Is Travel Medical Insurance Right for You?

Posted by on in Insurance

Travel medical insurance can provide important peace of mind –– and cover life-saving emergency medical services when you're out of the country. Such insurance can cover everything from a doctor's visit to treat an upset stomach to an evacuation back to the U.S. for emergency care.

However, travel medical insurance isn't necessarily for everyone –– you may already be protected by an existing insurance policy, your credit card, or other coverage provided by an airline or vacation operator.

Here are six questions to ask before purchasing a travel medical insurance policy:

1. What does travel medical insurance cover?

It's important to note that travel medical insurance and travel insurance are not the same. While some travel insurance policies can include some medical coverage, this is not always the case.

Travel insurance typically addresses the following five coverage areas, depending on the type of policy you select: trip cancellation and interruption, medical services, medical evacuation, lost checked luggage, and flight cancellation.

what does travel medical insurance cover

Here is a comparison of six major providers, to get a sense of how the policies work.

2. Does your current health insurance cover international travel?

Many U.S. health insurance policies don't provide health coverage for overseas travel, or may limit reimbursements for such expenses.

Medicare, for example, can only be applied to services and treatments in the U.S. However, some Medigap plans will reimburse for international emergency care, writes author and TV personality Rick Steves.

Be sure to consult with your health insurance provider before getting on a plane to an exotic locale. This way, should you end up in the emergency room with a case of food poisoning, a broken limb, or an unplanned appendectomy, you're not caught unprepared.

3. Will your credit card provide back up?

Some credit cards offer travel insurance coverage, but it may not adequately meet your needs. Coverage may be restricted to certain types of emergency situations or may be insufficient to cover the full cost of a cancelled $2,500 plane ticket, writes LifeHacker author Melanie Pinola.

Also, it's important to note that most credit card travel insurance coverage does not include any medical benefits.

what does travel medical insurance cover

So, if you're looking for medical coverage for your international trip, you'll likely have to supplement your credit card's coverage with a separate travel medical policy.

4. What's your biggest worry?

If your main concern is guarding against lost luggage, you should evaluate whether it's necessary to purchase a policy with full medical benefits, or whether you should simply purchase a separate travel insurance policy, Steves writes. You may already be shielded through your homeowner's or renter's policy, as well as through your airline.

Note that the baggage coverage through travel insurance may come with a “strict cap on reimbursement" for jewelry, eye wear, electronics and photography equipment, according to Steves.

By the same token, if you only care about being covered for medical expenses, or if you need a medical evacuation, you may opt for a policy that only addresses these areas, Chloe Della Costa writes in Money & Career CheatSheet.

5. Are you a resort traveler or risk-taker?

Planning to lounge by the pool for a week in a resort? You may not require travel medical insurance, or you may wish to choose a basic plan.

what does travel medical insurance cover

But if you're going on a mountain trek, plan to scuba dive, or you've booked a pricey cruise along the Danube, you may consider travel insurance a worthwhile investment, Pinola writes in LifeHacker.

6. Did you read the fine print?

Check on how the specifics of your health status and travel destination will mesh with travel medical insurance policies.

Pre-existing conditions are always a sensitive subject when it comes to health insurance, so be sure to double-check the details of your policy if you're concerned about any illnesses or conditions you may have prior to leaving for your trip.

At the same time, supplemental coverage may be required if you are traveling to destinations that are on the U.S. State Department's list of “at-risk countries," Steves writes.


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Tokio Marine HCC - Medical Insurance Services Group (MIS Group) is a service company and a member of the Tokio Marine HCC group of companies. We are regulated by the State of Indiana in our capacity as Third Party Administrator. Tokio Marine HCC - MIS Group has authority to enter into contracts of insurance on behalf of the Lloyd's underwriting members of Lloyd's Syndicate 4141, which is managed by Tokio Marine HCC – International Group.