Table of contents
Table of contents
Though you never plan to have an accident or get sick during a trip, unexpected emergencies happen. Your U.S. health insurance likely won’t cover any visits to the hospital or emergency care in a foreign country. To ensure you have coverage while traveling, you can purchase a stand-alone policy for travel medical insurance.
What is travel medical insurance?
Travel medical insurance can help fill in coverage gaps if you require emergency or routine medical services while traveling overseas. Even if you have international health insurance that includes care when traveling abroad, it won’t always cover the cost of medical treatments such as X-rays, lab tests, or ambulance services in a foreign country.
Travel medical coverage primarily protects you in the event of an emergency, so long-term travelers should look into purchasing a more comprehensive plan. To prevent extensive financial losses while abroad, it’s a good idea to check with your insurance company to see if you and your family members have adequate coverage before you travel.
Before selecting medical insurance coverage, you should compare travel health plans among multiple companies. Some of the best insurers to consider include Blue Shield, Allianz Travel Insurance, American International Group (AIG), HTH Worldwide Travel Insurance, GeoBlue, Generali Global Assistance (GGA), and more.
Does your health insurance plan cover you internationally?
Many health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, are only valid within the U.S. or your home state. While some employer U.S. health plans or private plans provide international travel insurance, it’s important you read the fine print so you know exactly what your policy covers in case of a medical emergency.
Many health insurance plans with international coverage only pay for emergencies that require immediate medical attention while overseas. For example, your insurance may cover a broken bone or a hospital visit if you’re experiencing chest pains. It likely wouldn’t cover any routine medical care.
What travel medical insurance covers
Travel medical insurance covers the cost of unexpected medical expenses while abroad. If you encounter an unexpected injury or illness, your travel medical insurance will reimburse you up to your plan limit.
You can choose from different types of medical travel insurance plans and add-ons when buying coverage. The best travel insurance for you will depend on factors such as where you intend to travel, for how long, and what you plan to do.
Here are five different types of coverage you may encounter while shopping for travel medical insurance.
The difference between primary and secondary coverage has to do with payment priority. With primary medical travel insurance, the insurance plan will pay your medical costs directly, even if you have another health insurance policy. You’ll file any medical claims directly with the company you bought travel medical insurance from, which can help speed up the payment process.
With secondary medical travel insurance, you’ll need to file a claim with your primary healthcare insurance provider first — even if you don’t think the insurer will provide coverage. If the insurer denies your claim or doesn’t fully cover it, you can then file it with the medical travel insurance company.
Emergency medical evacuation insurance
An emergency evacuation can be very expensive — especially if it’s in a remote area. Medical evacuation insurance can help cover the costs associated with emergency transportation to an adequate treatment facility. It can also cover the costs associated with transporting you back to the U.S.
Comprehensive travel insurance plan
Some comprehensive policies include medical travel insurance and trip-cancellation coverage if you have to cancel your trip due to something such as severe weather or a natural disaster. Many comprehensive plans also cover trip interruption, medical evacuation, travel delay benefits, and baggage delay.
With medical travel insurance, you can often include trip cancellation insurance as an add-on for an additional cost. Trip cancellation insurance covers trip costs, including your flight, cruise, or train tickets, if you can’t go on your trip. It doesn’t cover any medical care you need while traveling.
Limitations of travel medical insurance
Before confirming your travel plans, check with your insurance company to see if the plan has any limitations or exclusions. Travel medical insurance policies often don’t cover medical bills related to the following three situations.
A pre-existing condition is a medical condition or illness you’ve had for a certain period before purchasing insurance. It’s possible to purchase insurance with pre-existing conditions coverage. The policies are often time-sensitive and only provide coverage if purchased within a certain number of days of the trip deposit — often 14 days.
If you’re planning to engage in risky activities or extreme sports, such as skydiving or bungee jumping, check if your travel insurance policy excludes the activities. Many insurance plans won’t cover these risky activities. However, you may be able to purchase extreme sports insurance for additional benefits coverage.
Some insurers won’t provide coverage if you travel to a country that the U.S. Department of State has assigned a Level 4 “do not travel” advisory to. Before traveling to a country with a travel advisory, check with your insurance company to see if your coverage applies.