Buying travel insurance is important to cover financial setbacks that might occur during travelling.
You must get travel insurance for yourself in case you fall in any of the following categories:
- US citizens traveling outside the US
- Visitors to the US
- Business travelers working overseas
- Expats and long-term travelers
- Missionaries and foreign aid workers
- US Residents travelling outside the state
Types of Travel Insurance Plans
Package (Comprehensive Trip Insurance)
Package travel insurance is the most commonly purchased coverage as it is comprehensive. It includes benefits such as trip cancellations, trip delays and interruptions, medical and dental costs, evacuation and luggage problems. Such plans can also be customized to cover other expenses like pre-existing medical conditions, adventure activities, rental car collision, pet care, credit card, passport services, sports equipment, roadside assistance and identity theft assistance.
Travel Medical Insurance
It covers medical and dental treatment costs as well as emergency evacuation expenses during travel. It can be purchased for a single trip or multiple trips depending upon traveler’s requirements. Though it does not cover other benefits like trip cancellation some medical insurance plans do provide coverage of costs related baggage or trip delay.
Evacuation (Medevac) Insurance
This type of plan covers charges related to emergency medical evacuation to the nearest medical facility that can provide the required care. A major advantage of this kind of plan is that it includes coverage for expenses related to sending minor children home and even the emergency reunion of family. Some plans may include AD&D benefits as well as trip interruption and lost luggage costs.
It covers unexpected losses that occur due to flight or travel accidents. Such plans provide accidental death and dismemberment protection for the insured and his family. This plan is ideal for frequent travelers and may include coverage for medical and dental expenses, emergency evacuation, and baggage loss and pre-existing conditions.
Annual travel insurance
It provides insurance coverage for multiple trips during a year. These plans can also be renewed. The benefits of annual travel insurance are same as package travel insurance plans.
Specialty Travel Insurance
It provides coverage for specific expenses like term life or car rentals. Hence, these are ideal when a traveler wants to cover a specific risk. It basically supplements the benefits that are already covered in the travel insurance plan.
Online Purchase of Travel Insurance Policy
One can buy travel insurance from many sources. But it is always best to compare the travel insurance plans from all companies to know the best rates, policy terms and conditions. When you purchase travel insurance from comparison websites, you can request for instant quotes. After receiving quotes, you can make the purchase by filling an online application form. You can make the payment through credit cards, some debit cards, check or e-check.
On successful submission of a complete application form, you will receive a purchase confirmation and policy documents via an email. You can also review the travel insurance plans here before making the purchase decision.
It must be noted here that optionally, an application may be made in paper form for buying some insurance policies such as those related to Patriot series, Atlas Travel, Inbound Guest, Inbound USA, Liaison Choice, Liaison Elite etc.
Main organizations involved in Travel Insurance
Administrators of travel insurance primarily design the plan, its benefits, premium and exclusions. These include the following organizations:
- Travel Guard
- Seven Corners
- HTH Worldwide
- Travel Insurance Services
Underwriters are the insurance companies that are responsible for paying the claims. To check the reliability of these companies, it is important to know the A.M. Best rating of these companies as this reflects the soundness of financial position of the company.
Major companies underwriting travel insurance plans include the following:
- Sirius International
- National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh
- Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
A PPO network is a network of healthcare providers, including doctors, hospitals, clinics, labs etc that have been contracted to provide services at negotiated rates.
- First Health Network
- Coventry Network
- United Health
Categories of Travel Medical Insurance
Medical insurance for US residents traveling outside US
For US citizens travelling overseas, medical insurance plans provide coverage for medical expenses including cost of hospitalization, emergency medical evacuation and repatriation. Such plans can be short-term or long- term insurance plans.
While short-term plans include medical coverage for vacations less than a year, long-term plans are ideal for those working overseas. Short term plans include all healthcare expenses but exclude preventive care expenses. In addition, short term plans provide only a limited coverage for pre-existing conditions. But to the contrary, long term plans are comprehensive ones and include coverage for pre-existing, preventive care and other benefits for mental, vision and dental care.
Medical insurance for US citizens traveling inside US
This relates to medical insurance for US citizens residing abroad for any reason like work or studies etc. and who return to US for a short term like a vacation period. It must be noted that the visit should be a temporary one where the US citizens return to the country of residence as they are visiting the U.S. with an intention of leaving soon.
Major plans for US residents traveling inside US are as follows:
- Diplomat America-For a maximum visit period of 364 days and includes the maximum lifetime coverage of $50,000 to $1000,000. Benefits include coverage for accident, medical, sickness, AD&D and travel assistance.
- Patriot America-It is for US citizens who have continuously resided outside US for 6 months and who already have a current health plan in force. It covers a period of 5 days to 2 years and provides maximum coverage of $50000 to $1000000 depending upon the type of benefit availed.
Trip Cancellation Policy
Trip cancellation travel insurance plans cover the events that are not known to buyer on the date of purchase. It seeks to refund your money in case you are unable to travel due to an unknown situation covered under the policy. It is also available when you have to cut short your trip due to some emergency. It includes coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption, emergency medical evacuation, trip delay, lost or delayed luggage and cancellation for any reason.
Some trip cancellation plans will cover treatment costs related to pre-existing conditions if the plan is purchased within a certain number of days of having paid for the trip.
Types of Travel Medical plans
Single Trip Travel Medical
This type of plan is ideal for business travel or for leisure travel. It covers a trip period of 5 days to 6 months and provides a medical insurance coverage for medical expenses incurred plus emergency medical evacuation charges during the trip. It also includes pre-existing conditions. However, the traveler needs to have a primary health plan in order to be eligible to purchase this plan.
Multi-Trip Travel Medical
It covers a period up to 12 months where the traveler can have unlimited trips over the year. However, every trip must last a period of 70 days. It provides insurance coverage for medical expenses incurred during the trip plus emergency medical evacuation charges. For sickness and accidents, maximum coverage is up to $250,000 and for medical evacuation; the maximum coverage offered is $5000, 000. The traveler needs to have a primary health plan in order to be eligible to purchase this plans.
Long-Term Major Medical Insurance
These plans can be renewed annually and offer a comprehensive coverage. They allow the insured to stay on the same plan for a long period. It is available for both US citizens and foreign nationals and is ideal for immigrants and expats living abroad. The extended travel may be between 3 to 5 years. The benefits include coverage for in-patient, out-patient, prescription, maternity, pre-existing conditions, preventive care, emergency evacuation and repatriation. However, it does not include coverage for trip interruption and lost luggage.
Popular Travel Insurance Plans
Group travel insurance plans for students and visitors
These plans provide coverage for US citizens travelling abroad or non-US citizens visiting US. There are two popular group insurance plans:
It is designed for groups travelling outside their home country. It offers an insurance coverage for sports and activities, emergency evacuation, repatriation and adventure sports rider. For expenses incurred due to terrorism, the maximum coverage available is up to $50,000. It also includes coverage for pre-existing conditions.
It is designed for groups travelling internationally. It provides sports coverage for activities like skiing, snowboarding, water skiing and snorkeling. For expenses incurred due to terrorism, the maximum coverage available is up to $50,000. It also includes pre-existing conditions coverage.
Travel Guard Silver (for Trip cancellation)
It is a comprehensive travel insurance plan as it provides benefits for trip cancellation, baggage delay or loss, trip interruption, travel delays plus coverage for medical expenses including emergency evacuation and also includes pre-existing medical condition benefits. It is most ideal for families as one child below 18 can be added with each adult without any additional premium.
The maximum coverage allowed for accidental death is $25,000 but is available only if purchased within 15 days of making the payment for initial trip. For medical evacuation, the secondary limit is $150,000 whereas for medical expenses, the secondary limit is $15,000.
Atlas International (Comprehensive) (for Medical insurance for US residents traveling outside US)
It is available for a period of 5 days to 364 days. It covers expenses related to a visit to any hospital or doctor. It offers a policy coverage of $50,000 to $2,000,000. It is a comprehensive plan and hence covers a percentage of the treatment costs. The benefits include coverage of expenses related to medical treatment of a new injury or illness, evacuation, baggage delay, lost luggage, dental, trip cancellation, accidental death, terrorism coverage and trip cancellation.
Appropriate time to buy medical insurance
One can buy travel health insurance up to the day before your departure but if your policy benefits depend upon your first trip payment, you may not enjoy some benefits of your plan. Hence for avoiding claim denials later on, it is best to buy a travel medical insurance well-in-time i.e. as soon as possible. You can add additional costs like plane tickets later on. Some tips related to right timing of buy are given below:
- If you want coverage for trip cancellation, you should purchase the policy after your first trip deposit is made.
- If you need coverage for a pre-existing medical condition, as close to that first payment as possible,
- If you do not want coverage for trip cancellation and only need medical coverage, it is advisable to have the policy in place before traveling. Some plans do allow you to buy the policy even after reaching the destination within a certain number of days.
Steps to use medical insurance
In order to claim a medical insurance, first step is to check the plan provider network i.e. the list of providers your insurance company works with.
Contact the service provider and show medical ID card to prove you have insurance coverage. You can also call the number on your card for assistance.
It must be noted here that keeping the previous medical records during travel is generally not required, but it is best to keep them when traveler has a current/chronic condition. Such documents will be required in the event a claim needs supporting documents.
Pre-authorization of Insurance Claims
When the insurance company authorizes treatment in advance, it is referred to as pre-authorization. It is basically a provisional authorization of insurance claim where the insurer confirms to a hospital that the claim is admissible. This starts with filling of a pre-authorization form. You need to fill this form and submit to insurer. Pre-authorization of a claim is not a final acceptance. The insurer scrutinizes final bills and related documents after patient discharge and then, makes the final claim settlement. While some insurers give option of direct billing to them by the hospital, others provide for reimbursement. In direct billing, the hospital or doctor sends medical bills directly to the insurer while in reimbursement, payment is first made by the insured who can get the claim reimbursed by the insurance company.
Finding Healthcare Facilities to seek medical treatment
In case you are seeking medical treatment while you have a travel health insurance plan, following are some tips to help you find health care facilities.
- Check your medical insurance plan to see if any specific doctors or hospitals are pre-approved
- Search directory for available healthcare facilities.
- Before making appointment, check hospital and doctor accreditations
Exclusions from Medical Insurance
Following situations are typically excluded from coverage of medical travel insurance plans.
- Losses due to venereal disease, AIDS virus, pregnancy (except complications of pregnancy), or abortion.
- Losses due to mental, psychological, or nervous disorders
- Losses due to nuclear radiation or radioactive contamination.
- Losses incurred while the insured is participating in an unlawful act.
- Losses due to the insured intentionally causing bodily harm, including suicide.
- Losses incurred while the insured is legally drunk or under the influence of drugs.
- Extreme, high-risk sports
- Travel costs for medical tourism
- Losses for tickets or tours won as an award or by redeeming frequent flier or credit card miles
- Losses due to war (declared or not), military actions, civil disorder, and riots.
In summary, it is best to get trip insurance if you have non-refundable trip costs that you stand to lose should the trip be cancelled. It is good to get travel insurance if you are traveling outside your country of residence where your local health insurance does not cover treatment costs. Happy travels!