As soon as you make plans to travel abroad add a few thousand dollars to your expense list as you want to have a trouble free trip for health insurance.
"It's actually very important to consider, because most people will spend months planning for a trip, but they never plan for the unforeseen, and it's very difficult to do so. You may get sick overseas, you may get involved a car accident overseas — which is very common — or some sort of severe weather or natural disaster which cause a flight cancellation, you lose your luggage, you miss a flight, your gear gets stolen. Any of these things can have a real impact on your travel, and if you're not insured you can have real financial hardship," says Ed Perkins, consumer advocate and insurance expert for online travel pricing and advice site SmarterTravel.
AdvertisementAccording to Perkins U.S. citizens may have health programs that include charges outside the country, and typically, these folks do not need special travel coverage for ordinary medical expenses. "Nevertheless, they might want to buy some insurance," he says.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs strongly agree. The CDC's Theresa E. Sommers suggests, at some length, preparing for a trip abroad by looking into travel insurance, travel health insurance and medical evacuation insurance.
Travel insurance is typically used to cover lost baggage and trip cancellations; the CDC feels that travelers may be more likely to avoid travel when sick if they know their financial investment in the trip is protected.
"With travel insurance, it is vital that anyone buying it take advantage of the insurance company's system for waiving the exclusion for pre-existing medical conditions," Perkins says. "Usually, that means buying the insurance within a week or two of the initial trip deposit and payment and covering the entire nonrefundable portions of the trip cost."
Travelers' should consult the State Department's online information sheet for the country they're traveling to and see what it says about the medical system there. In many countries a tourist would have to pay cash upfront for any treatment and it may not be possible to check with the insurance provider in the US while in a medical emergency.
Sort out issues with your insurance provider and note the exclusions for pre-existing conditions like pregnancy or childbirth. Check with the insurance company before you participate in high risk activities like skydiving, scuba diving and mountain climbing. Also check whether psychiatric emergencies or injuries related to terrorist attacks or acts of war. You'll need to check in with the provider for hospital admission, seek a second opinion before emergency treatment.
Students traveling abroad should go through the extra step of seeing if their parents' insurance company addresses any of the above.
In case your injury or condition is serious to the point that you need to be evacuated out of the area and back to the U.S., the CDC and State Department recommend medical evacuation coverage. Domestic insurance companies don't cover this, and the cost can vary widely depending on where you're traveling. It can range from $50,000 - $100,000.
"Emergency evacuation covers extraordinary expenses of getting someone home after a medical problem," Perkins says. "The folks who sell this stuff constantly issue press releases about someone who broke his or her butt and had to charter a business jet to get them home. Most 'bundled' travel insurance includes enough evacuation to suit most needs, but a few folks won't take the risk and buy extra."
Medex offers plans ranging from $3.50 a day to more than $500 a month depending on your age and where you're traveling. They vary widely and can be based on the length of your trip.
Medicare does not cover anything outside the U.S., but Medicare supplement policies offer some overseas coverage. The condition is that you'll have to pay upfront for care and be reimbursed when you return.
"Most pricing is age-related, so coverage can become virtually unaffordable for travelers in their 80s and 90s," Perkins says.
"Very often, trips end in grief due to car accidents," the State Department spokesman said. "If you're considering driving overseas or renting a vehicle, make sure you are aware of the dangers you may face with unfamiliar traffic patterns or roads and definitely make sure you're properly insured for liability and other issues."
Source: Jason Notte
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