Travel health insurance is a special policy designed to cover medical costs if you become ill or injured while traveling. A common question for those who do not travel often is whether travel insurance is necessary.
Travel health insurance is typically purchased for trips abroad, and although it is designed to be used for a limited period of time, there are travel medical policies for expats that can be purchased for trips that last for several years.
Whether you need travel health insurance depends on the likelihood that you will need medical attention during your trip (keeping in mind that this can be difficult to predict and medical needs may arise during your trip. impromptu), the extent to which your health insurance policy covers you when traveling abroad and your ability to pay for medical care if the need arises, bearing in mind that this may require long-distance medical evacuation.
For most people, and especially those who are older or who are traveling to a less developed area, the answer is probably yes. Here’s why:
Costs of medical treatment abroad
Before embarking on a travel insurance policy, check your existing health insurance. Some companies will pay what they call “reasonable and customary” medical bills if you need care in a foreign country, which means you don’t have to duplicate this type of coverage in a travel policy.
But pay special attention to what is not covered in your policy. Most domestic insurers will not pay to have you evacuated from a foreign country for a medical emergency. The US State Department says an evacuation can easily cost over $ 50,000.
If this is not a cost that you are able to pay (or are willing to pay) for the consequences of an event as simple and unpredictable as a car accident, for example, you might want to be purchasing additional insurance.
Many countries offer taxpayer-funded health coverage for their own citizens, but you may find that care remains expensive if you are a visitor. In the UK, for example, visitors from most other countries would be charged 150% of normal National Health Service prices, although some services are provided free to everyone, regardless of where they live.
In New Zealand, the country’s accident compensation scheme covers most of the costs of treating accidental injuries, but visitors must have their own health coverage to pay for treatment of illnesses.
In Japan, the public health insurance system is not available to non-residents, which means visitors must purchase their own health insurance. These are just a few examples, but they illustrate some of the variations that exist from country to country in terms of access to health care.
If you are traveling to another country, it is essential that you understand how the health care system in that country works, how your current health plan will (or not) cover the cost of any care you may need abroad, and what options are available to you in terms of additional travel coverage that you can purchase for the duration of your trip.
Where to get travel medical insurance
Travel websites provide a way to compare prices and coverage offered by a variety of providers. A well-known and frequently used online travel insurance company is IMG Global. Another is USI Affinity Travel Insurance Services. Travel medical insurance is also available from some of the well-known insurers that offer standard health insurance in the United States, including Cigna Global, GeoBlue, and UnitedHealthcare Global. Company websites provide a good overview of the types of travel insurance available and the cost of different plans.
When you compare travel health insurance plans, pay close attention to how the plan handles pre-existing conditions. Typically, travel health insurance plans will not cover pre-existing conditions, but some plans offer applicants the option of purchasing a rider that will allow at least some level of coverage for pre-existing conditions.
If you have a pre-existing condition, you will want to carefully check the details of the plan you are considering and understand exactly what would be involved if you were to take care of this condition during your trip.
Travel health insurance for the elderly
The elderly should be especially careful: Medicare does not pay for hospital treatment or medical care outside the United States, except in a few very limited circumstances. This means you will be on your own unless you have other health insurance providers or purchase a travel policy.
Some Medigap policies and Medicare Advantage plans provide emergency medical coverage for overseas travel when traveling outside of the United States.
Before traveling outside the country, check with your Supplemental Plan or Advantage Plan regarding travel benefits.
Risks of illness
Travel abroad can be rigorous for anyone, given changes in elevation and climate, and the presence of unknown microbes. In some parts of the world, the questionable quality of water and sanitation compounds the risks.
The State Department recommends that anyone with a pre-existing condition, ranging from a heart problem to allergies, carry a letter from their health care provider describing the condition, treatment, and any prescription drugs used, including their generic names.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advice on the vaccinations needed for travel to foreign countries and the special conditions that may exist in those countries.
If you become ill while abroad, a U.S. consulate will help you locate the medical care you need and organize your return trip to the United States. You will need to pay the bills though, so be sure to pack your usual medical policy. Identity card and confirmation of your travel policy, if you decide to purchase one.
Combine health insurance and travel insurance
In addition to travel health insurance, you may want to consider travel insurance plans that combine travel medical insurance with coverage to protect your travel investment. Things like lost luggage, canceled flights, and the bankruptcy of a cruise line or hotel can ruin your travel plans.
In addition to your health insurance, travel insurance companies may offer cancellation insurance, which may cover all or part of your costs.
Don’t forget your medication
If you are planning to travel to a foreign country, it is important that you meet your medication needs before you leave. Illness in the middle of your trip can ruin your vacation and cost you money to get the medications you need.
Prescription drugs should be transported in their original container with their original labels.
Before you go on a trip, check with your health care provider to get an adequate supply of all your prescription medications. Also, talk to your health care provider about your schedule change and ask when to take your medications if you travel to different time zones.