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Everything You Need to Know About Travel Health Insurance

Updated: Jun 4, 2022

No one wants to get sick while on vacation, it can be one of the most difficult events that can happen during a trip. Now add traveling with children that are far more susceptible to illness or injury.

Travel health insurance is designed to help in these exact cases. It’s especially important if you’re traveling outside the country, where your U.S. health plan might have only limited or no coverage.

What is Travel Medical Insurance?

Travel insurance pays for emergency medical expenses during a trip. If you or your baby are traveling and have an unexpected illness, injury, or medical condition that’s covered by your travel medical insurance, the plan will reimburse you, up to the plan limits.

Travel medical insurance pays “reasonable and customary” charges for bills such as:

  • Ambulance service

  • Doctor bills

  • Hospital and operating room charges

  • X-rays, examinations, treatments, lab tests, and anesthetics

  • Drugs and medicines

  • Dental care, but check for special limits on the dental payout, such as $500

Generally, there are two forms of travel medical insurance :

  1. Stand-alone Medical Insurance Plans: These plans cover emergency medical and dental expenses you incur while traveling. However, a stand-alone medical plan doesn’t include other travel insurance coverage such as trip cancellation insurance or baggage coverage.

  2. Comprehensive Travel Insurance Plan: In addition to emergency medical benefits, a comprehensive travel insurance plan can package coverage for trip cancellation, trip delay, emergency medical evacuation, baggage loss, and more. It’s the best way to cover a host of potential problems.

Travel medical insurance is for medical emergencies while traveling, like a sprained ankle while sightseeing. It does not cover non-emergency or elective procedures, or experimental medical treatment in foreign countries.

Does Travel Medical Insurance Cover Covid?

There are many travel medical plans available that include Covid-related medical expenses. But since not every plan cover’s it, it’s important to verify Covid coverage before buying a plan if it’s a priority for you.

Covid medical coverage will fall under the limits of the plan’s travel medical insurance. It can cover any medical costs associated with contracting Covid during your trip, including doctor bills, medication, and hospitalization.

Additional travel insurance benefits, such as travel delay insurance, can cover the extra costs of Covid quarantines. For example, if you contract Covid during a trip and have to extend your stay because of quarantine, your travel insurance plan can reimburse you for the extra costs—assuming the plan includes Covid Quarantine Coverage.

What Are the Different Types of Travel Medical Insurance Policies?

When you’re buying travel medical insurance, it’s important to know the difference between these coverage types.

Primary vs. Secondary Medical Coverage

Travel medical insurance can be primary or secondary coverage, depending on the plan. If it’s primary, it will pay out before any other health insurance you have. If you have health insurance and buy travel medical insurance as secondary coverage, your own health plan must pay first.

If you’re traveling overseas and your U.S. health plan doesn’t provide coverage, a travel medical plan that’s “secondary” will essentially become primary coverage due to lack of other insurance.

Single-trip vs. Multi-trip

How often you travel in a calendar year could be the deciding factor between these two coverage types. Here’s the difference between the two.

  • Single-trip coverage: Single trip coverage begins when you leave your home and travel to your destination (or destinations) and ends when you return home. The plan covers you for the duration of your trip. For example, you could purchase a single-trip plan for a four-week European vacation where you visit several different countries.

  • Multi-trip coverage: Also known as annual travel insurance, this covers you for a calendar year and is good for travelers who take three or more trips per year. For example, you could take a trip to Europe, come home for a few months, then take a cruise to the Caribbean, come home, and a bit later in the year vacation in Mexico.

Getting to a Better Location - Emergency Medical Evacuation

Depending on where you are going to travel, you may also want to consider emergency medical evacuation insurance. This will pay for you to get to the nearest adequate medical facility, or even back home, depending on your condition.

For example, if you’re vacationing in a remote part of the world, this would be essential coverage to have. Medical evacuation back to the U.S. can cost more than $50,000, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Be aware of your travel insurance policy’s rules for evacuation. For example, some policies have monetary limits or they might pay to transport you back to the U.S. but only after you’ve been hospitalized for seven days following a medical emergency.

What’s Not Covered by Travel Medical Insurance?

What’s covered and excluded by a travel medical insurance plan will depend on the travel insurance company. Here are some common exclusions.

Pre-existing conditions: How pre-existing conditions are covered will vary by the travel insurance company, and one insurer might define a “pre-existing condition” differently than the next. Some insurance companies will take a look at your past medical history to determine if a condition was present during a period that could range from 90 days to one year ago, depending on the policy.

Travel insurance plans will generally cover pre-existing conditions as long as you buy your plan within a couple of weeks after you make your first trip deposit. Buying your plan right away lets you lock in a pre-existing condition exclusion waiver.

Intoxication and Drug Use: Travel medical insurance typically won’t cover emergency medical costs due to intoxication or drug use. For example, if you become intoxicated and fall off a balcony, your travel medical insurance won’t cover the cost of your injuries.

Dangerous Activities: Some travel medical insurance policies won’t cover expenses that resulted from activities such as mountain climbing, skydiving or parasailing. If you plan to engage in activities like this, work with a travel insurance agent to compare adventure travel insurance plans to make sure your particular activities will be covered.

Other typical exclusions to travel medical insurance include:

  • Routine medical examinations, such as vaccinations or immunizations

  • Obesity or weight modification, such as intestinal bypass surgery

  • Organ or tissue transplants

  • Corrective devices and medical appliances, such as eyeglasses or contact lense

Who Needs Travel Medical Insurance?

If you don’t have the right coverage in place and you get injured or sick on your trip, you’ll be stuck paying medical bills out-of-pocket. You should especially get coverage if you are traveling outside of the United States.

If you are planning on traveling with a larger group of family members, any older travelers should make sure to have good medical benefits when traveling abroad, since Medicare won’t provide benefits outside the U.S. As mentioned before, children tend to be more accident-prone and should be covered as well.

How Do I Purchase Travel Medical Insurance?

Before you buy a travel insurance policy, it’s a good idea to compare quotes from multiple insurers. Most travel insurance companies offer free quotes on their website. You can save time by visiting an insurance comparison website that compares quotes from multiple companies.

But price shouldn’t be the only deciding factor. It’s a good idea to find a plan that also covers Covid-related problems. The best travel insurance companies offer a solid range of coverage options at a fair price.

How Much Does Travel Medical Insurance Cost?

Travel medical insurance costs will vary based on the age of the travelers, length of trip, and coverage limits chosen. You will also choose a deductible, the higher the deductible the lower the cost of your travel insurance to start. If you choose a higher deductible, you will then have to pay that price before they begin to cover expenses if something does happen.

How Much Travel Medical Insurance Should You Have?

It’s a good idea to select a plan with enough coverage based on the type of trip you’re taking. For example, emergency medical evacuation from a cruise ship can cost between $50,000 and $100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The most generous travel insurance plans provide $500,000 per person for emergency medical expenses and $1 million for emergency medical evacuation.

Other good plans have ample medical coverage of $250,000 or $100,000 per person. And some have less, which you might find sufficient.


Key Takeaways:

  • Most health insurance plans don’t include travel outside of the United States so, if you are planning any international trips, additional medical insurance is highly recommended.

  • Travel insurance is especially important for those most prone to accident or illness (babies & elderly) although many plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions.

  • The cost will depend upon the age of the travelers, length of trip, and coverage limits chosen.


Source: Forbes

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