimbursement for delayed baggage (up to $600)
  • Reimbursement for lost baggage (up to $3,000) 

How Much Should I Expect to Pay for Travel Medical Insurance?

The amount you will pay for your travel medical insurance will depend on several factors. These include your age, where you are traveling to and from, the insurance company, the policy type, the total cost of your trip, and the length of your trip. However, the amount you spend on any policy will likely be far less than what you could pay on uncovered costs in the event of an emergency. 

According to an article in USA Today, you can purchase a combined policy with a “few thousand dollars” in travel coverage insurance plus “about $50,000 in medical/dental emergency costs” for a few hundred dollars.

Most travel insurance providers offer instant quotes when you complete their online forms. To give you an idea of the cost comparisons, we have run the data for the following scenario and created a chart:

For example, a 40-year-old from Georgia traveling with one other person to Italy for one week in October 2019 with a total trip cost of $7,000.

Insurance Company Lowest Plan Cost Mid-Level Plan Cost Top Plan Cost
Generali Global $254.40 $277.74 $377.90
TravelEx $290.00 $402.00 N/A
RoamRight $330.00 $348.00 $560.00
AXA $184.00 $226.00 $276.00
Travel Medical Insurance

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What if I am Traveling to More Than One Foreign Country?

If you are traveling to more than one foreign country, you will need to choose the country that you plan to spend the most time in. The policy will then cover you for the duration of your trip.

How Does Travel Medical Insurance Work?

Travel medical insurance works like most other insurance policies. However, if something happens, you will need to file a claim for reimbursement with your travel insurance provider. The provider will likely have an assistance line you can contact to file the claim. You should carry a printout of your policy with you in case you cannot access it digitally. Check with your insurance company to find out their claims process before leaving for your trip so that you know what to expect. Be sure to submit the claim as soon as possible to avoid missing any deadlines.

Can I Get My Money Back if My Trip is Canceled?

If your trip is canceled before your departure date, some health plans offer full refunds on your premium. Whether you are eligible for a refund will depend on the terms set by the insurance provider, so be sure to read the policy in full before signing up. For example, Generali Global offers a “free look” option that allows you to cancel within ten days of purchase if you are not satisfied.

Tips for Staying Healthy Abroad

  • Check the CDC’s website for up to date information on international travel bans and destination-specific information
  • Find out of particular vaccines are required for protection in the foreign country you plan to visit
  • Learn routine first aid procedures and food and fluid precautions
  • Avoid congested buses and trains
  • Most importantly, see your doctor before you travel for any tips

In conclusion, planning for the best and preparing for the worst can help save you money, time, and heartache during an emergency. Purchasing a travel insurance policy that provides trip cancellation coverage, emergency medical coverage, and medical evacuation coverage can give you the protection you need during your trip. 

Can you think of a time you or a loved one wished you had travel insurance?

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