When you travel one of the important things to include is travel medical insurance. It needs to be on everyone’s travel checklist. No one plans to be injured or sick while traveling or spending time in another country but it can happen. If you are in another country and are in need of medical attention, typically the doctors and hospitals want to be paid. They know that if they are not paid then, there is almost no chance they will be paid seriously. This means a traveler needs to take this seriously.
Travel medical insurance is not the same as trip insurance. The two are often confused. The plans may have similar and overlapping benefits but the purpose of these plans are not the same. Medical plans are to cover medical expenses with some trip and travel benefits. Trip insurance is to cover the trip cost in full or in part if a person cannot be on the trip. The reason for not being on the trip could be due to a car accident on the way. It could be due to a strike on a cruise ship. Trip insurance is to cover the loss of monies spent for the trip or cruise if certain covered events happen.
Travel agents typically offer trip insurance. Insurance agents that offer international medical insurance may also offer trip coverage plans as well. An insurance license is required to offer International travel health insurance. International health and medical insurance is a specialty in insurance industry. Few agents handle this. As with any specialty finding an agent that is knowledgeable and experienced with international insurance is very important as all plans are not the same. International travel health insurance plans are for traveling outside of a person’s home country.
Travel medical insurance plans typically fall into two types. These are indemnity or a scheduled benefit plans which have specified dollar benefits for specified medical services. For example, a scheduled benefit program might pay $50 for a doctor and $1000 a day for hospital expenses. Scheduled benefits plans are used frequently by visitors to the US as this type costs less and with older age visitors, over age 70, actually covers more than more comprehensive plans. Comprehensive plans are the best choice if possible for visitors to the US are under age 70.
There are also plans that are like major medical health insurance plans. These plans offer a wider less restricted coverage. Both types of plan usually exclude pre-existing health conditions or have limitations on pre-existing health condition coverage. It is best to consult an agent that is experienced and handles international insurance plans daily so can give you good advice that fits your situation.
A good travel health and medical insurance plan would include the following policy benefits.
o Policy medical maximum – Plan choices may range from $50,000 to $1 million. The medical maximum available is usually limited to $50,000 or less for persons age 70 or over.
o Deductibles – these are typically per policy period and may be limited to 3 per family. Deductibles can be $0, $100, $250, $500, $1000 or $2500
o Coinsurance – is the amount an insured pays of eligible medical expenses before the insurance coverage pays benefits. Coinsurance might be 0%, 10%, 20%, 30% or 50% of the next $5000 to $10,000 of medical expenses after the deductible has been met. After that is met, the plan then would pay 100% of the eligible medical expenses up to the medical maximum selected.
o Plans include coverage for hospital room and board costs
o Plans include coverage for local ambulance costs
o Plans include coverage for intensive care unit costs
o Plans include coverage for outpatient treatment costs
o Plans include coverage for physical therapy costs
o Plans include coverage for other medical expenses as outlined in the plan. Have a look at these and what is excluded
o Hospital indemnity benefit – this an additional benefit that pays a certain dollar amount for days spent in a hospital.
o Coverage for a dental emergency – If the insured has an accident that injures their teeth or the person has a dental emergency due to pain, the plan has benefits. If this is due to an accident it is typically coverer to the policy limit as any other accident. If the emergency is due to pain then typically the benefit is $100.
o Coverage for complications of pregnancy – some, but not all, plans offer coverage for complications of pregnancy up to the 26th week
o Coverage for the acute onset of a pre-existing condition – an acute onset is a sudden and unexpected onset of a pre-existing condition. Some plans offer this benefit to US citizens under the age of 70. Most plans, but not all, do not offer coverage for pre-existing conditions to non US citizens.
o Emergency medical evacuation coverage – this benefit covers transport to the nearest medical facility qualified to handle your life threatening situation. This does not mean the person is going to be flown all the way back home to the US. There are ways to have that covered but it is a completely different thing. This benefit is often misinterpreted. Best to ask specifically.
o Emergency medical reunion coverage – a benefit to provide transport, lodging and meals for relative or other person to join the insured as well.
o Repatriation coverage – this is the return of mortal remains to a person’s home in the event of death. This benefit is often misinterpreted. It applies in the event of a death. It is best if unclear to ask specifically as with emergency medical evacuation.
o Incidental home country coverage – this is the coverage for time you might spend in your home while traveling. For example, a person might travel abroad for six months. He or she might be back at home for a couple of weeks in the middle of the trip. Incidental home country coverage is what would cover those two weeks
o End of trip coverage – is the coverage that you can have after the end of your trip and you are back home. This varies considerably by plan and can be very important in how an accident or an illness while on the trip is covered when you return home
o The benefit period – is the time the plan will cover the insured person or people. In addition to the benefit period plans also should have end of trip coverage.
o Medical expenses from an act of terrorism – This is coverage if an injury is caused by a terrorist attack. Plans that do cover usually exclude events that are nuclear, chemical or biological.
o Accidental death and dismemberment coverage – this pays in the event a person is killed in an accident, loses a limb or loses vision.
o Natural disaster benefit – additional monies to help cover the costs of alternative accommodations in the event a person is caught in a natural disaster
o Hazardous sports rider coverage – many plans exclude sports and activities that they consider hazardous. Some plans have the option of covering these sports and activities. It is a good idea to check the exclusions and what the optional rider will cover.
o Additional travel coverage and assistance – may include trip interruption, lost luggage, lost documents, travel assistance, travel alerts, political evacuation, contact information for doctors, lawyers and replacement of prescriptions and a visa letter of proof of insurance for the countries that require this
o Plan renewability – Some insurance plans are not renewal or extendable once the plan is in force. Some insurance plans can be extended while on your trip. It is important to check this.
International travel health insurance is an important and valuable part of a safe and secure trip. It is best to become familiar with it is when you are calm and do not need it at that moment, maybe before you leave on your trip. Traveling can be disorienting. You might be on a long flight. You may be in a different time zone. You may be in a country where you don’t speak the language. Hopefully you will not become sick or injured, but if you do it is important to have the best travel health insurance you can get.