What is Travel Health Insurance?
Most travelers do not consider the possibility of becoming ill or suffering an injury during their trips. However, illness and injury can and do happen. Travelers may find out the hard way that the insurance coverage which protects them at home is not valid abroad, or is inadequate to meet the needs of the situation.
Travel health insurance is designed to bridge any gaps between a person’s regular health insurance coverage and what may be needed when abroad.
Coverage for Hospital Treatment
In many foreign countries, travelers who are not citizens of that country are required to pay cash for medical services. Domestic policies often do not cover foreign hospital treatments (although students who are covered by their institutional health plans are often fully covered when engaged in programs such as study abroad).
When they do cover such treatment, the compensation is often issued as a reimbursement long after the hospital treatment is completed. Travel health insurance is designed to replace out-of-pocket payments for hospital treatment.
When a traveler becomes seriously injured or is ill with a condition which cannot be adequately treated in her location abroad, evacuation coverage will pay for the transportation of the traveler to a more well-equipped medical facility or to her home country.
Evacuation coverage also applies when political upheavals or natural disasters make it necessary to leave an overseas location right away. Without such coverage, evacuation costs are billed directly to the traveler. Such costs can be quite substantial.
If a traveler becomes seriously ill and must be hospitalized, an emergency reunion clause allows for one person of the traveler’s choice, such as a spouse, to be flown to the traveler’s location, with the expense paid by the policy.
The policy also pays for the return of the chosen person to accompany the ill traveler back to his home country, with the costs of the return ticket also covered by the policy.
Long Term Travel Insurance
For travelers who expect to be abroad for long periods, or perhaps permanently, long-term travel insurance is available. Such coverage is often necessary because domestic coverage plans expire or are canceled if the policyholder is located outside her home country for an extended period of time.
Long term-travel insurance covers most customary medical costs, such as hospitalization, prescriptions and routine care when travelers are located in a foreign country. Like short-term travel health insurance, long-term health coverage is designed to prevent the necessity of paying for medical expenses out of pocket.
Depending on the policy, travel health insurance may require the policyholder to have a valid domestic policy before a plan will be issued. In any event, travel health insurance is not valid inside the policyholder’s home country except in rare exceptions. Some travel health insurance policies also cover the return of a minor child.
Other plans include incidental coverage for trip cancellation and lost luggage. In the unfortunate event of death while abroad, many travel health insurance policies cover the return of the body of the deceased to the home country for burial.