Travel insurance plans offer primary travel medical coverage or secondary medical coverage, so what does that mean exactly?
Many consumers believe that primary plans are ‘better’ than secondary plans, but this isn’t exactly true.
Even if the travel insurance plan you have is secondary coverage, if you have no other coverage your secondary coverage becomes primary by default.
What do we mean by this?
Travel insurance works differently than your common health insurance plan back home. In most cases, you can’t simply hand over a medical ID card at the door as you enter a medical facility and have the charges handled for you.
Instead, with most travel insurance plans, you’ll have to pay your medical bills yourself while on your trip (call your travel insurance provider as soon as possible), and then you’ll submit the receipts and documentation with your claim after.
For example, with some plans, the company will arrange for advance payment if necessary for the insured to gain admission to a hospital.
These following are primary coverage plans that will arrange for advance payment:
A Medigap, also known as a Medicare supplement, plan may provide worldwide coverage benefits for health care needs, but under these plans Medigap typically pays for 80% (after a $250 deductible) of the cost of emergency care for the first 60 days of each trip. There is also a lifetime limit of $50,000 on these plans.
If you have previously made a claim on your Medigap plan, you’ll need to factor in that total claim to understand how much coverage you have left on your lifetime limit. Remember, a travel insurance plan with medical coverage will pay whatever is left over (also up to the policy limits).
Consider also that choosing a travel insurance plan with primary coverage might be the wisest choice. If you have a medical claim on your trip, you won’t be using up part of your lifetime limit which you may need back home. See our Seniors Beware page for additional information.
To demonstrate a cost comparison of primary coverage vs. secondary, we loaded the following trip details into a comparison engine:
Then, we chose two plans with similar coverage limits:
This is just a quick comparison of travel insurance plan prices using common trip details – each of these plans has unique coverage and benefits that may make one more attractive than another depending on your travel plans.
The point here is that primary medical coverage doesn’t necessarily mean a big price difference.
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.