Don't head abroad without being prepared. This is especially true when it comes to travel insurance. Many travelers get bogged down with the details of trying to insure their trips, and they make unnecessary mistakes. Today on GoAbroad, we bring you a guest post from Travel Insurance Review featuring some of the most common insurance mistakes made by students, volunteers, and interns abroad and how to avoid them.
Assuming You Have Coverage Already
Many travelers make the mistake of assuming that they have coverage already - either through their own health insurance at home or automatically through the travel program.
The fact is that many personal health insurance policies do not cover an insured traveler abroad and many student, volunteer, and work-abroad programs cover their own liability, but not the traveler’s medical care if they get sick or injured. Even when basic medical care is covered, there may be limitations for pre-existing medical conditions or hazardous sports that could mean the traveler has to pay their own bills.
Before you settle on your final plans to travel abroad, check the coverage you have now to find out what really is covered abroad. Travel medical insurance is actually one of the least expensive purchases that a traveler going abroad can make and it can cover you for all kinds of special circumstances too.
Buying Short-term When You Need Long-term
Sometimes you think you’re staying for a month or two and you decide to stay longer. Or, you decide that while you’re ‘across the pond’ you might as well visit a few more countries while you’re at it. It happens a lot.
If you purchased trip-only travel insurance, then your coverage ends on your scheduled return date. If you purchased a longer term plan, say a three-month, six-month plan, or annual plan, then it’s easy to re-enroll and extend your coverage for as long as you want to travel.
When you’re making your travel plans, think carefully about where you’re going and how you may feel at the end of your study, work or volunteer experience. If you will initially be gone longer than a month, consider purchasing a term policy that allows for easy, online renewals so you can extend your coverage if you decide to stay away from home longer than you originally expected.
No Coverage for Home Visits
Some travel insurance plans cover you for brief visits home, and some do not. If you retain your coverage back home, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you don’t then you won’t have medical care as soon as you land in your home country. That means a traffic accident on the way home from the airport could cost you thousands of dollars if not much more.
When you decide to travel abroad, take a good look at how long you’ll be gone, when you may be returning, and if you’ll be visiting home during your stay abroad. This will help you determine whether you need a travel insurance plan that will cover trips back home or not.
Even if you’ll be leaving the country and staying gone the entire duration of your stint abroad, if an emergency happens at home and you have to return to be with your family, you won’t have medical coverage unless you plan for it.
Buying Too Much (or too little) Medical and Evacuation
Many travel insurance plans offer a traveler extremely high (sometimes unnecessarily high) travel medical and medical evacuation coverage limits. Unfortunately, this simply adds to the cost of the premium and, in some case, those super-high limits are just no necessary. Buy too little coverage and you could be paying for years after you return home.
Find the ‘sweet-spot’ with your travel medical and evacuation coverage with these tips:
- How far are you going? The cost of medical care and emergency medical transportation is determined by a small set of factors: the patient’s condition and their location. Specifically, the cost of getting a patient with internal injuries off a remote mountain in Peru is going to cost more than a patient with food poisoning in Costa Rica.
- What medical care is available? In some countries, medical care - even that for travelers - is covered by the taxpayers of that country. Many are starting to require a traveler show insurance at the border, but for those that don’t they still expect you to pay for some of the costs. Having your own coverage means you won’t have to worry about those bills and if you travel between countries, your coverage goes with you.
- What’s your personal risk? Not all travelers are alike. Some are happy to sit and read books and others like the rush of back-country skiing on their time off. Of course, nearly every traveler is at risk of trying something new simply because they’re away from home.
- Where are you going? If you’re traveling to a location where specific medical risks are common, like malaria, yellow fever, or dengue, for example, then you’ll want to be sure you have coverage for those risks.
Combine all these factors with a little common sense. When it comes to an emergency medical evacuation, there are few that cost more than $100,000 or $150,000 so having a million dollars on hand for an evacuation isn’t necessary. When it comes to travel medical care, severe injuries or illnesses will cost more than mild ones no matter where you are, so give yourself a good minimum level of coverage using the factors listed above.
Forgetting to Read the Exclusions
Travel insurance, just like every other type of insurance, has exclusions that help limit their liability. Travel insurance plans are no different and understanding the exclusions is key to understanding how the plan works.
Here are a few examples of things travel insurance will never cover:
- Accidents caused by drinking or being otherwise under the influence
- Extreme behavior - jumping off bridges on bungee cords, for example
- Losses due to mental illness or suicide (yours and/or others)
- Medical tourism - traveling to a foreign country to receive medical care
It’s really important to sit down and read the insurance plan exclusions carefully so you can avoid misunderstandings and denied claims later.
Forgetting about a recent illness
If you’ve been to see a doctor for an illness, an injury, or a change in your regular medication within the 60-180 days prior to your scheduled trip departure, that will be considered a pre-existing condition. If you encounter a situation and need medical care during your trip, those medical claims may be denied due to the pre-existing medical condition.
If you, or someone close to you, has a pre-existing medical condition, then purchase travel insurance with special coverage for that circumstance. It may cost a little more, but you’ll have travel medical care covered on your trip and you can cancel or interrupt your trip and return home and still get reimbursed for your unused trip costs.
Buying the First Plan You See
These days, travelers are offered all kinds of trip protection options at every turn in the trip planning process, and while it may seem like you’re checking a necessary item off your list quickly, more people are disappointed by those plans than you can imagine.
No one plans on having to make a claim, but that’s the point of having insurance.
Take your time when purchasing an insurance plan to cover your trip. There are many plans available and you can find one that fits your needs.
Damian Tysdal founded Travel Insurance Review in 2006 on the belief that travel insurance should be easier to understand. See their travel insurance comparison tool to sort through the plans and qualify them based on the benefits you need at a price you can afford.