Why travel medical insurance is essential – Forbes Advisor


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No one wants to get sick while on vacation, and illness or injury can be one of the most devastating things that can happen on a trip.

Travel medical insurance is designed to help in these cases. This is especially important if you are traveling outside of the country, where your US health plan will typically have limited or no coverage. And Medicare does not cover health care outside the United States

What is travel medical insurance?

Travel medical insurance covers emergency medical costs while traveling. If you are traveling and suffer from an unexpected illness, injury or medical condition that is covered by your travel medical insurance, the plan will reimburse you up to the limits of the plan.

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

  • Ambulance service
  • Doctor invoices
  • Hospitalization and operating room costs
  • X-rays, examinations, treatments, laboratory tests and anesthesia
  • Drugs and Medication
  • Dental treatment, but check for special limits on dental payment, such as $ 500

Generally, there are two forms of travel medical insurance:

  • Stand-alone health insurance plans: These plans cover emergency medical and dental expenses you incur during your trip. However, a stand-alone medical plan does not include other travel insurance coverages such as trip cancellation insurance or baggage coverage.
  • As part of comprehensive travel insurance: In addition to emergency medical benefits, a comprehensive travel insurance plan can include coverage for trip cancellation, trip delay, emergency medical evacuation, lost baggage and more. This is the best way to cover a multitude of potential issues.

Travel medical insurance is for medical emergencies while traveling, such as a sprained ankle on a sightseeing tour. It does not cover elective or elective procedures.

“It is not intended for experimental medical treatment in a foreign country,” says Carol Mueller, vice president of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. “It is designed for travelers facing medical or dental emergencies and requiring care and treatment during their trip.”

Primary vs secondary medical coverage

Travel medical insurance can be primary or secondary coverage, depending on the plan. If it is primary insurance, it will pay before any other health insurance you have. If you have health insurance and purchase travel medical insurance as secondary coverage, your own health plan should pay first.

If you are traveling overseas where your US health plan does not provide coverage, a “secondary” travel medical plan will essentially become primary coverage due to the lack of other insurance.

Getting to a better location

You also want to consider emergency medical evacuation insurance. This allows you to go to the nearest suitable medical facility, or even return home, depending on your state of health. For example, if you are on vacation in a remote part of the world, this would be an essential blanket to have. Medical evacuation to the United States can cost more than $ 50,000, according to the US State Department.

Be aware of the evacuation rules in your travel insurance policy. For example, some policies may pay to bring you back to the United States only after being hospitalized for seven days as a result of a medical emergency.

What is not covered by travel medical insurance?

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

Pre-existing conditions. The way pre-existing conditions are covered varies depending on the travel insurance company, and one insurer may define a “pre-existing condition” differently from another. Some insurance companies will look at your medical history to determine if a condition was present for a period ranging from 90 days to a year, depending on the policy.

Travel insurance plans will generally cover pre-existing conditions as long as you purchase your plan within two weeks of your trip’s first deposit. Purchasing your plan immediately allows you to lock in a waiver to the exclusion of a pre-existing condition. For example, Allianz Travel requires that you meet the following conditions before covering expenses due to a pre-existing medical condition:

  • Your policy was purchased within the time period specified by your plan (for example, within 14 days of the initial payment for the trip).
  • You were a resident of the United States when you purchased the policy.
  • You were medically fit to travel when you purchased the policy.
  • On the date of purchase of the policy, you have insured the entire non-refundable cost of your trip with Allianz Global Assistance. All subsequent non-refundable charges must be insured within 14 days of purchase. If you fail to do so, these expenses will be excluded under the pre-existing medical condition exclusion.

Intoxication and drug use. Travel medical insurance generally does not cover emergency medical expenses due to poisoning or drug use. For example, if you get drunk and fall from a balcony, your travel medical insurance will not cover the cost of your injuries.

Dangerous activities. Some travel medical insurance policies do not cover expenses resulting from activities such as mountaineering, skydiving, or parasailing. If you are planning 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 from travel medical insurance include:

  • Routine medical examinations, such as vaccinations or immunizations
  • Obesity or weight change, such as bowel bypass surgery
  • Organ or tissue transplants
  • Corrective devices and medical devices, such as glasses or contact lenses

How Much Travel Medical Insurance Should You Have?

It is a good idea to choose a plan with sufficient coverage depending on the type of trip you are taking. For example, an emergency medical evacuation from a cruise ship can cost between $ 50,000 and $ 100,000, depending on the Disease Control Centers.

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

Other good plans have sufficient medical coverage of $ 250,000 or $ 100,000 per person. And some have less, which you might find sufficient. Check out Forbes Advisor’s reviews on the best travel insurance.

The following are examples of travel insurance plans with coverage of at least $ 100,000 for medical expenses and at least $ 250,000 for emergency evacuations.

Examples of travel insurance plans with good medical coverage

Who needs travel medical insurance?

Even healthy travelers should have some form of travel medical insurance if they are traveling outside of the United States.

  • Fall fractures
  • Trauma involving motor vehicles
  • Breathing problems such as a collapsed lung
  • Cardiovascular problems such as a heart attack

If you don’t have the right coverage in place and you injure yourself or become ill during your trip, you will be forced to pay the medical bills out of pocket.

Senior travelers, in particular, should ensure that they have good medical benefits when traveling overseas, as Medicare will not provide benefits outside of the United States.

“If you are traveling outside of the United States, you absolutely need some form of travel medical insurance. You should also watch where you are traveling outside of the country, as medical care varies widely around the world, ”says Mueller of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.

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