What is Travel Medical Insurance?
Travel medical insurance offers emergency medical expense coverage as well as emergency evacuation coverage. If you are traveling and have an unexpected illness, injury or medical condition that’s covered by your travel medical insurance, the plan will reimburse you for reasonable and customary costs of emergency medical and dental care (up to the plan limits).
Generally, there are two forms of travel medical insurance :
- Stand-alone medical insurance plans: These plans cover emergency medical and dental expenses you incur while traveling. However, a stand-alone medical plan doesn’t include other travel insurance coverage types, like trip cancellation insurance or baggage and personal item insurance.
- Comprehensive travel insurance plan: In addition to emergency medical and dental benefits, a comprehensive plan can offer trip cancellation coverage, trip delay and cancellation coverage and more. It’s the best way to cover a host of potential problems.
Travel Medical Insurance is Not Travel Health Insurance
Don’t confuse travel medical insurance with travel health insurance. Generally, travel medical insurance is for medical emergencies while traveling, like a sprained ankle while sightseeing. Travel medical insurance does not cover non-emergency or elective procedures.
Since travel medical insurance plans are not to be used as a supplemental travel health insurance plans, some exclusion examples include:
- Routine medical examinations, such as vaccinations or immunizations
- Obesity or weight modification, such as intestinal bypass surgery
- Organ or tissue transplants
- Corrective devices and medical appliances, such as eyeglasses or contact lenses
Travel medical insurance may not supplement your health insurance, but can act as secondary coverage. Generally, this means your health insurance pays first, and if there are any expenses left, your travel medical insurance will kick in, up to the policy limits.
Some travel medical plans can be used as primary insurance, meaning the travel medical plan will be the first policy to pay emergency medical expenses. It’s important to note that Medicare and Medicaid do not cover overseas medical expenses. If you receive Medicare or Medicaid coverage and you’re traveling overseas, you may want to consider purchasing a travel insurance plan that includes primary coverage as part of the travel medical plan.
You might also want to consider emergency medical evacuation insurance. While some health insurance companies pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs while you’re abroad, most will not pay for your medical evacuation back to the United States. Medical evacuation back to the U.S. can cost more than $50,000, according to the U.S. Department of State.
A travel insurance plan may include emergency medical evacuation insurance or allow you to purchase it as an optional coverage. Generally, this covers emergency medical evacuations, but the details will vary depending on the plan. For example, some policies might only pay to transport you back to the U.S. after you’ve been hospitalized for seven days following the medical emergency.
What’s Not Covered by Travel Medical Insurance?
What’s covered and excluded by travel medical insurance will depend on the travel insurance company. Here are some common exclusions.
Pre-existing conditions. How pre-existing conditions are covered will vary by travel insurance company, and one insurer might define a “pre-existing condition” differently than the next. Some insurance companies will take a look at your past medical history to determine if a condition was present during a period that could range from 90 days to one year ago, depending on the policy. Many plans will cover pre-existing conditions as long as you bought your plan within 15 days after you made your first trip deposit.
Some plans may also offer a pre-existing condition exclusion waiver that will cover any losses due to a pre-existing medical condition, provided you meet certain requirements of the plan. For example, Allianz Travel requires you to meet the following requirements before it will cover any expenses due to a pre-existing medical condition.
- Your policy was purchased within the timeframe specified by your plan (for example, within 14 days of the initial trip payment).
- You were a U.S. resident when you purchased the policy.
- You were medically able to travel when you purchased the policy.
- On the policy purchase date, you insured the full nonrefundable cost of your trip with Allianz Global Assistance. Any subsequent nonrefundable costs must be insured within 14 days of their purchase. If you fail to do so, those expenses will be excluded under the pre-existing medical condition exclusion.
Intoxication and drug use. Most policies won’t cover emergency medical costs if the sickness or injury was due to intoxication or drug use. For example, if you become intoxicated and fall off a balcony, your travel medical insurance won’t cover the costs of your injuries.
Dangerous activities. Some travel medical insurance policies won’t cover expenses if the traveler engages in activities such as mountain climbing, skydiving or traveling on a privately owned plane. If you plan to engage in some form of adventure activity while traveling, it’s vital to select a plan that will reimburse you for medical costs if an accident were to occur.
Who Needs Travel Medical Coverage?
Even travelers in good health need some form of travel medical coverage because you can never predict when the unexpected will occur. The most common overseas medical emergencies their policyholders experience include:
- Fractures from falls
- Trauma involving motor vehicles
- Respiratory problems such as a collapsed lung
- Cardiovascular problems such as a heart attack
Buying travel medical coverage can help bridge gaps that are not covered by your health insurance, like emergency medical evacuation expenses. If you don’t have the right coverage in place and you get injured or sick on your trip, you’ll be stuck paying medical bills out-of-pocket.
If you’re traveling outside the United States you absolutely need some form of travel medical insurance. You also need to look at where you are traveling outside the country because medical care varies greatly around the world.