Travel Insurance: Part II: Taking Care of Yourself

In the first part
of this series we talked about trip interruption insurance as a means of
protecting your financial investment in a trip or vacation. We mentioned in
that blog that there was another component of travel insurance that addressed
your health and safety, and, incidentally, your financial safety, while
traveling. This is the medical and evacuation services coverage that is
associated with travel insurance. It is possible to purchase medical and
evacuation services coverage as a standalone product but it is frequently
bundled with trip interruption and cancellation insurance as a comprehensive
coverage. As a bundled product, this may be called a vacation travel plan, trip
insurance or travel insurance. As a traveler, you need to be aware of the
different components and know which components you are getting. A package plan
that contains trip cancellation, medical coverage and evacuation services will
be more expensive than either component alone.

Why would you
consider a travel insurance product that only contained medical coverage andevacuation coverage? Well, that depends a lot on why you are traveling. If you
are a business traveler and know that you will be traveling even if delayed,
you may not need to invest in trip cancellation.  There are very good reasons though to invest
in medical coverage and evacuation coverage.

The world is
getting a little smaller every day and medical care is improving to the point
that you can find quality medical care almost anywhere. However, while you may
find a U.S. trained general practitioner in Timbuktu, you will also find their
services are probably not covered by your U.S.-based insurance company. They
certainly will not be covered if you are on Medicare or through a Washingtoninsurance plan. Trip medical insurance will protect your pocketbook and
sometimes your life if you are ill or injured in a foreign country. Without
this coverage and the support it provides, you could be presented with a large
bill when checking out of the hospital. 
Travel insurance services often will also give you access to a U.S-based
physician who can help monitor your treatment to assure it meets at least a
minimum standard of care.

There is also the
problem of identifying that quality medical care or other specialty help if you
are in a foreign country and by yourself. 
Travel insurance packages generally include an assistance component that
allows you to call for help from wherever you are.  Trained operators in the U.S. are available
to offer assistance in a wide variety of situations.  These may be minor medical situations – “can
you tell me the names of safe and effective diarrhea medications in Sri Lanka?”  They may also be more serious concerns such
as, “Can you give me the name of an English speaking attorney?  I’m in jail here in Turkey accused of drug
trafficking.”  The travel assistance
component of a travel insurance offering may not always be able to solve your
problem, but it is an ally in times of need. 

The big dollar
reason for purchasing a travel insurance policy though is medical evacuation
services.  Travel events requiring
medical evacuation are both rare and expensive. 
If you are unfortunate enough to have a serious medical event in Asia,
for example, the cost of an emergency evacuation to the U. S. can easily exceed
$100,000.  Air ambulances are not cheap
forms of transportation.

Unlike trip
cancellation insurance, medical and evacuation coverage is not on the basis of
named perils – virtually any illness or injury can be covered, with typical
exclusions for pre-existing conditions and excludable causes like participation
in dangerous activities.  Even
pre-existing illnesses and dangerous activities such as diving can be covered
if they are disclosed to the insurer. 

The important
things to avoid in the medical and evacuation component of travel insurance
include policy language that limits your options – exclusion of pre-existing
conditions without the ability to obtain a waiver or evacuation services that
specify “to the closest appropriate care” rather than “to the destination you
choose” or “home hospital.” 

The good news is
that serious medical events during travel are pretty rare and the costs of
travel medical and evacuation coverage reflect the low probability of their
occurrence.  However, costs of this
insurance will rise in proportion to the length of your trip. 

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