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6 Common Mistakes When Searching for Medical Travel Insurance

Posted on Tue, Jul 25, 2017

travel-image-(1).jpgMedical travel insurance can provide great peace of mind for travelers of all types. Whether you are an adventure-seeking vacationer, an international student, or even have to travel for work, the hazards of the road (and seas and skies) can wreck havoc on even the safest travelers. However, getting the full benefit of any medical travel insurance requires a little extra effort on your part. The following list highlights six of the most common mistakes people make when selecting a medical travel insurance plan--and how you can avoid making them.

1. Thinking Your Primary Insurance Covers You

Unfortunately, most standard medical insurance plans are strictly domestic--in fact, it is not uncommon for provider networks to be limited to one state or even city. That means traveling--especially abroad--definitely puts you well outside of your normal insurer’s coverage area. Making it back home to receive the care you need very likely will not be covered by your standard plan, so medical travel insurance is definitely a worthwhile investment. Another important note: travel insurance is NOT the same as medical travel insurance. Buying travel insurance through an airline may cover cancellations and disruptions to your trip, but it provides no protection whatsoever for medical emergencies or air ambulance services.  

2. Pre-Existing Conditions

Travelers get exposed to all sorts of unusual diseases and injury risks; however, sometimes health problems crop up that aren’t the result of travel. The Affordable Care Act’s provisions don’t apply to this realm of medical insurance. That means, depending on the provider and plan, you may need additional coverage to ensure any pre-existing medical conditions will qualify. Whether you are managing a chronic illness or just have a history of a particular health problem, that may fall under the “pre-existing” category and be exempt from coverage, so double-check ahead of time, and select your coverage accordingly.  

3. Forgetting Prescription Drugs

Most of the time, taking your prescription medication with you is relatively straight-forward. However, there is no guarantee that you won’t run into trouble transporting drugs with you in your travels, or that you’ll be able to buy more locally should you run out of your supply. It pays to know in advance what the local laws are, as well as the pharmacy situation whatever your destination. You should also double-check what kind of prescription coverage your travel insurance offers, and whether it will help pay the local price to buy meds, or will deliver your prescription to you from a home pharmacy.  

4. Location-Specific Coverage

If you are going on an especially long trip, or to somewhere like Europe with many different cities and countries nearby, there is a good chance your plans will change to include multiple destinations. If you aren’t careful, you may end up with a medical travel insurance plan that only applies to your original destination, or won’t extend coverage when you fail to disclose a change of travel plans in advance. Updating your itinerary from the road or trying to get clearance before every new excursion can be a pain. To be safe, make sure your insurance plan makes allowances for multi-country trips, or doesn’t restrict coverage when there is even a slight chance you’ll be on the go while traveling.  

5. Emergency Transportation Services

Not every travel health insurance policy covers emergency medical evacuation. If you are going on an extended trip or working abroad, you may get a health insurance plan not unlike the one you have at home, which covers treatment at your destination, but not transportation. Should you require specialist care, or otherwise need an emergency ambulance service to get back home, you’ll need to make sure this is actually covered as part of your medical travel insurance. Some plans include ambulance or transportation services as a standard feature; others take a more a la carte approach, and you will have to personally elect to have this included with your plan.  

6. Counting On Someone Else to Cover You

This is especially common when your travel is for business purposes, but it can apply to anyone. Never assume that some third party--an employer, a travel companion, your destination host--has coverage for your emergency medical expenses. Liability in these cases can be tricky, and frankly, you’re better off having the insurance upfront than being able to sue for damages after the fact. Plan ahead, communicate, and determine for certain whether you must purchase your own insurance, or if someone else is taking care of it, exactly what plan they are buying. They could just as easily have missed any of the above steps on your behalf when choosing a medical travel insurance plan.

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