Travel medical insurance, also called travel insurance, reimburses a person for covered emergency medical expenses that happens while traveling. Maximum coverage can be significant enough (up to 8 million) to cover major medical expenses like emergency surgery and extended hospital stays. Plans typically require pre-certification by the insurer prior to hospital admission abroad. In instances of hospitalization, many insurers provide a guarantee of hospital admission. Some insurers provide direct payments to hospitals.
Travel medical insurance is designed to help when a person is sick, ill, or injured while on vacation. Travel insurance is important if you are traveling outside the country. U.S. health plans may offer limited to no coverage outside of the country. A travel insurance plan will reimburse a patient for expenses incurred due to illness, injury, or medical condition while away from a primary care physician.
It is important to select a plan with enough coverage based upon the type of trip you are taking. Generous travel insurance plans provide $500,000 per person for emergency medical expenses and $1 million for emergency medical evacuation. Other plans have medical coverage of $250,000 or 100,000 per person. When hospitalization occurs, most insurers require a claim form to be submitted for reimbursement of covered expenses for basic treatment by a physician and outpatient medical services. Emergency medical evacuation insurance pays for a person to get to the nearest medical facility or back home, depending on the condition. Travel medical insurance does not cover non-emergency or elective procedures.
Many travel medical plans include have begun to include Covid-related medical expenses. All do not. It is important to verify if a plan has Covid coverage if that is important to you. Travel delay insurance can cover the cost of Covid quarantines.
Stand-alone and Comprehensive Medical Travel Insurance Plan
A stand-alone medical insurance plan covers emergency medical and dental expenses incurred while traveling. A stand-alone medical plan does not include other travel insurance coverage like trip cancellation insurance or baggage coverage.
A comprehensive travel insurance plan has options to package trip cancellation, trip delay, emergency medical evacuation, and baggage loss. This is the best way to cover the most potential problems.
Primary vs. Secondary Medical Coverage
Primary medical coverage will pay out before any other health insurance plan. Individuals with health insurance who buys a travel medical insurance plan as secondary coverage must wait for primary coverage to pay out first.
Individuals traveling overseas and their U.S health insurance plan does not provide coverage, a travel medical plan that is secondary medical coverage will become primary coverage due to a lack of insurance.
Single and Multi-Trip Coverage
Single-trip coverage begins when a person leaves their home, travels to their destination and ends when that person returns home.
Multi-trip coverage, also known as annual travel insurance, covers a person for a calendar year. This is good for travelers who take three or more trips per year.
Travel medical insurance plans often include coverage for:
- Emergency medical evacuation
- Repatriations or remains
- Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D)
- Various other 24/7 travel assistance services
Travel medical insurance covers charges for bills including:
- Ambulance service
- Doctor bills
- Hospital and operating room charges
- X-rays, examinations, treatments, lab tests, and anesthetics
- Drugs and medicines
- Dental care (sometimes with special limits)
Common travel medical insurance exclusions include:
- Pre-existing conditions. Pre-existing condition coverage will vary by travel insurance company. One insurer may classify one pre-existing condition differently than the next. Some insurance companies will look at a person’s past medical history to determine if a condition was present during a period that could range from 90 days to a year ago. Most Travel insurance plans cover pre-existing conditions if the plan is purchased within a couple weeks of making a first trip deposit. Buying a plan right away allows a person to lock in a pre-existing condition exclusion waiver.
- Intoxication and drug use. Travel medical insurance often won’t cover medical costs due to intoxication or drug use.
- Dangerous activities. Some travel medical insurance policies will not cover expenses that resulted from activities like mountain climbing, sky diving or parasailing. Work with a travel agent to compare travel insurance plans.
- Routine medical examinations (vaccinations or immunizations)
- Obesity or weight modification (intestinal bypass surgery)
- Organ or tissue transplants
- Corrective devices and medical appliances, like eyeglasses or contact lenses
Common overseas medical emergencies include:
- Fractures from falls
- Trauma involving motor vehicles
- Respiratory problems such as a collapsed lung
- Cardiovascular problems such as a heart attack
Travel insurance costs depend on:
- Length of trip
- Coverage limits chosen
Reasons to have travel medical insurance include:
- To save money if the trip is canceled. Many travel providers offer little to no refunds for last-minute cancellations. Some travel insurance plans offer protection of trip cancellation benefits.
- To have coverage while out of the country or overseas. Health insurance may not cover a person overseas. Travel insurance with emergency medical and dental benefits can pay for losses due to covered medical and dental emergencies that happen on a trip.
- To have coverage in case of an emergency evacuation. Travel insurance with emergency medical transportation benefits can pay for transportation to the nearest medical facility if a person suffers a covered illness or injury during their trip and local facilities are deemed inadequate. It can also pay for specialized transportation to bring a person home once they are stabilized.
It is wise to meticulously review the terms of any medical travel insurance you are looking to purchase. Without proper coverage in place, an injury or illness while on vacation will become an out-of-pocket expense nightmare. Most travel insurance companies offer free quotes on their website. There are insurance comparison websites that quote for multiple companies. Be sure to share this information with your family and friends, so they are well-informed when planning their next vacation.