Travel Insurance FAQ

What is the difference between primary and secondary medical coverage? Why does it matter?

What is the difference between primary and secondary medical coverage? Why does it matter?

Last Updated:

Most travel insurance policies are comprehensive, including coverage for medical emergencies, cancellations, travel delays, and luggage. The Emergency Medical benefit that is included in most policies will either provide Primary or Secondary coverage.

The only difference between Primary and Secondary medical coverage is the order in which a traveler can file a claim. There is no difference in what is covered or excluded; Secondary policies just require an extra step when filing a claim.

Primary travel insurance policies allow a traveler to file a medical claim directly with their travel insurance provider, without contacting their health insurance provider at all. This saves travelers a step in the claims process.

Secondary travel insurance policies require a traveler to file a medical claim with their primary health insurance provider first, even if they know they won’t be covered. If that claim is denied, or if there are remaining medical bills, the traveler can then file a claim with their travel insurance provider. If they paid a deductible with their health insurance provider, that amount can also be included in their claim with their travel insurance provider, in addition to the remaining medical bills.

In an emergency situation, a traveler should contact their provider’s 24-hour emergency assistance number that comes with their policy. Travelers should always refer to the policy certificate for specific coverage details.