Do You Need Travel Health Insurance When Going Abroad?

Posted by on Mar 28, 2015 in Travel Tips | 3 comments

Travel Health Insurance

After looking up cheap hotels when planning your overseas adventure, you have another task on your hands: figuring out whether or not you need travel health insurance. If you’re a regular traveler, you’re probably at least a little familiar with this type of insurance. You’ve probably also heard horror stories about an American who was injured abroad and had to pay for the outrageously high medical bills out-of-pocket.



Travel Health Insurance

Whether you’re going on an adventurous trip or you’re just getting away from home to relax for a little while, there are a million things that can go wrong. That also means that there are a million ways for medical bills to pile up during your travels. What type of insurance you buy, or if you buy any at all, depends on a lot of things, including how risk-prone you are, your current health coverage, and where you’re traveling.

First, find out if you’re already covered. Your current health plan may already provide international coverage. Often, basic plans from most well-known insurance companies have urgent and emergency care abroad. However, Medicare does not cover any medical expenses that incur outside of the United States.

Figure out what your insurance provider’s definition of “emergency” is; it may differ from your definition. A rash or a toothache may put a damper on your trip, but it probably won’t be considered an emergency, and therefore it won’t be covered. A broken bone or life-threatening illness, on the other hand, is often considered a real emergency.

You’ll also want to read the fine print so that you’re prepared if an accident does happen. Even if you’re covered internationally, can you simply go to a hospital and use your insurance? Not always. Many providers require you to get authorization from your insurance provider before being treated.

If you’re worried about the medical system at your destination, you may want to buy travel health insurance even if your current provider offers international coverage. Travel health policies come with a lot of perks, including roadside assistance, a higher level of care, 24-hour help lines, and referrals for pre-screened doctors throughout the world, prescription assistant, and translation services. Many of them also offer emergency dental care reimbursement and treatment for problems that aren’t life-threatening, like that rash or a toothache. Keep in mind that many major credit cards offer similar benefits, except health insurance.

If you decide that you’d feel more comfortable with a travel health insurance policy, you still have more choices to make. Do you want a stand-alone policy, which can run pretty cheap? Or, would you rather bundle health coverage with trip cancellation coverage?

What you plan to do on your vacation should be taken into consideration, too. If you’re planning on parasailing, scuba diving, bungee jumping, skydiving, or doing another risky activity, you may not be covered by basic health insurance or even by travel health insurance. Instead, you’ll want a policy that has a rider for adventure sports. Make sure not to get injured while drinking. If it turns out that you were hurt while you had alcohol in your system, no coverage of any kind will help you.



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  1. It is one of those necessary evils but I do feel a lot more comfortable traveling with health insurance. You never know what situation you will end up in and being overseas makes everything more difficult. Better safe than sorry.

    • I agree. I’ve never had a serious illness or accident when traveling, but have had a number of occasions when I needed travel insurance. I was glad that I was covered.

  2. Great information. I think even if you have regular insurance it can hurt to get a back up travel insurance plan like World Nomads or something because not only does it cover your health issues but if you get robbed, break some gear like a camera or your phone, or even dealing with airlines they can save you a lot of $$

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