…Should You Purchase It Before You Head Overseas?

It’s that time of year. Many families are heading off around the country and the globe for vacation. Perhaps you are off to a new or exotic destination or are in the midst of planning a fall or winter getaway? If you have a trip on the horizon — particularly an international trip — you should consider whether or not to purchase travel medical insurance prior to your departure. Many travelers assume their regular health insur­ance will cover them should they need medical care outside the U.S. However, most times this is not the case. Moreover, in those relatively rare instanc­es when traditional health insurance offers coverage to a policyholder outside the U.S., the coverage is often extremely lim­ited in its scope and may not cover big ticket items like medi­cal evacuation costs.

There are several basic kinds of travel medical insurance: (a) single trip; (b) multiple trip; and (c) longer-term continuous coverage for those stationed outside the US for a period of time. Generally, travel medical insurance will cover emergency medical and dental expenses overseas including those caused by accidents, natural disasters, and even terrorism. Travel medical insurance will also usually cover the cost of emergency medical transportation and evacuation so that you or your family members can be transported to a place that can provide the emergency medical care you may need. It is also possible to purchase a pre-pack­aged traveler insurance policy that includes medical insurance along with other types of coverage for things like trip cancellation, lost baggage, and trip interruption. Whether you opt just for medical coverage or for a policy that provides additional coverages, you will want to make sure the medical treatment and medical evacuation portions of the coverage are ade­quate. Sometimes, the pre-packaged traveler insurance policies offer only limited medical benefits that may not suffice if you have a medi­cal emergency overseas.

If you decide to purchase a travel medical insurance policy, you should do some research to make sure the policy you buy provides the coverage you need. For example, if you know you will be bungee jumping while on vacation in New Zealand you will want to make certain your policy covers you if you should get injured while doing so. Similarly, some travel medical policies allow you to access doctors while overseas with­out paying any upfront fees while others may require you to pay for your overseas medical care and then apply for reimbursement. Simi­larly, different medical insurers will have larger or smaller networks of approved medical care providers and will have more or less stringent requirements for those doctors to be admitted to their network. Additionally, some policies will cover emergency expenses associated with pre-existing health conditions while others will not. Depending upon your age and health pro­file you may or may not want access to a more comprehensive network of medical care provid­ers and pre-existing condition coverage should you suffer a medical problem while overseas. Finally, you should ascertain whether the travel medical policies you are considering are U.S. li­censed and regulated. If you select a policy that is not U.S. licensed and regulated you may have very different rights against the insurer and may not be afforded all the consumer protections granted by U.S. laws.

There are a number of well-known insurers pro­viding travel medical insurance, including AIG, Allianz, and John Hancock. If you are consider­ing a purchase, there are some excellent web­sites where you can compare various plans. In particular, you may want to visit:

  • www.insuremytrip.com/
  • www.travelinsurancereview.net/
  • www.geobluetravelinsurance.com/product_overview.cfm

Your travel agent may also be a good source of information about which insurance companies offer the best travel medical policies.