Table of Contents
Our experts answer readers’ insurance questions and write unbiased product reviews (here’s how we assess insurance products). In some cases, we receive a commission from our partners; however, our opinions are our own.
- Medical travel insurance can cover international medical expenses.
- Medical travel insurance may be required to travel to certain countries.
- Medical travel insurance can be a standalone product or part of a travel insurance package.
Of all the delights associated with travel to far-flung locales, getting sick or injured while away from home is low on the savvy traveler’s list. Beyond gut-wrenching anxiety, seeking medical treatment in a foreign country can be exceedingly inconvenient and expensive.
The peace of mind that comes with travel insurance for the many things that could ail you while abroad is priceless. As options for travel-related insurance abound, it’s essential to research, read the fine print, and act according to the specifics of your itinerary, pocketbook, and other needs.
What’s the difference between trip insurance and medical travel insurance?
In short, trip insurance protects against financial loss due to unexpected events. Standard travel insurance coverage includes lost luggage, inclement weather delays, missed connections, and other trip interruptions or cancellations. If you’re willing to pay a little more, you can get cancel for any reason travel insurance to take the guesswork out of the claims process. You don’t have to question if the cause is covered because it’s “cancel for ANY reason.”
A short overnight trip to see family a few hours away may be fine without extra coverage. But trip insurance can save you a lot of hassle if you’re traveling for a week or more or going far from home. Specialty plans also come in handy for athletes traveling with expensive equipment. You’ll be covered if your passport goes missing in Morocco or your luggage gets stolen in Luxembourg.
Medical travel insurance, on the other hand, protects travelers in the case of unexpected illness and injury while abroad. It covers eligible treatment and services from doctor or hospital visits to medical evacuation and repatriation as outlined in individual policies.
Some comprehensive trip insurance policies come with emergency medical coverage. However, medical travel insurance does not include trip cancellation coverage.
Who needs medical travel insurance?
Even the best-laid travel plans can go awry. As such, it pays to consider your potential healthcare needs before taking off, even if you are generally healthy. Even if well-managed, preexisting conditions like diabetes or asthma can make a medical backup plan even more vital.
Having what you need to refill prescriptions or get other care if you get stuck somewhere other than home could be essential to your health and well-being. That’s without counting all the accidents and illnesses that can hit us when away from home.
Individuals traveling for extended periods (more than six months) or engaging in high-risk activities (think scuba diving or parasailing) should also consider a solid medical travel plan. Both scenarios increase the likelihood that medical attention, whether routine or emergency, could be needed.
In the case of travel via the friendly seas, it’s also worth considering cruise trip medical travel insurance. Routine care will be available onboard. But anything beyond that will require transportation to the nearest land mass (and could quickly become extremely expensive, especially if you’re in another country).
Like other types of insurance, medical travel insurance rates are calculated based on various factors. Failing to disclose a preexisting health condition could result in a lapse of coverage right when you need it, as insurers can cancel your policy if you withhold material information. So honesty is always the best policy.
Note: Pregnancy is considered a preexisting condition for medical travel insurance.
What should I look for when shopping for medical travel coverage?
Medical travel insurance is intended for unexpected medical emergencies (as opposed to routine healthcare). Most policies provide coverage in three key areas:
- Emergency Medical Expenses: From lab work to x-rays, any cost associated with a medical emergency (from a broken bone to a heart attack) is usually covered. This includes emergency dental procedures.
- Medical Evacuation: Some domestic health insurance companies pay hospital costs abroad, but stop short of an estimated $50,000 for medical evacuation and/or repatriation. Evacuation insurance provides peace of mind by coving this and other unusual costs. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen recently, it’s not always possible see trouble before it hits you.
- Accidental Death or Dismemberment: This coverage is as simple as it sounds. It kicks in should you lose a limb (or your life) while on vacation.
Personal Finance Insider conducted a 2023 winter travel insurance survey of 971 US adults in December through Momentive AI Audience.
What types of travel insurance should I be familiar with?
A word to the wise: Travel medical insurance is either primary (you can submit claims directly to your travel medical insurance provider) or secondary (you must first submit claims to your primary insurance provider). In the case of secondary travel medical insurance, a refusal notice from your primary insurance provider, even if it does not cover medical claims outside the US, is often required as evidence of protocol.
Furthermore, travel medical insurance comes in two types:
- Single-trip coverage (for travel from home, abroad, and back again, at which point coverage ends)
- Annual travel insurance coverage (which provides coverage for leaving, traveling, and returning home as many times as you wish in the year)
As many people have found out the hard way, reading the fine print is vital. Most travel insurance policies will reimburse your prepaid, nonrefundable expenses if you fall ill with a severe condition, including illnesses like COVID-19. Travel insurance could cover trip cancellation, hotel, and other costs if you’re stuck quarantining unexpectedly, hospital bills, and more.
COVID-19 is one example of the ever-evolving landscape of travel coverage. Some insurance companies have deemed it a “foreseeable event,” meaning if you book your trip after this declaration has been made, your trip may not be covered. Reading your policy documents ahead of time can help you stay out of tight spots and get the most out of the travel protection you buy.
Insider’s Featured Travel Insurance Companies
Is travel insurance right for your next trip?
Still on the fence about whether or not medical travel insurance is right for you? Keep in mind you will likely be expected to pay out of pocket for any costs incurred while seeking medical care in another country which can sap the fun (and funds) out of your vacation.
If your private health insurance covers overseas medical expenses, a supplemental policy that issues payments directly to the hospital or doctor providing treatment is another wise investment.
Always confirm the recommended requirements for coverage in your chosen destination before booking your trip and purchasing travel medical insurance. A little extra diligence may be particularly helpful if you’re headed to a remote region.
Rest assured: A little advance leg work can go a long way toward creating peace of mind and allowing for relaxation, which, after all, should be at the top of your travel itinerary.