Purchasing Travel Medical Insurance
As a young and care-free couple, purchasing travel medical insurance wasn’t on our radar. However, once we started traveling with kids, we realized we needed to be adequately covered in case of emergency. We purchased our first travel medical plan to cover our family vacation to Mexico. Since then, we have purchased plans from several different companies and have submitted a claim twice. Our first travel illness happened while visiting St. Croix for a month long excursion and our second was on a recent trip to Florida. Each time the claim process was smooth with prompt payment.
This is a non-sponsored article that contains our personal experiences with several Travel Medical Insurance Companies. We did not receive any free products or discounts from these companies. This article contains affiliate links where we may receive a commission for your purchase at no additional cost to you.
Why you need Travel Medical (even when traveling within the USA.)
Current ACA insurance plans are required to cover emergency medical even when you are out of network. However, if the facility is not in your provider network, the rates may be much higher than an in-network facility causing you more out of pocket expense. A travel medical plan will reimburse you for charges not covered by your insurance for specific covered medical reasons outlined in your policy.
Non-ACA plans (short-term health insurance or insurance that is not ACA certified) may not cover any out of network costs. Check with your specific plan. If you are traveling outside of your network, it is important to have adequate travel medical coverage.
Your Health Insurance plan may not cover you Internationally. If you are traveling abroad it is important to check with your insurance plan to see what (if any) coverage you have in case of emergencies. Medicare generally does not cover internationally.
Your insurance plan may not cover emergency evacuation. When researching the best travel plan for our upcoming trip to the Cayman Islands, I discovered our employer-sponsored health insurance will cover us for emergency care worldwide. This was great to find out! However, the representative explained our policy did not include emergency evacuation back to the states. They would only pay up to $500 for transportation to the nearest facility. In most cases this is probably ok, however, medical air evacuation can cost $25,000 (or more) which may not be covered by standard health insurance. Emergency evacuation is especially important when traveling to remote areas with poor medical facilities.
Some Travel Insurance plans cover both Travel Medical AND Trip Cancellation. Have piece-of-mind when you book your beach vacation during hurricane season or if you experience an emergency just before your trip. We usually book our beach trips during off season (hurricane season) to save money. Because we know there is a chance of a weather-related cancellation, we always purchase a policy that includes both medical and trip cancellation. Be careful to review covered reasons and policy rules before purchasing.
Tip: Decide which features are most important to your family before purchasing Travel Medical Insurance. For us, we look for plans that include pre-existing conditions, emergency medical evacuation, and standard scuba diving coverage. By standard we mean, non-extreme; recreational diving up to 100 feet with a certified dive master.
Just a few days before taking the above picture our “Superman” was struck with a severe ear and sinus infection. A quick trip to the Urgicare got him back to enjoying our vacation. Delaying care due to cost concerns may have resulted in longer downtime.
Travel Medical Plans:
GeoBlue – We have purchased the GeoBlue Voyager Plan for several international trips because it was a great price for the coverage received and met our requirements. The cost for one week for our entire family was around $70 and included pre-existing coverage, medical evacuation, and scuba diving (with some limitations). We have not submitted claims to GeoBlue, however, they have great reviews from other customers regarding ease of claim processing. GeoBlue also offers long term Expat plans for citizens living abroad. Pros: 24-hour phone/internet support, large provider directory for most destinations, and cost effective. Cons: International travel only, requires a primary health care plan, and does not include anything other than travel medical/medical evacuation. At the time of this post, GeoBlue is rated A+ by the BBB.
Travel Insured International – World Wide Trip Protector Plan. We purchased this plan for our month long trip to St. Croix, USVI. The cost was $288 ($144/adult, one child insured free with each adult policy). This plan covered our list of required features including trip cancellation & interruption, up to $100,000 in accident/medical, and emergency medical evacuation. The pre-existing condition exclusion was waived because we purchased the plan within 21 days of our initial trip payment. The plan also covered Scuba Diving, as long as the divers are certified and diving with a dive master not exceeding 120 feet. Unfortunately, our vacation started out with an immediate trip to the Urgicare. At the Urgicare we found out our primary health insurance covered the visit and prescriptions with our regular copay. After our trip, we submitted the out of pocket costs via email and were reimbursed for our entire out of pocket copay within about two weeks. Pros: Combo medical/trip insurance plan, easy claim submission, one child included with each adult plan. Cons: More expensive, however, provides additional trip and medical coverage. At the time of this post, Travel Insured International is rated A+ by the BBB.
Allianz – Classic Plan with Trip Plus. We purchased this plan for our recent vacation to the Cayman Islands. The Cost was $214 for two weeks of coverage ($107/adult, kids insured free with each adult policy). This plan includes our required features; trip cancellation & interruption, up to $50,000 in accident/medical, and emergency medical evacuation. The price was $44 less than the online quote from Travel Insured International. The policy includes preexisting conditions when purchased within 14 days of the initial trip deposit and covers standard scuba diving with a dive master. Now that we know our primary health insurance will cover emergency visits worldwide, we no longer pay for additional emergency medical coverage; our primary concern is ensuring emergency evacuation coverage. Last year we purchased this plan for our Florida family vacation. During our trip, three of us contracted strep throat. We visited the local Urgicare listed as a preferred provider for our primary insurance. After our trip, we submitted all three copays & medication receipts online and received a check for all out of pocket costs within 2 weeks. In this case, our refund received was more than the original cost of the plan. Pros: Combo medical/trip insurance, easy claim submission, children included with adult plans, medical evacuation up to 1 million dollars, slightly less expensive than the Travel Insured World Wide Plus Plan. Cons: less emergency medical coverage (up to $50,000 versus $100,000 with the Travel Insured comparable plan). At the time of this post, Allianz is rated 9.1/10 on consumersadvocate.org.
Travelex – Travel Select Plan. The Travel Select Plan seems comparable to the plans listed above. It includes trip cancellation & interruption, up to $50,000 in accident/medical, and emergency medical evacuation. When purchased within 21 days of the initial trip deposit the plan also has a pre-existing condition waiver. A recent online quote for two weeks to the Cayman Islands came in at $174 ($87/adult, one child insured free with adult policy). However, this plan excludes coverage for recreational diving. Since that is one of our required features we did purchase this policy. Pros: A little less expensive than comparable plans from other companies. Cons: Lacked one of our required features. However, this plan could be an option for non-scuba diving adventures. At the time of this post, Travelex is rated 9.3/10 on ConsumersAdvocate.org.
World Nomads – Explorer Plan. A recent online quote for two weeks in the Cayman Islands came in at $330 for the entire family. It includes both emergency medical and evacuation and adventure sports such as scuba diving; however, pre-existing conditions are not covered so this plan did not meet our required features for purchase. Pros: Includes trip cancellation & interruption as well as emergency medical up to $100,000 and evacuation up to $500,000. Cons: More expensive than other quoted plans and does not include a pre-existing condition waiver. At the time of this post, World Nomads is rated 9.2/10 on ConsumersAdvocate.org.
Tips for ensuring the best coverage if you get sick during travel:
- Contact your primary insurance in advance to find out what coverage they provide at your specific destination. Pick the best Travel Medical Insurance plan that covers any “gaps” for your particular needs.
- Take a list of preferred providers for both your primary insurance (if applicable) and travel medical insurance in case you experience a medical emergency during your trip. Most insurance companies have a “provider finder” tool on their website.
- If you have a serious emergency during travel, such as a heart attack, contact the local emergency (911 or equivalent) and go to the closest hospital. As soon as you are stable or when your travel partner has a chance, call both your primary insurance and travel insurance company to notify them of your emergency. In some cases, your travel insurance will arrange for payment up front if needed or direct you to the closest appropriate medical center for further treatment.
- If your medical issue is non-urgent (as in the case of our strep throat), take a few minutes to call or look online for your policy’s preferred urgent care provider near your location. Most travel insurance companies offer a 24-hour travel medical hotline. They should be able to help you find a covered provider at most destinations.
- If your emergency requires hospitalization, keep in contact with your insurance company(s) as they may require preauthorization for some services.
- Understand your travel policy rules and exclusions before purchasing. It is important to know what is covered and what is not covered before you take your trip.
*This post is not meant to replace specific policy information provided by your insurance plan. When purchasing travel medical insurance it is important to read and understand your coverage prior to purchase.