Do I Need Overseas Travel Medical Insurance?
Obtaining medical insurance is a critical task that we strongly recommended prior to departing. Why? Because unexpected medical emergencies can occur anywhere to even the healthiest people and the cost of treatment can add up very quickly.
Many insurance companies offer many different options, so it is best to review policies from a few different companies before purchasing as there are variations in what they offer. Some companies also offer "deluxe" packages, which include not only medical, but also trip interruption, lost luggage insurance and so on. Regardless of which insurance package you are reviewing, be sure to read the fine print.
Some Questions to Ask About Overseas Travel Insurance
Prior to obtaining overseas travel medical insurance, almost all companies will ask your age and if you have any pre-existing medical conditions (usually a series of Yes/No questions). If you are looking for travel insurance and have pre-existing medical conditions, you should declare them as failure to declare relevant history may void your insurance, so it is best to be truthful up front, even though it will likely increase your premium. They will also ask you where you are going (trips that transit through or are partially or wholly in the U.S.A. carry much higher premiums) and how long you will be away for.
Some questions to inquire your overseas medical insurance:
- Does the plan have a world-wide toll-free 24 hour/day seven day/week line available to access your insurance?
- Does the plan pay for hospital and related medical costs on your behalf or do you have to pay the cost up front and then complete forms to recover the fees?
- Does it provide medical evacuation for you and a companion back to your home city?
- Does it pay for a doctor or nurse companion back home if needed?
- Does it allow for cash advances in case the hospital you are being treated at will not accept any other payment?
- Does it have a deductible that you will need to pay prior to the plan kicking in? (Some plans have the option of lower deductibles for a higher premium).
- Does the plan exclude any activities that you plan on doing while away? (see below)
A word of caution -- many employee benefit packages and credit cards include "travel insurance", but this may be very limited in what it offers and may be subject to various terms and conditions plus caps on the coverage. Be sure to read the details of these "included" packages to make sure the critical points are covered or purchase your own insurance.
Overseas Travel Insurance and Questionable Activities
Many insurance policies have exclusions related to certain activities that you may consider while travelling. Two of the more common potential exclusions include races and SCUBA diving.
For races, make sure to read the fine print on what a "race" is defined as. This may include such events as cycling, marathons, triathlons, boats, and so on, but likely not car racing. The race may need to be sanctioned by an authoritative body and likely you are not a "professional" in the race.
SCUBA is sometimes covered and sometimes not. Usually for SCUBA to be covered, a list of conditions must be met, including you having current recognized certification for the dive conditions you are doing, you must be with a divemaster or higher certification, and so on. Again read the fine print.
Other exclusions may exist as well for "high risk" activities like Bungy Jumping, Sky Diving, and so on.
When Your Travel and Your Travel Medical Insurance
Once you have purchased a plan, make sure to carry both the details (contact numbers and your policy number) plus the policy plan with you.
Written by Kim Romaine