Summary: Travel medical insurance is emergency coverage for travelers who are leaving their home country and are worried about a medical emergency while abroad.
It provides coverage for medical emergencies and evacuations. Your health insurance from home might not cover you abroad, so it is smart to have travel medical coverage.What you will find on this page
Imagine this: You are on a bike tour in the remote countryside of Italy. Your husband takes a fall and has some minor scrapes…but more severely he also has a heart attack.
You need to find the closest good hospital. You also need an ambulance to get you there. Once at the hospital, he needs immediate care for the heart attack.
And afterwards, you need special transportation on a medically-staffed flight to get back home.
Throughout all this you are dealing with language barriers and questions about hospital bills that need to be paid.
Without travel medical coverage: You could be stuck with all hospital costs, ambulance costs, and surgery bills which could cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Plus, medical flight back home on a special flight could be $50,000+. And that’s assuming found a reputable medical facility in the first place.
With travel medical coverage: First thing you do after immediate care is call the 24/7 assistance line. They help find the best hospital near you and arrange transport if necessary. They overcome any language barriers and facilitate your care, guaranteeing payment if necessary. The bills are covered, even that huge med-flight back home.
Summary: Travel medical insurance is temporary medical insurance that covers you for the length of your trip. It pays for emergency medical expenses, emergency evacuations, and provides 24/7 assistance to help you.
When you leave your home country, your insurance might not travel with you. That means once you leave, you are on your own.
And, even if your plan does include emergency medical expenses in a foreign country, they will never cover medical evacuation expenses (more below). Medical evacuations can be anything from an ambulance ride, an airlift from a remote location, or medical transport back home after a serious injury.
Plus, those relying on Medicare are definitely out of luck. Medicare does not cover you abroad.
Other names for travel medical insurance include: International Medical Insurance, International Travel Insurance, or Worldwide Medical Insurance.
Bottom Line: You need travel medical coverage when you leave your home country.
You have 2 options to get travel medical coverage:
Option A: You can buy a standalone Travel Medical Insurance policy. This would just cover medical emergencies, evacuation, and assistance services.
Option B: You can buy comprehensive Trip Insurance. This covers cancelled trips, but it also covers interruptions, baggage, delays…as well as medical emergencies and evacuations.
(More about the differences between these two plans below)
What about a doctor exam?
You do not need a medical examination to buy travel insurance. Since travel medical is a temporary policy, it is issued immediately and any claims are investigated afterwards. If you have a claim, the insurance company will confirm that the issue occurred during the policy coverage period.
Many people don’t understand which type of travel insurance they need.
Your cruise line offers you a plan. The booking website offers you a plan. A travel agent offers you a plan.
Plus, there are different names for everything: Trip insurance, travel insurance, international insurance, vacation insurance, cruise insurance, travel medical insurance.
Let’s make it simple.
Your choice is between Travel Medical Insurance and Trip Insurance.
But what is the difference? We’ll make that simple too.
With a Travel Medical plan, the focus is on emergency medical and evacuation costs.
If you are abroad and have an accident or become ill, it would cover medical costs for you. Emergency dental treatment is usually included and emergency transportation (ambulance, air lift) services are also covered.
Emergency medical evacuations will get you out of a remote area and transported to a place where you can receive proper medical care. If you are killed or die on your trip, the repatriation coverage will ensure your body is properly transported home or to a funeral home nearby.
With Trip Insurance, you are mainly concerned with losing all of your pre-paid money if you need to cancel your trip.
Trip Insurance covers cancelling for sickness of a family member, hurricanes, home fire, jury duty, job loss, etc. It covers cancellations for unexpected and unforeseen reasons.
It also covers interrupted trip where you need to come home early, lost or stolen bags, flight delays, baggage delays, medical, and evacuation.
When most people think of “travel insurance”, they think of cancellation coverage and not wanting to lose money of they need to cancel.
Travel medical plans often include some coverage for baggage loss or interrupted trips, but the coverage limits are much lower than with Trip Insurance so it is not considered a primary coverage.
Travel Medical can also have Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) and/or term life benefits which are paid regardless of any coverage you may have back home for a covered injury. This coverage can fill out your life insurance benefits and provide extra coverage for you or your family in the case of a serious accident.
With Trip Insurance, the cost is based on the trip cost that you are insuring. If you insure a $10,000 cruise, it will cost more than insuring a $250 flight.
Since standalone Travel Medical insurance doesn’t cover cancellations, the cost is much lower.
In fact, Travel Medical insurance is so budget-friendly that when people “get it”…they realize it’s a no-brainer when going abroad.
Medical plans are priced based on age, trip length, and coverage amount.
This usually adds up to a few dollars per day, so it is a very budget-friendly way to get emergency medical coverage abroad.
Here is sample pricing to show you the difference between Travel Medical and Trip Insurance.
Sample Trip: 2 travelers, both 44, traveling abroad for 1 week. The Travel Medical plan quote is for $100,000 medical coverage. The Trip Insurance is for a $3,000 trip with medical coverage of $100,000.
|Travel Medical Insurance||Trip Insurance|
Both prices are the total for 2 travelers for the entire week.
The difference is the Trip Insurance quote would reimburse you for cancelled trips, cover baggage, delays, etc. Trip insurance usually costs 4-10% of the insured trip cost, so these plans can often be in the hundreds of dollars.
Bottom line: If you are getting trip insurance to cover your whole trip (cancellation, baggage, delays, etc), you will also get travel medical coverage.
If you don’t want cancellation coverage and are leaving your home country, you should get a Travel Medical insurance plan.
Travel Medical insurance covers the following. This same coverages is in comprehensive Trip Insurance, but with the addition of Cancellation Coverage.
Travelers like these should purchase travel medical insurance:
Travel medical plans come in three types:
For most trips, you would need single-trip Travel Medical insurance.
Since travel medical insurance does not provide trip cancellation and other package-like benefits, the cost of the plan is often quite economical.
A typical single trip travel medical plan can range from $40-$80 for a relatively short overseas trip. In general, the premium amount for a travel medical plan is based on:
While some travel medical plans will cover a few package-like benefits, the typical travel medical plan does not cover trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage loss, travel delays and other benefits typically associated with package plans. Travel medical plans are meant for the overseas traveler seeking medical insurance protection outside their home coverage network.
You have two options for buying travel insurance – the best option is to compare plans from all companies, get quotes, and purchase your travel insurance plan online:
All travel insurance companies include a free look period with a refund that lets you review the plan documentation. If you decide you need something a little different, you can make changes to your policy or cancel it for a refund (minus a small fee).
I recommend Seven Corners for travel medical insurance.
Seven Corners has been specializing in the international medical insurance business since 1993. They were a pioneer in first developing travel medical insurance and have lead the market for decades.
Key advantages of Seven Corners include:
Visit Seven Corners website for Travel Medical Insurance
What is Primary vs Secondary coverage with travel medical insurance?
Primary Coverage pays first before any other coverage you might have. This means you claim directly with the insurance company, and they handle it from there.
Secondary coverage pays after any other insurance has been used. So, if you did have some coverage from your home health insurance, that would be used first, then travel medical would cover after that.
If you have secondary coverage and no other insurance provides coverage, your secondary coverage essentially becomes primary coverage.
The main benefit to Primary is the ease of claims as there are fewer companies to deal with.
What is the difference between Travel Medical and Trip Insurance?
Travel medical insurance covers medical emergencies, evacuations, and a few other things like baggage.
Trip insurance (also called Trip Cancellation or simply Travel Insurance) covers cancellations, interruptions, baggage, delays, medical, evacuation, and more.
Is travel medical insurance worth it?
If you are leaving your home country, absolutely! Your insurance from home might not cover you abroad (Medicare never does), and even if it does it would not cover evacuations.
If you are leaving your home country, get travel medical insurance by itself with a Travel Medical Insurance policy, or as part of a comprehensive Trip Cancellation Insurance policy.
When should I buy travel medical insurance?
Anytime you leave your home country you should have travel medical coverage…either through a Travel Medical plan of a Trip Insurance plan.
When can I buy travel medical insurance?
You can purchase travel medical insurance right up until your trip departure, and as soon as when you make your first trip plans.
Can I buy travel medical insurance after departure?
Yes, but keep in mind it only covers new incidents. If you are on your trip and have an emergency, you cannot buy travel insurance and expect it to be covered.
What should I do if I need emergency medical care?
If possible, seek any immediate care you need to prevent further injury. Once reasonably possible, contact the insurance company’s 24/7 assistance line for further help.
How do I file a claim for travel medical insurance?
You should contact the claims number as soon as reasonably possible and they will advise about any special procedures you need to do.Add question
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.