What is Travel Health Insurance?

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  • Written By: L. Burgoon
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 02 March 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Travel health insurance covers medical emergencies that occur on a trip. Usually designed for travel abroad, some people purchase the policies when their own health insurance coverage does not extend to international locations. The insurance provides benefits for events such as hospitalization, emergency medical care, or airlifting. As added incentives, some plans also have death benefits and provide coverage for emergency return trips to one’s home country. Travel health insurance may be purchased through insurance firms and tourism businesses.

Many travel health insurance plans do not provide coverage when the subscriber is out of his or her home country. Such limitations prompt some travelers abroad to purchase health coverage that will cover major medical expenses. These plans usually are temporary and last the length of one trip. Policies often require the traveler to pay upfront for costs and seek reimbursement from the insurance company by filing claims afterward.

Basic travel health insurance covers emergency care expenses. For example, if a traveler from Canada breaks her arm during a trip to the U.S., the policy usually will cover emergency room costs, x-rays, physician fees, and possibly costs for the cast. In more serious accidents, the insurance generally pays for surgical fees as well as limited hospital stays. Airlifting to another hospital or to a medical center in the person’s home country sometimes is covered as well.


Travel medical insurance also protects against sudden and serious illnesses that occur abroad. As with injuries, benefits for illnesses generally include examination costs, doctor fees, and related expenses. Policies usually exclude illness that results from an existing condition.

Competition can be fierce in the travel health insurance market, so some firms offer additional benefits unrelated to health care to woo customers. For example, policies may provide funds for emergency evacuation prompted by political upheaval. Some firms also pay out money when a death occurs while traveling abroad. A death benefit usually covers costs such as transporting the body back to the home country or last minute travel expenditures should a family member die while the subscriber is abroad.

It is equally important to know what is not protected by travel health insurance. Most international health insurance plans will not pay for non-emergency services. Elective procedures, such as plastic surgery in another country, are for example almost never covered under such policies. Routine care and health screenings also are excluded by most plans. Some policies will not provide protection to travelers visiting areas deemed dangerous or for extreme activities such as bungee jumping or skydiving.

Travelers may purchase international health coverage through online insurance firms. Travel agencies also facilitate purchase for their clients. Those interested in travel health insurance also should check terms of their credit card; sometimes coverage is already included in credit card benefits.

Rates for insurance are based on several factors. Costs considerations include the length of a trip and the countries visited. Other determinants are the traveler’s medical history and age.



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