What is travel medical insurance?
Travel medical insurance is a specific subset of travel insurance that pays for medical care and treatment you receive while you are traveling.
This type of travel coverage is crucial if you want to protect yourself from mishaps relating to illness and bodily injury while away from home.
Typically, travel health insurance is used for trips out of the country, but can also be useful if you are traveling domestically and are concerned about health coverage.
Even if you have health insurance at home or you are on Medicare, you’ll need travel medical insurance if you want coverage for care outside the U.S. The costs of medical treatment can vary around the world. Coming home with an exceptionally high bill for the care you received while away is not something most people will want to deal with after a trip abroad.
Keep in mind, you can typically purchase travel health insurance as part of a comprehensive travel insurance plan, but it’s also possible to buy travel health insurance as a standalone policy.
Common types of travel medical insurance
There are different levels of medical coverage depending on the plan and company that you choose.
Here is a list of common types of travel medical insurance and the differences between them.
General travel medical insurance
As we have already mentioned, general travel medical insurance aims to pay for care relating to a medical emergency you have away from home. This could be an illness or an injury, and coverage will pay for treatment and medical care either way. Some items included with this type of plan are hospitalization, emergency room treatment, X-rays, emergency dental care, and more.
Medical evacuation insurance
Medical Evacuation Insurance pays for your transportation for medical care. This could include a pricey trip in an airplane or a helicopter, or even an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital or clinic. In some cases, evacuation coverage will pay for transportation to your home country for treatment. This coverage differs from general travel medical insurance as some general plans do not cover transportation or evacuation to a hospital. If you only travel in your own country and don’t plan on participating in extreme sports during your vacation it is worth comparing cheaper travel insurance.
International health insurance
International health insurance is a type of coverage geared toward expats and travelers who are consistently away from home. This coverage can pay for emergency medical treatment as well as preventative care. Since it includes preventative care, it essentially takes the place of health insurance while abroad. An example of people who may find this useful is an expat living abroad or a student studying in a foreign country.
Single vs. multi-trip insurance
Also, note that you can purchase single-trip or multi-trip travel medical insurance plans. Where a single-trip plan can work well if you only have one major trip to plan for, multi-trip coverage in annual trip insurance works well for travelers who have several trips planned in a single year.
As you shop for a medical insurance policy that will work for your next trip, consider all the types of coverage that fall within this category.
What is covered by travel health insurance?
The answer to this question depends on your plan and the insurance provider.
That said, the lists below show common situations and treatments that typically are covered by travel insurance plans and ones that are not:
Here is a list of what’s typically covered by travel medical insurance:
- Broken bones
- Emergency dental procedures
- Emergency medical evacuation
- Emergency room visits and treatment
- Heart attacks
- Repatriation of remains
- Urgent care visits
Here is a list of what’s typically not covered by travel health insurance:
- Pre-existing conditions (unless approved and authorized for the plan)
- Routine and preventative care (unless approved and authorized for the plan)
- Treatments for chronic medical conditions
- Regular dental care
Does travel medical insurance cover Coronavirus?
Since the pandemic, the vast majority of travel insurance plans now include COVID-19 coverage as they would cover treatment of any other illness. This means that coronavirus treatment is typically included when it comes to medical coverage.
That said, it’s important to read over the inclusions and exclusions listed in the travel medical plans you’re considering. Some plans offer more coverage than others. One example is lost expenses relating to an unexpected quarantine. However, regarding medical care for COVID-19, you should most certainly be covered.
If you have questions or doubts, it’s a good idea to contact your insurance provider to find out for sure.
How much does travel medical insurance cost?
The cost of travel medical insurance varies as some travel medical plans have much higher coverage limits than others.
Also, plans can apply for different lengths of time which can affect the overall cost.
To give you an idea of how much travel health insurance costs, we put together a small study and got quotes for trip insurance covering two 45-year-olds traveling to France for two weeks in September of 2023.
Here are some of the travel medical insurance quotes we received for a 14-night trip:
|Travel Insurance Company
||Estimated Plan Costs
||$67.50 to $101.62
To provide another example, we also applied for quotes for two 65-year-olds traveling to India for two weeks in September of 2023.
Here are some of the travel medical insurance quotes we received for this 14-night trip:
|Travel Insurance Company
||Estimated Plan Costs
||$178.12 to $306.76
Factors that determine cost
The charts above show the average cost of travel health insurance for two different trips, but it’s important to note that each plan we profiled comes with a different breadth of coverage and limits, making them difficult to compare.
For this reason, we overwhelmingly recommend the use of a comparison tool like the one found on our site.
With that in mind, here is a list of the factors that typically influence the cost of travel medical coverage:
- Age of travelers
- Length of trip
- Coverage limits for medical expenses
- Coverage limits for emergency medical evacuation
- Other included benefits & add-ons
Do I need travel medical insurance?
In our opinion, buying travel medical insurance (as a minimum coverage) is a “no-brainer”.
Especially for senior citizens, travel medical insurance is the most important coverage to look for. Read more about our top selections for senior travel insurance.
We think it’s crucial to purchase travel medical insurance when you leave your home country, whether you are planning a backpacking trip through Europe or simply traveling across the border for a weekend in a neighboring country. You shouldn’t take it for granted that you will be safe.
Overseas medical treatment can easily cost tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Imagine as an example you break a bone or suffer a heart attack during your trip. Imagine if you need emergency medical evacuation in a helicopter from a remote area or even from somewhere more commonplace, such as from the middle of a highway.
Not having medical coverage can leave you paying bills and expenses for any and all care you receive while away.
When you don’t have travel medical insurance in place, you have no protection from sudden and unexpected costs required to help you recover or save your life in an emergency. For this reason, we think it’s best to expect the unexpected and purchase medical coverage before leaving on a trip.
Tips for choosing travel health insurance
How do you use travel medical insurance?
The process involved in using travel medical insurance varies from company to company.
However, you should check whether you need approval for some types of medical care before you receive it. Almost all policies also require you to get prior authorization for emergency medical evacuation, and they offer a hotline your hospital can call for this purpose.
Most travel medical plans pay for the care you receive directly, although you may wind up paying for some of your treatment upfront and then asking for reimbursement from your travel insurance provider.
Before you invest in travel medical coverage, make sure you understand the process of the insurer, what is and isn’t covered in your plan, and when you need to get treatment pre-approved before you receive it.