Travel insurance plans often list some coverage as ‘secondary’ and we’ve had many readers ask us what that means. Any coverage that is identified as secondary simply means it will pay after the traveler’s other insurance coverage has paid what it will pay. Specifically, it pays second – after the primary coverage.
Typically, the terms primary and secondary are applied to travel medical coverage and baggage coverage. When you’re making a travel medical claim, it means you should make a claim on your primary health insurance coverage first and then settle the remainder of the medical claim with your travel insurance provider.
If you’re making a claim on your baggage coverage because the airline lost your bag, you’ll work things out with the airline first and then make a claim for the remainder on your travel insurance plan. Whatever is paid out by the airline will be deducted from the amount that your travel insurance provider will pay.
If your primary coverage is not in effect where you are traveling – and many domestic health insurance plans do not cover the medical costs for their members who need medical care outside the U.S. – then your secondary coverage with your travel insurance becomes primary by default. You don’t have to do anything except make a claim directly with your travel insurance provider.
Many travelers make this assumption, but primary coverage isn’t necessarily better than secondary coverage – it just refers to who pays first. You can choose and buy travel plans that include primary travel medical coverage, but it’s not necessary unless you have a reason for purchasing that type of travel medical plan.
See more about the differences between primary and secondary travel medical coverage.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.