What is travel medical insurance?

Few people embark on a trip thinking that they might need medical attention while they are traveling. But the reality is, accidents happen and you may suffer illness or injury while you’re away. Whether you’re on an international trip or traveling domestically, you don’t want to find yourself in need of urgent medical treatment without access to adequate medical coverage. That’s why it’s vital to buy travel medical insurance before you set out on a trip, no matter where you’re going.

Travel medical insurance is coverage you take out for a defined period of time while on a trip, and is intended to cover unforeseen medical emergencies, not preventative or routine care. It’s usually bought in addition to your primary health insurance coverage. That’s because many health insurance companies don’t provide coverage outside the U.S., and some health insurance providers won’t cover you if you seek care outside of your usual network, even within the U.S.

Travel medical insurance coverage can be included as part of a more comprehensive travel insurance plan. The custom policy that’s right for you will depend on the nature of your trip and what scenarios you want coverage for. You can customize a battleface policy to also include cover for trip cancellation, delays, or trip interruption.

Why do I need travel medical insurance?

Every country’s medical care system is different. And it’s true that in some destinations you might be able to pay out of pocket at an affordable rate for any medical expenses incurred while traveling. But that is certainly not something you should bank on.

If you are in a road accident, break a bone, experience some kind of illness or injury, or require emergency medical evacuation, the cost of paying for medical expenses out of pocket in some countries could leave you with a bill of tens of thousands of dollars. Even worse, you may not be able to access life-saving treatment if you can’t prove you’re covered and have a way to pay for your care. Some countries can deny you entry if you can’t prove you have an adequate travel medical insurance plan for the duration of your stay.

The longer your trip lasts, the greater the potential for you to incur emergency medical expenses when traveling. And if you are participating in any adventure or extreme sports during your trip — such as skiing, mountain biking, or scuba diving — these activities increase the potential for accidents to take place.

Travel medical insurance provides comprehensive coverage, from minor injury or illness, to a medical emergency such as a stroke or heart attack. In some serious cases, you may need to be airlifted to the closest well equipped medical facility, or even flown home in an air ambulance. That’s where emergency medical evacuation coverage comes into play. The cost of medical transport home, or to a hospital, can easily be tens of thousands of dollars – sometimes $100,000 or more.

Even if your normal healthcare provider or insurance company does provide some coverage in the country you’ve traveled to, an additional travel medical insurance plan can help lower the overall cost you may end up paying and function as secondary coverage. Simply put, buying travel medical insurance gives you peace of mind so you can relax and enjoy the trip you’ve been looking forward to for so long.

24-hour medical assistance

International travel medical coverage — either as part of a comprehensive policy or on its own — can help you access medical assistance 24 hours a day. If you need foreign language help, or need assistance finding a doctor or the best medical facility in an unfamiliar place, most travel medical insurance providers will have a helpline or travel assistance services that can help you at any time of day or night. This is hugely reassuring and could prove vital if you are confronted with a medical emergency when you are traveling.

How much does travel medical insurance cost?

Travel medical insurance plans vary and the cost will depend on the provider and plan that you choose. However, on average you can expect travel medical insurance costs to be around 4-8% of your total trip cost, depending on your age, and the cost and specifics of your trip.

The coverage you get will vary. For example, battleface offers reimbursement for appropriate medical care related to unforeseen injury and sickness costing up to $500,000. Routine, preventative, or elective care will not be considered eligible medical expenses. Only emergency medical costs that are unforeseen and require urgent attention are considered covered reasons.

Keep in mind that in many cases, you may need to pay for your unexpected medical costs incurred abroad up front. If that’s the case, your travel medical insurance provider should reimburse you once you file a valid claim, but it’s best practice to notify them as soon as you can if you need to seek medical care. They can assist before you seek treatment by referring you to one of their recommended medical providers.

In other rare cases — such as when emergency medical evacuation is required — your provider may arrange and pay for care on your behalf. This will depend on the situation and your provider, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with your plan before departure, as well as any requirements or exclusions for making a successful claim. You don’t want to be wading through policy documents in the midst of an unexpected medical emergency trying to figure out what eligible expenses are.

Also keep in mind that should you need to seek treatment and then make a claim, you will likely have to pay a deductible, or an amount that won’t be reimbursed. Some providers may offer different deductibles; the battleface Discovery plan has a $0 deductible.

What if I have a pre-existing medical condition?

Some people assume that if they have a pre-existing medical condition that makes them more likely to seek medical care while traveling, they can’t take out travel health insurance separate from their primary health plan. That’s not necessarily the case, depending on which travel insurance provider you choose.

For example, battleface offers a pre-existing medical condition waiver, which means if you meet certain purchase requirements, such as buying your policy within 15 days of initial trip deposit, and insuring your full trip cost, you can still take out travel medical insurance to cover you for unexpected illness and injury on your trip, including pre-existing conditions.

Travel medical insurance: vital for any trip

All in all, the procedure of purchasing travel medical insurance should make you confident in the knowledge that you’re fully prepared should you become ill or suffer a medical emergency on your trip. You will also know how to contact assistance services quickly and easily if things take a turn for the worse.

Travel medical insurance, whether you buy it on its own or as part of a comprehensive travel insurance policy, is always a worthwhile investment.

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