What if I become ill or injured while I’m traveling?

While a great many people travel every day without incident, there are a significant number of travelers who aren’t so lucky. It’s an uncomfortable fact that illness and injury can befall anyone, anywhere – whether it’s Norovirus on a cruise ship, or a slip and fall in the streets of Rome. Travel insurance is a great safety net to have just in case something unpleasant happens while you’re away.

Both travel medical plans and standard comprehensive policies will offer varying levels of coverage to you in case you do become ill or injured on your trip. The benefits included in different insurance plans cover things such as reimbursement for any emergency medical care you have to seek while you’re traveling; financial protection to recoup your losses if you have to cut your trip short due to unexpected illness or injury; and, in very serious instances, medical evacuation services in case you need to be transported to an appropriate facility for treatment. As always, you should read your policy thoroughly to understand what medical services will be covered and what may be excluded.

Depending on the length of your scheduled trip and the frequency with which you travel, you’ll need to consider whether a Multi-Trip Medical Plan or a Major Medical policy might be most appropriate for you. Multi-Trip plans will extend benefits to you across several trips, as long as none of those trips exceed 30, 60, or 90 days in length (depending on the policy you purchase). Major Medical plans will provide you with medical insurance coverage, including wellness care and prescription drug benefits, if you’re going to be traveling outside your home country for 6 months or more.

It’s important to realize that most travel medical plans, with the exception of Major Medical, are intended to act as secondary coverage — that is, they only offer you benefits beyond what your primary medical insurance company already offers. It’s crucial that you contact your individual medical insurance company to find out whether they offer any coverage to you outside the country at all before you make a decision about which travel medical insurance plan might be best for you. There are also some plans that offer primary coverage, which may be slightly more expensive than those with secondary coverage; however, depending on what your situation is, you may decide that a primary plan is worth it.

You also need to be aware that any travel insurance benefits you do receive will be on a reimbursement basis, so you’ll be responsible for paying your own medical costs up front. You’ll then need to submit a claim to your travel insurance company, and if your claim is approved, you’ll receive a reimbursement directly from them. The only exception to this rule tends to be for emergency medical evacuation services. If your travel insurance benefits include evacuation services, your insurance company will arrange for the transport up front, and you won’t be saddled with a huge bill for the cost of the evacuation. Just note that in order for the company to make those arrangements, you will need to contact them to let them know you’re in need of emergency evacuation.

Written by on 8/24/13.
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