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International Travel Medical Insurance: Know Before You Go

Updated on February 6, 2017
Do you really need international travel medical insurance? Know before you go!
Do you really need international travel medical insurance? Know before you go!

You Just Never Know

When my grandfather retired, he and my grandmother took a trip back to their home country to visit relatives. They'd been planning and looking forward to that vacation for years. Unfortunately, they were only there for a few days before my grandpa suffered a major heart attack. So, there they were, in a country that was now technically foreign to them with MAJOR medical bills, prescriptions and expensive overseas calls back home. Had they not purchased international travel medical insurance, the incident would have ruined them financially.

I think the saddest part about the whole situation was that they had been excited about the trip for so long, planned to stay for a few months with loved ones but ended up with so little time and enjoyment. Once grandpa was well enough to travel, my grandparents had to return home. Before they left the country though, all of the expenses had to be paid.

I was considerably younger when this happened, though I'll never forget it, of course. It didn't occur to me at the time to ask what kind of insurance they had in place to recoup or offset the expenses. What happened to my grandparents did teach me the value of arranging for medical travel insurance prior to a trip. A few bucks paid out now could save many thousands of dollars if something unexpected happens.

Be Protected on Your Trip

Buy your international travel medical insurance prior to leaving the country
Buy your international travel medical insurance prior to leaving the country

What International Travel Medical Insurance Gives You

Basically, this type of insurance gives you a way to recover some or all of your medical expenses while in a foreign country. Check with your policy holder before you travel, as some companies only include coverage overseas. That means, if you are staying in North America, you may be looking at the wrong type of policy for your traveling circumstances.

If you have the misfortune to be stuck in a foreign land and hit with a medical emergency such as an accident or illness, you should be able access doctors, hospitals, health care facilities and language interpreters if necessary via your insurance company. They are there to help you when you need it most. That's another reason to have travel medical insurance - you're not totally alone at a time like that.

There is a perfect plan for every person and travelling circumstance. If need be, ask your broker for a custom quote on specialized coverage. Travel medical insurance is typically for a short term and usually covers anywhere from 5 days to one year, it really depends on the type of policy and company you use.

Standard Types of Policies

There a few international medical policies that most companies carry as a stock product.

Emergency Protection - This is for people who already have health care coverage but it doesn't cover the country that you're traveling to.

Comprehensive Protection - If you have no existing health care policy, then you need this. It fills in the gap and gives you more coverage than the emergency type of policies.

Major Medical - This one will give you longer coverage. If you're going to a foreign land for 6 months or a year or more, you'll want to inquire about a major medical plan.

The Extras

Most travel insurance companies offer standardized policies. Most people use them. However, there are some extra options in place that you can purchase as add-ons.

Emergency Medical Evacuation Insurance

This one covers evacuation and transportation to medical facilities, should you be somewhere and have something happen that calls for this type of emergency response. You can imagine how costly this would be.

Pharmacy Coverage

Before purchasing pharmacy coverage, check to see if you really need it. In countries where health care is no-cost, prescriptions are subsidized and may be less than the price of insurance.

Maternity Coverage

If you plan to give birth in another country, this may be helpful. It's a bit strange to me, as I think of international travel medical insurance as for emergencies but this one takes foresight and planning. You cannot be pregnant when you apply for it. Once you give birth, you typically have to wait 10 - 12 months before you can file your claim. It would probably be a good idea to have an indepth conversation with your insurance agent or broker about this plan to make sure you understand what that particular company will and will not cover.

Protection for Seniors

Typically, plans for seniors include the age range of 60-84 years. Check with your insurance professional to find out more as they may have specialized coverage for different years.

Specialized Coverage

I think that this is a catch-all phrase to incorporate all the miscellaneous requests for policies outside the norm. It's something that would likely most interest expatriats, extreme athletes or frequent business travellers. If you have any unusual travel plans, any pre-existing medical conditions or well, just anything that doesn't seem to fit anywhere else, you may need specialized coverage. Will it cost you a bit more? Yes. Is it worth it? Certainly.

Know Before You Go

Make sure that you have the right type of coverage for your situation
Make sure that you have the right type of coverage for your situation

International Travel Medical Insurance Tips

  • Find out before leaving the country if you need prior approval from your insurance provider for medical care while in a foreign country. This is vitally important as every second can count in a medical emergency.
  • Does your policy cover the country you're traveling to? Kind of critical to know which travel destinations are included.
  • Make sure that you read (not scan quickly) the fine print of your policy. When you fully know and comprehend what you're covered for, then sign on the dotted line, not before.
  • If it turns out that you are not eligible for individual travel medical insurance, say because of a pre-existing medical condition, ask about group health insurance which you may be able purchase and have coverage.

Bon Voyage, Have a Safe and Healthy Trip

I hope this hub has provided you with some helpful tips and information for your next travel abroad. After what happened to my grandpa, I believe that buying trip insurance is a very worthy investment. Like all of that types of sort of thing, you hope never to need it. If you have it though, you can avoid financial catastrophe due to the unexpected set back while on holiday.

Have a wonderful time, wherever you go. Stay safe and healthy and be protected.

© 2009 Herald Daily


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    • Herald Daily profile image

      Herald Daily 8 years ago from A Beach Online

      Thanks, Sandy.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Nice article.