Travel Insurance by an old RV'er
Why I Spend the Winter in Mexico
Travel Health Insurance
The first important rule of traveling away from your home territory, is do not leave without travel health insurance. If you are employed or otherwise a member of a group health plan, HMO, PPO, you need to check your policies to see if they will provide coverage during your trip.
The wording in most policies is that they will cover you to travel away from home and back and the policy must be effective before you leave. It is difficult to arrange for coverage once you are away from your home jurisdiction. An example, you have an annual policy with coverage for 30 days. You travel for 30 days in the U.S, but extend your stay an additional 90 days in Mexico. Then you decide you should buy more coverage to travel back to your home country, Canada. Good luck, because there are travel insurance companies out there who will sell you policies, but if you read the fine print, they only cover you when you leave from your home country. If you top up or extend your coverage before the 30 days are up, no problem. .
Travel Coverage is Only for Unforeseen Medical Problems:
Travel health insurance policies usually only pay expenses for unforeseen unanticipated medical problems or emergencies. A typical example of how they work is as follows:
You have a bad chest cold so you visit a clinic on your vacation out of country. The doctor prescribes medication and you seem to improve. If two weeks later, you develop pneumonia, it will NOT be covered by your policy. Another example, you have chest pains so go to an emergency clinic. They do numerous tests and decide you must have had a bad case of gas. If a week later you have a heart attack, it will probably NOT be covered. There is usually a time frame allowed after an illness for you to return home, most policies allow about 72 hours. Please don’t ever delay seeking treatment for any condition. Your health isn’t worth that risk: however, you need to consider the risks of continuing your vacation after any medical incident.
Verification and Pre-existing Conditions:
Many policies require very little information from you when initially issued. That does not mean that you will automatically be covered. Insurance companies will verify your medical history when you submit a claim. They will contact your family doctor to check for any pre-existing conditions.
Be sure to ask your doctor about all your medical test results, there may be a conditon that your doctor considered unimportant at the time, but the insurer may treat as a pre-existing. It doesn't matter that you didn't know about it.
Occasionally insurance policies have wording that if all pre-existing conditions are not disclosed they can void the policy entirely. Preferred wording is that they will disallow payment only for illness related to a pre-existing or unstable conditon.
If you have an annual travel insurance plan, you will need receipts to verify your departure date from your home province or state such as gas, airline and hotel receipts. It is up to you to ensure that you meet the qualifications for coverage.
If you seek medical treatment for any symptoms, and the symptoms abate without treatment, the insurance companies may also view the incident as a pre-existing condition. There are some policies with wording that any investigations of a symptom, regardless of the test results may be considered pre-existing.
Annual Travel Policies:
A word about annual travel policies. I have an annual policy and in order maintain coverage I must satisfy all the pre-exisiting conditon requirements every time I use it. If a policy states that your condition must be stable for the three months prior to a trip, that means no medical treatment or changes to symptoms or medication. That means every trip.
As a general rule most insurers require notification when you seek medical treatment and often have preferred medical care providers. Most provide 1-800 numbers and other numbers for various countries. I have seen policies with onerous notification requirements. For instance, ambulance coverage only available if you phone a 1-800 number. If you need an ambulance, you may not have time or the ability to communicate with your insurer. Do not assume that the company will reimburse you for ambulance costs, if you were unable to notify them as required by the contract.
As a seasoned RV’er I have looked at many travel health insurance policies. Travel health polices generally provide the following coverages:
- Emergency hospital
- Emergency medical
- Meals and accommodations (certain instances and to set limits)
- Transportation of family or friend plus incidental costs depending on special circumstances and to set limits
- Return of traveling companion
- Return of vehicle or watercraft (certain instances and to set limits)
- Pet return (to set limits)
- Return of Deceased
- Accidental dental (certain instances and to set limits)
- Dental emergencies under certain instances
- Emergency transportation (air transport usually is pre-approved by insurer)
- Attendent (certain instances)
- Transport of patient back to his home country for further treatment (at the insurer’s discretion and expense)
- Return to original trip destination (certain instances and to set limits)
- Pre-existing conditions or unstable conditions as defined by your policy
- Elective procedures
- Cosmetic procedures
- Traveling against physicians advice
- Injuries from participating in dangerous sports
- Injuries due to metal illness
- Injuries or illness due to use of alcohol, drugs and etc.
- Treatment for continuation of illness/accident which could be reasonably delayed until return home
- Acts of terrorism or war
These are only a few of the possible exclusions. You must always read the fine print on your policy.
Payment for Services:
Whenever possible, do not negotiate with a hospital business manager. I have heard of cases where business managers have tried to bully patients into paying large cash deposits up front. Your insurance company is better able to negotiate fees with hospitals and medical care providers. Occasionally hospital business managers will try to obtain more than the amount your insurer will pay for the procedure. When cash payments for medical services are required, you will need to apply to your insurer for reimbursement.
It is all in the Insurance Policy or Contract:
I have nothing against the insurance industry or agents, but read your policy. The insurance company will only honor the contract and sometimes they will decline a claim for reimbursement on the first submission, but will pay on subsequent submissions. So, if coverage is denied, don't give up, resubmit your claim. I particularly detest this practice by some companies. They may do it on purpose to discourage some claiments when they have legitimate claims.
Note to Canadian Travellers:
I recently heard about a case where a woman was hospitalized during a vacation, and her insurer wanted to transfer her home. However, they were unable to find a hosptial bed. Firstly, this may cause an increase in travel health insurance costs for Canadians. Secondly, one wonders if a transport service like SkyMed would be useful. Services like this usually transport a stabalized patient and they require a doctor and hospital willing to admit the patient.
About the Author, Maggie - Internet Marketer - Insta-Health Quote & Wellness Guide and former RV'er.