It seems that “Insurance is for pessimists’’ is the attitude of many people planning a vacation overseas. No one wants to dwell on the mishaps that might land you in a foreign hospital.
Travel insurance is worth considering, however. For a relatively modest outlay, you can buy coverage that protects you if you have to cancel before or during your trip because you, your traveling companions, or even a family member not traveling with you becomes ill and requires care. (These policies also cover cancellations for non-health-related reasons, such as a weather-caused flight delay that makes you miss a cruise.)
The policies cover prepaid expenses that an airline, hotel, cruise line, or other travel vendor does not refund if you must cancel. They typically also provide emergency medical/evacuation and a hotline to English-speaking physicians.
Coverage is available either for a set annual fee or on a per-trip basis, generally 5 to 7 percent of the price of a trip. Stripped-down policies provide only medical coverage and evacuation services.
“The driving force of a [comprehensive] plan is the cancellation coverage,’’ says Damian Tysdal, a travel insurance agent in Hingham. “You can get a good travel medical plan for $2 to $4 per day.’’
Although it’s highly unlikely you’ll need to be airlifted out of a country, it can be a devastating expense, often costing $50,000 or more.
Less dramatic emergencies can still send you to the hospital and ruin your trip.
Many people think their regular health insurance will cover them if they get into medical trouble overseas. Don’t bet on it. Some plans, such as those under the Blue Cross Blue Shield umbrella, give members access to networks of hospitals and physicians around the world. But a domestic health insurance plan generally covers only emergency care overseas. Members often have to pay upfront.
Medicare doesn’t cover care overseas, though some Medicare supplemental plans do. People in private Medicare Advantage plans may have access to some services outside the United States.
Travel insurance plans typically don’t cover care or reimburse expenses for a canceled trip if the problem is related to a medicalcondition you or your family members already suffer from. However, you can sidestep this problem.
“Most policies, if you purchase them within a set amount of time after booking your trip, will cover preexisting conditions, provided they’re under control,’’ says Linda Kundell, a spokeswoman for the US Travel Insurance Association. The time frame varies. Travelers who buy one of Travel Guard’s core retail plans, for example, are eligible for coverage of preexisting conditions if they buy insurance within 15 days of making their initial trip deposit. The preexisting condition coverage applies not only to the traveler but to family members at home who might become ill and need care.
The Washington Post. "Travel insurance can help ease the financial pain of medical emergency." The Daily Herald. 30 April, 2012.