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Do I Need Travel Medical Insurance? - 2020 Review

Travel Medical Insurance is probably the most critical element to consider when heading overseas.

Travelers face tremendous financial costs if they do not have Medical Insurance.

Fortunately, Travel Medical Insurance is relatively inexpensive to buy. From a risk/reward perspective, it makes sense to ensure that medical coverage is in place before heading off on a trip.

Do I Need Travel Medical Insurance? | AARDY.com

If you read any of our other articles, you'll remember that we always offer a simple recommendation for Medical Insurance. Overseas travelers should have these minimum levels of protection:

  • Medical Insurance Coverage - $100,000
  • Medical Evacuation Coverage - $250,000
  • Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver – Included

In this article, we detail why we recommend these coverage levels and show you how much it costs to buy adequate Travel Medical Insurance.

Travel Medical Insurance Coverage

Most of us have comprehensive health insurance at home.

However, most American health insurance plans do not pay for treatment outside the country. If it makes sense to have health insurance at home, it does when we travel, too.

If you rely on Medicare or a Medicare supplement plan for health insurance, be aware that your coverage is limited. Medicare does not pay providers outside the US, and Medicare supplements have low limits. They only include a $50,000 lifetime limit, and require a 20% copay. You must pay up to $10,000 out-of-pocket, plus whatever exceeds the limit.

The State Department, CDC, and AARP all give consistent advice: US travelers heading overseas should buy adequate travel medical insurance every time.

Suggested Minimum Level of Health Insurance Coverage

While each situation is different, we typically recommend a minimum level of medical coverage when traveling outside the US.

We base our advice on a potential worst-case scenario, according to our research. To us, a worst-case scenario is a critical illness or a traumatic accident. Traffic accidents happen to travelers all over the world, as do heart attacks and strokes.

Wouldn't you prefer to receive immediate treatment at a state-of-the-art private hospital with the most skilled physicians? Or take your chances at a charity hospital, not knowing when they can treat you? We prefer the former.

And keep in mind that foreign countries don't want to care for travelers in their public facilities, so Americans usually receive treatment in private hospitals anyway. An in-patient hospital stay easily costs $3,000 to $4,000 per day, before the cost of medication, therapy, tests, and surgeries.

Our recommendation of $100,000 Medical Insurance accounts for these combined costs.

When we examine the Travel Medical Insurance coverage on our most popular plans, we see a theme that most mid-range and top-tier programs provide at least $100,000 Medical Insurance. Basic-level plans offer much less Medical Insurance since they are intended for domestic travels within the US.

Here are the Travel Medical Insurance benefits of our most popular plans:

AIG Travel Guard Plus – $100,000 (Primary)

AIG Travel Guard Deluxe – $100,000 (Primary)

John Hancock Silver – $100,000 (Primary)

John Hancock Gold – $250,000 (Primary)

Seven Corners RoundTrip Choice – $100,000

Seven Corners RoundTrip Elite – $250,000

Travel Insured International Worldwide Trip Protector – $100,000

Travel Insured International Worldwide Trip Protector Plus – $100,000 (Primary)

Trawick First Class – $150,000

Trawick Voyager – $250,000 (Primary)

Some plans offer Primary coverage.

Primary Travel Medical Insurance means it will not ask questions about your other coverage—it will pay first regardless. For many travelers, this is a financial convenience they prefer.

Medical Evacuation Insurance for Travelers

Foreign hospitals can treat the majority of accidents or incidents on a trip. Still, there is always a chance that you will require Medical Evacuation to a nearby medical facility. Or, in severe circumstances, the attending physician feels your condition is stable enough to Evacuate back to the USA for further treatment.

While rare, Evacuation could be on a long-range private medical jet with a team of doctors and nurses. Air Medical Evacuation costs are catastrophic because health insurance rarely covers it.

A near-shore Medical Evacuation, like from the Caribbean back to the US, can easily bill over $100,000. However, we recommend $250,000 in case of a longer Medical Evacuation, like from Puerto Rico to California. Of course, if you travel somewhere remote, like polar regions, the Galapagos, or the African bush, $500,000 Medical Evacuation coverage is more appropriate.

If you enjoy cruising on your vacations, consider how often passengers require helicopter Medical Evacuation from the ship. Cruise ships provide triage services, not the comprehensive facilities of a hospital. While cruise lines practice for helicopter Evacuations, they are not responsible for paying for them.

It is wise to make sure you have appropriate Medical Evacuation coverage before you need it.

If we refer back our popular plans we can see that they reflect our view of suitable coverage:

AIG Travel Guard Plus – $1,000,000

AIG Travel Guard Deluxe – $1,000,000

John Hancock Silver – $500,000

John Hancock Gold – $1,000,000

Seven Corners RoundTrip Choice – $500,000

Seven Corners RoundTrip Elite – $1,000,000

Travel Insured International Worldwide Trip Protector – $1,000,000

Travel Insured International Worldwide Trip Protector Plus – $1,000,000

Trawick First Class – $1,000,000

Trawick Voyager – $1,000,000

Pre-Existing Medical Exclusion

Travel Medical Insurance protects you for an unexpected illness or injury. Insurance companies do not offer protection if you are already suffering from a disease or injury.

Typically, travel insurance excludes Pre-Existing Medical Conditions from coverage.

You may think Pre-existing Conditions mean "any disease or injury you ever had since you were born." Travel insurance defines Pre-existing differently.

If you have long-term medical issues like high blood pressure that are controlled by medication or lifestyle, you might think travel insurance will not cover that condition.

However, there is some excellent news from if you have a Pre-existing Condition: they only exclude recently diagnosed and recently changed conditions. If your doctor recently changed a prescription, then your travel insurance plan will also exclude that particular medical condition.

When we say recent, the time varies between Travel Medical Insurance carriers. The best travel medical plans only 'Look Back' 60 days. Specifically, if your new or changed medical condition is older than 60 days (from the day you buy your travel medical insurance policy), then you have coverage.

Policies with a 60 day Look-Back period are more generous to a traveler, and we recommend these whenever possible.

That is to say, if your medical condition is older than 60 days, and you have not had treatment in the last 60 days, and you do not have a new or changed medication in the previous 60 days, then most travel medical insurance policies will cover the condition.

Unfortunately, if your Medical condition fails one or more of the above requirements, your condition would be excluded from coverage, unless you get a Waiver. With a Waiver of Pre-existing Medical Condition Exclusions, the policy will cover your medical condition.

Too confusing? Let us explain.

Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver

As previously explained, travel insurance typically excludes recent medical conditions from coverage. However, many of the comprehensive trip insurance plans include a Waiver if you purchase the policy early in the planning process. In other words, the insurance company will Waive the exclusion of the medical condition, so you now have full coverage.

This unusual process is called the Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver and is necessary if you recently received medical treatment.

How do you get a Medical Waiver? Easy. Buy a Travel Medical plan that includes a Medical Waiver and buy the policy early.

Medical Waiver is a 'Time Sensitive' benefit, which means it is only available if you purchase travel medical insurance within a few weeks of any initial trip deposit or payment.

Most travel insurance policies require that you buy the insurance within 14-21 days of the first money paid toward your trip. We suggest that enrolling within a week of your first trip deposit or payment. By planning early, you have plenty of time to compare travel medical insurance plans and find the best coverage and value.

Travel Medical Insurance Purchasing Options

There are two ways to buy travel medical insurance:

  • Comprehensive Travel Insurance – Medical and Trip Cancellation
  • Comprehensive Travel Insurance – Medical & $0 Trip Cancellation

We will look at these individually.

Comprehensive Travel Insurance – Medical and Trip Cancellation

All comprehensive travel insurance policies include some travel medical insurance.

Once you leave the US, you will need robust medical insurance in a travel policy. Comprehensive trip cancellation policies cover everything from lost baggage, delayed flights, sickness causing cancellation, Medical Insurance, and Medical Evacuation.

Choose a policy that has $100,000 Medical Insurance, our recommended minimum, if you're traveling outside the US.

However, if you are staying in the USA, you can opt for a policy with lower Medical Insurance. Assuming your private health insurance covers you across the country, you won't need as much protection.

Comprehensive trip insurance plans offer great value for money and are suitable for most travelers.

Comprehensive Travel Insurance – Medical and $0 Trip Cancellation

If you do not need to protect your financial investment in the trip for Cancellation and Interruption, you have other options. You can have baggage and flight delay coverage as well as Travel Medical Insurance and Medical Evacuation.

If this is your case, run a travel insurance quote, but enter $0 for the Trip Cost. In this case, your policy has no Cancellation or Interruption benefit if you fall sick or injured before or during the trip. However, you can enjoy all the other benefits the plan provides.

The plan includes Travel Medical Insurance and Travel Medical Evacuation coverage. We think that this is an affordable solution you want low-cost travel medical protection.

There is a catch—make sure you do not have a Pre-existing Medical Condition. Many policies require that you insure 100% of all prepaid, non-refundable Trip Costs to activate the Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver. Travel Insured International and AIG Travel Guard, two of our most popular carriers, have this requirement.

Fortunately, John Hancock does not (in most states). They can provide Pre-existing Medical Condition coverage without insuring the full cost of the trip.

Before you buy a $0 trip cost travel plan, check-in with one of our agents to review the document and confirm that it provides full Medical coverage and a Waiver. It only takes a minute or two.

Conclusion

When you travel, you have many excellent travel insurance carriers from which to choose. They offer first-class travel Medical Insurance within their comprehensive trip insurance plans.

We will always recommend that a traveler heading overseas chooses a travel medical plan with:

  • Medical Insurance Coverage - $100,000
  • Medical Evacuation Coverage - $250,000
  • Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver – Included

It is easy to run a quote and choose one that offers the best value.

AARDY - Travel Insurance Marketplace

AARDY helps travelers protect their trip costs and enjoy significant medical protection.

We built a simple and intuitive comparison tool that guides travelers to find the coverage they need quickly.

Compare dozens of travel insurance quotes in one place. It only takes a minute of your time. Our policies are sorted from least expensive to most expensive.

US anti-discrimination laws guarantee that you will not find a lower price for the same travel insurance plan. Our prices are identical to the insurance carriers if you went directly to them. But we do not charge a penny more to use our service.

Safe travels.

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