Your top questions about travel medical insurance answered

Illness and injury can be "financially devastating" to the uninsured, expert warns

Your top questions about travel medical insurance answered


By Mark Rosanes

Cutting short, postponing, or canceling vacation plans because of an illness or injury can have costly ramifications, especially for uninsured travelers.

“There are more than memories at stake – your money and health are on the line, too,” Daniel Durazo, director of marketing and communications for Allianz Global Assistance, told pop culture magazine Rolling Stone. “If you’re traveling outside the US, it is absolutely essential that you purchase travel insurance that includes emergency medical and transportation benefits.”

What exactly is the kind of protection travel medical insurance provides? In this article, Insurance Business explains how such policies work and what their benefits are by answering the top seven questions American travelers have with this type of coverage.

1. What does travel medical insurance cover?

Travel medical insurance helps cover the cost of emergency medical expenses during a trip. It follows a reimbursement-based model and pays out up to the plan limits. Policies come in two forms – standalone travel medical insurance, which can be purchased separately but often excludes trip interruption and baggage loss coverage, and emergency medical insurance as part of a comprehensive policy, which features a wider range of protection. 

Coverage varies between insurance providers but typically includes the following:

  • Emergency medical bills: These include all hospital expenses related to the illness or injury. According to travel insurance marketplace InsureMyTrip, coverage starts at $50,000 and can top $2 million.
  • Emergency dental expenses: Visits to the dentist and other dental procedures may also be covered, with limits ranging from $100 to $500. In some instances, costs can be included in the overall medical expenses.
  • Medical evacuation: Commonly the most expensive bill, this includes the cost to transport a patient to a medical facility. The evacuation, however, must be ordered by a doctor to be covered by insurance. Limits start at $500,000. Some insurers offer unlimited coverage.
  • Accidental death or dismemberment: Policies include coverage for repatriation expenses, usually capped at $50,000.
  • 24-hour emergency assistance: Insurers, through its emergency assistance line, help policyholders find a doctor, especially if a language barrier is hampering medical emergency efforts.
  • Trip interruption: Often included only in comprehensive travel insurance policies, this pays out for costs incurred if a trip is cut short due to an illness or injury. The maximum limit can reach $10,000, according to InsureMyTrip data.
  • Baggage loss: Mostly excluded from standalone travel medical insurance, coverage to replace lost or delayed luggage is capped at $1,000. There is also a monetary cap on each item in the luggage.

Injuries due to alcohol and drug abuse, and those resulting from extreme sports or activities are often excluded from coverage. Pre-existing conditions may also be not covered, but travelers can access a waiver, depending on when they purchased the travel policy.

2. Is travel medical insurance worth taking out?

One common reason why many US travelers put off taking out emergency medical insurance is the belief that it is an unnecessary expense, especially if they already have health insurance. However, experts say that many of these health plans, including Medicare, provide little to no coverage outside the country. 

“Domestic healthcare plans are usually not accepted outside the US, so it’s especially important to get travel insurance with medical coverage and emergency medical transportation when traveling internationally,” Durazo said. “If you do become ill or injured while traveling, these benefits can cover your medical costs, including doctors’ fees and hospital costs.”

“Overseas medical bills and costly evacuations can be financially devastating for uninsured travelers,” he added.

3. Does travel medical insurance cover COVID-19-related expenses?

Unlike at the onset of the pandemic when COVID-19 coverage was rare, travel insurance providers have since stepped up their game and started offering protection against coronavirus-related medical expenses. But not all insurers do, so it is important for travelers to verify what level of COVID-19 coverage is provided by a policy before purchasing.

Typically, coronavirus medical coverage will fall under the limits of the plan’s travel medical insurance and pays out costs associated with contracting COVID-19 during the trip, including hospitalization, doctor fees, and medication.

4. How much does travel medical insurance cost?

There are several factors that impact the cost of travel medical insurance, including a traveler’s age, country of destination, length of trip, and level of coverage.

Insurance Business did a quick search of travel medical coverage for a two-week stay in the Bahamas worth $3,000 for a 30-year-old tourist from Texas on InsureMyTrip’s quote aggregator and found the cost of policies to be between $14.14 and $188. When changed to a comprehensive plan, premiums ranged from $64 to $244.67. These policies cover a trip from June 17 to 30, 2022.  

5. How much travel medical insurance coverage do you need?

Ideally, travel medical insurance payout should be enough to cover the cost of treatment should the policyholder undergo an emergency procedure and the cost of a medical evacuation should they be airlifted to safety.

According to Forbes Advisor, good plans provide at least $100,000 in coverage for medical expenses and $250,000 for emergency evacuation.

6. When is the right time to purchase travel medical insurance?

The consumer financial advisory website added that it is best to purchase travel medical insurance within the first two weeks of paying their first trip deposit as it gives policyholders access to a pre-existing medical condition exclusion waiver.  

Travelers, however, can still avail of travel insurance until the last minute, although they would not be able to access some prime coverage features. 

7. How can you choose the right travel medical insurance plan that fits your needs?

Deciding what policy is best depends on a traveler’s personal situation and any additional protections they may already have. Tourists can pick from a range of policies that suits the type of travel or coverage required.

Depending on the plan, travelers can choose between primary and secondary coverage. Primary medical plans pay out before any other health insurance the policyholder has while secondary policies allow a person’s other health insurance plans to pay first.

Holiday-goers can also avail of a single- or multi-trip policy, depending on how much they travel.

“Single trip coverage begins when you leave your home and travel to your destination (or destinations) and ends when you return home. The plan covers you for the duration of your trip,” Forbes Advisor explained. “Also known as annual travel insurance, [multi-trip travel medical insurance] covers you for a calendar year and is good for travelers who take three or more trips per year.”


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