Travel Insurance – No Wonder It's a Mystery

Written by admin on January 22, 2007 – 3:18 pm -

Do you worry  about travel insurance and its intricacies?  People want to know about the following:  trip cancellation coverage (for myriad reasons), what if they become sick while traveling, repatriation insurance (you can’t blame someone for wanting to be home if struck by a major illness) and/or insurance coverage if they’re too ill to be transported home. These questions are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you think there are easy answers, try Googling “trip insurance.” You’ll be amazed by the number (more than 50,000) of Internet Sites that pop up. Some policies are clearly better than others — it’s a question of defining your specific needs.

If you’re a road warrior, it’s probable your employer has a blanket insurance policy. If not, before signing the contract, stipulate that you require it in your benefits’ package. Travel insurance is not a perk; rather, it’s a necessity; read the fine print. You don’t want to be stuck in a country where the medical facilities are less than optimal only to find out you’re not covered for any and all situations. Giving your all for your job is one thing; dying is another.

If travelers become sick – and I don’t mean a cold — will the policy: pay for hospital costs abroad; transport for a family member to be with them; upgrade patients from tourist class to business class, if indicated, once they’ve recuperated and are well enough to return home? One friend recently broke his leg while vacationing in New Zealand and was required to have immediate surgery then and there. The insurance policy not only paid for an airline upgrade, but for a nurse to accompany his wife and him back to the U.S.  The company took care of all of the arrangements and the nurse ran interference at airports, insuring wheelchairs and porters were on hand to expedite the New Zealand – Washington, DC voyage.  When someone is in medical extremis, it shouldn’t be expected that the person or the family can anticipate all of the factors entailed in such a trip.
The insurance was expensive but cost nothing compared to what AIG (American International Group) had to fork over to get the patient home. In addition, it paid for their having to prolong a trip that certainly didn’t end up as a vacation.

If doctors in your country of residence, as well as the country you are visiting, all agree you’re too sick to be moved and the operation must to be done ASAP, will the insurance policy cover the cost of the surgery without your being out-of-pocket until you do the paperwork?  If you’re in a place where medical facilities aren’t adequate, can you be jetted to the closest first-rate medical center?  If you’re forced to miss work, will you receive any compensation?

Some issues to consider before enrolling (and we cannot stress enough, again: read the fine print!):

  • Do you need trip insurance for one trip or for multiple ones?  Your answer to this will dictate what type of policy is needed.
  • Are you traveling as an individual or as a family?
  • Do you need trip insurance if you get sick before the trip; or if a member of your family (such as a parent) falls ill or whose physical situation deteriorates?
  • If you’re over a certain age (75 is usually the cut-off), travel insurance will cost substantially more and undoubtedly will require a physical exam. Pre-existing conditions may be excluded. You’ll find you’re paying a lot of money in the event you break your leg. Buyer beware.
  • Will you be in a country for more than a month and require quasi-expat insurance?  Will the insurance company pay for translation service and/or send you abroad with a medical dossier?
  • Are you insured for evacuation in the event of a terrorist threat?
  • Under what conditions, will and won’t a medical jet land in specific countries?

Where and how to find insurance:

Check with your credit card company(ies) and see what’s included if you buy a plane ticket using a specific card.  For example, Starwood Platinum American Express charges those who have enrolled in its insurance program a fee that covers insurance situations and pays a hefty premium in the event of death.  This holds true when renting a car.

Study your existing medical policy and see what it includes (and does not include) if you’re out of the country. Ditto for your car insurance coverage.

Credit cards offer myriad premiums –it’s worth a call to the issuing company; and, yes, again, read the fine print on the flyers that many people toss in the trash which accompany newly issued pieces of plastic.

If you’re reserving via a booking service or travel agency, many offer cancellation policies and/or trip insurance.  It’s another way of generating income and, if needed, is a blessing.

Three recommended insurance sites are:
Med Jet Assist

I keep a Med Jet Assist policy going at all times. I hope I’ll never have to make use of it. But it’s cheap considering the peace of mind it creates.

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