Recent statistics reveal that only 30 percent of Americans carry additional health insurance when travelling abroad. What many of that other 70 percent don’t realize is that domestic health insurance policies generally don’t provide coverage outside of the country. In other words, if a traveller is in an accident or misplaces his/her medication, then they’re going to have to foot that bill out of pocket.
The purpose of travel health insurance is to manage that risk, but choosing the right travel insurance is not a simple, and it’s very common to overpay or to acquire insufficient coverage.
Current Health Insurance Providers
Before shopping around for travel insurance, it’s best to contact one’s current healthcare providers. The current policy may include or may have upgrade option for it, and if not, the provider may be able to connect their client with one of its international partners. It’s not unusual for European and North American insurance providers to have such agreements in place. The advantages of acquiring travel insurance through a current provider are as follows:
- Trust in the brand
- Reduced rates and other discounts
- Local service available
- Current provider can broker claims
- Other Current Insurance Providers
If a current health insurance provider cannot offer or arrange travel insurance, it may still be possible to acquire it through another insurance source. Ideally, a person should contact any and all current insurance providers before contacting an outside firm. Agents to contact include those that provide:
- Home insurance
- Vehicle insurance
- Life insurance
- Income protection insurance
- Choosing an Independent Provider
If those channels are exhausted without success, then it’s the right time to seek travel insurance with a new company. Even if a person is not a frequent traveller, they should perform this process with the goal of building a long-term business relationship with the provider.
It’s important to keep in mind that the majority of companies that provide travel health insurance for Americans abroad are internationally based. That means that it’s much more difficult to file claims and challenge unfair treatment, which makes it even more important to choose a company with great integrity.
When deciding where to buy travel insurance, consider the following points:
Travellers should ask family, friends and associates about positive and negative experiences with travel insurance and use that as a starting point. If someone you know has had a good experience, then you can have more faith in that company than those you call cold.
If a reference isn’t available, then challenge the company’s reputation. The Internet can be an invaluable resource. The Better Business Bureau in the U.S. also has a division for European companies. You can also call the Chamber of Commerce in the country where the provider is based.
Don’t settle for the first quote, but it’s not necessarily ideal to chase the lowest quote. Optimally, you should get quotes from at least three providers, and then use the average as an indication of a fair rate.
24/7 Assistance —
Don’t consider any travel insurance provider unless they provide around-the-clock customer service in English or your preferred language.
Coverage in Your Destinations —
Likewise, don’t assume that a provider provides coverage in all of your destinations. This is particularly important for travellers who will be visiting multiple countries. Create an itemized list of those countries, and have the provider sign off on each of them.
Preexisting Conditions —
As a general rule, travel health insurance will not cover preexisting conditions. Seek coverage, but if you cannot find it, then talk to your current provider to determine what your options are in the event of an emergency.
Cancellation Options —
The best way to purchase travel health insurance is to purchase it as far in advance as possible because the rates will be lower and you’ll be able to distribute the costs over a longer period. Since travel plans change, however, it’s important to know what your options are concerning cancellations, waivers and refunds.