December 18, 2018

What Is Travel Medical Insurance?

Not sure whether to buy trip insurance or travel medical insurance? Read on to learn what travel medical insurance is all about.

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Travel medical insurance reimburses unexpected medical costs incurred outside your home country. It helps cover the cost of doctor and hospital visits and medical evacuations while you're traveling.

Who Usually Buys Travel Medical Insurance?

Travel medical coverage is for traveling outside your home country. It doesn't really matter why you're traveling or how long you'll be gone. You might buy travel medical insurance if you're:

  • Going on vacation outside your home country
  • Studying abroad
  • Going on a mission trip in another country
  • Working abroad
  • Spending your retirement abroad

What Kinds of Plans Are Available?

Single Trip Plans:
This is the most common type of travel medical insurance. These plans cover you when you're taking a trip outside your home country. Your trip can last a few days or a few months—it doesn't matter. But coverage is limited to just one trip.

Multiple Trip Plans:
This type of plan covers you if you're taking multiple trips during a calendar year. Do you travel to Europe several times a year for work? Or are you going on several mission trips next year? This would be the plan for you.

Long-Term Plans:
These are sometimes referred to as Major Medical plans. They're for people who spend long periods of time—a year or more—outside their home country. You'd choose this plan if you're working or going to school abroad.

Does my regular health insurance cover me when I travel?
Probably not. Most domestic insurance policies won't cover you if you're traveling outside your home country.

How Is It Different from My Regular Health Insurance?

Your regular health plan probably won't cover you outside your home country. A lot of travelers don't realize this—and end up with expensive bills to pay. Domestic insurance just isn't meant for coverage anywhere else.

The health insurance you have at home is probably a comprehensive plan. It covers routine check-ups, long-term problems, and conditions you've had a long time. You might say travel medical insurance is exactly the opposite. It only covers unexpected sickness or accidents while you're traveling. It's not meant to be long-term coverage. It rarely covers pre-existing conditions or ongoing care.

Travel medical insurance includes emergency evacuation coverage. This pays for your transport to a hospital if you get sick or hurt while traveling. Your regular insurance won't cover this outside your home country.

How Is It Different from My Trip Cancellation Insurance?

Trip cancellation coverage protects the money you've invested in your trip. It's for plane tickets, cruise packages, resort deposits, and the like. These plans reimburse you if something happens and your travels don't go as planned.

Trip cancellation plans usually have some sort of medical coverage. The benefits are often limited though, and coverage is minimal. And these plans don't always include evacuation coverage.
Travel medical plans protect you from medical expenses. These plans have a wider range of medical coverage. Some offer benefit maximums as high as five million dollars.

Travel medical plans often include some trip cancellation coverage, too. It's usually a small benefit limited to specific cases.

Is travel medical insurance expensive?
Most policies are affordable. You can buy coverage for as little as a few dollars a day.

How Much Does It Cost?

Travel medical insurance is often cheaper than trip cancellation plans.

Details about you and your trip are used to calculate the cost. During your purchase, you'll enter your age, your destination, and the length of your trip. These factors will determine the price for your policy. On average, most travel medical plans cost a few dollars a day. For example, insurance for a 10-day trip to China can cost around $20.00, or $2.00 a day.

The price for trip cancellation coverage is based on the cost of your trip. It's calculated using a percentage (usually 4%-10%) of your pre-paid trip expenses. If you paid $5,000 for your trip, you can expect to pay $200 or more for your coverage.

What's Covered?

Like any insurance, travel medical policies vary. Some plans are pretty basic, others very comprehensive. For the most part, you'll find these benefits in every plan:

  • Unexpected medical expenses: These plans cover your expenses if you get sick or hurt while you're traveling.
  • Emergency medical evacuation: If you're sick or hurt and need to go to a better hospital, these plans cover your transport. After you're treated, the plan will also cover bringing you home.
  • Emergency medical reunion: If you're admitted to a hospital, these plans will bring a friend or family member to be with you.
  • Political evacuations: If there's a terrorist event, you can contact the insurance team. They'll help transport you to a safer location.
  • Travel assistance: The insurance team can step in if you need help with language translation. They can also help you find the nearest doctor or hospital. If you need to find an embassy, they'll give you directions.

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