The first step is to find out exactly what your existing health plan does and doesn’t cover on a trip—domestically and abroad. That’s especially important for people with a medical condition, a chronic disease or those traveling to a place where they would need to be airlifted in an emergency.
Plans differ, but, typically, an insured would have to pay a deductible, out-of-network expenses for care and the cost of being airlifted if that’s necessary.
If your health insurer won’t cover you during a trip or you don’t think the coverage is adequate, one option is to get short-term travel medical insurance.
These plans generally offer coverage options for care, evacuation and repatriation or world-wide assistance. Policies can be limited to geographic areas and a period of time. (People traveling to remote destinations may want to opt for policies that include medical evacuation, which typically provides 24-hour assistance and air evacuation with medical staff.)
Short-term travel policies can either be purchased separately or bundled into travel insurance, which also covers expenses in case of a cancellation.
All-inclusive coverage typically costs about 4% to 8% of the price of the trip. For stand-alone plans, prices vary based on the amount of coverage, the deductible, your age and other factors, but they typically run about $10 or less per day, says Alex Sanchez, managing director of Healthcare Concierge Services, a health-care company in Miami.
Some policies are primary, meaning they cover most medical expenses, while others are secondary, and cover only what your regular health plan doesn’t. Make sure plans cover pre-existing conditions, says Suzanne E. Munson, director of marketing for Seven Corners, an insurance provider in Miami.
International medical insurance covers travelers when they are outside of their home country. There is normally coverage for emergency medical as well as medical evacuation.
Travel insurance typically has the same type of medical coverages but also includes travel related coverage like trip cancellation, travel delay and baggage loss.
With both types of plans, the medical coverage will either be primary or secondary. Primary medical coverage allows the traveler to claim directly with the travel insurance carrier without involving any other insurance companies. Secondary medical coverage requires that all other insurance coverage be exhausted before a claim can be paid by the travel insurance carrier.
Always refer to the certificate of insurance for details.