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What are the Different Types of Medical Travel Insurance?

Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Medical travel insurance helps travelers pay for health care costs incurred while away from home. The main types of medical travel insurance include short and multi-trip travel medical insurance and major medical insurance. Short and multi-trip medical plans cover emergency care for travelers who become sick or injured during their journeys. Major medical insurance for travelers is suitable for those who plan to be abroad for six months or more and offers more comprehensive coverage, including routine wellness care. Other types of coverage include evacuation insurance and specialized policies for those engaging in athletic competitions or high-risk activities.

Travel medical insurance is designed for the casual or business traveler who will be out of the country for less than six months, and policies can be issued for a single trip or for a period of time that can include multiple trips in and out of the traveler's home country. There are different levels of coverage available with this type of medical travel insurance, so it's a good idea for travelers to review available policies to make sure that they're getting the kind of coverage they need.

Major medical travel insurance is an option for those who will be overseas for a long duration of time. This type of insurance is more like standard health insurance and covers examinations as well as emergency and long-term medical treatment. For travelers who have their own health insurance, either type of travel medical insurance can be a good way of supplementing their regular insurance and reducing out-of-pocket costs if they become ill or injured while traveling. Medical travel insurance will usually pay up front for overseas medical care, while standard health insurance policies often require the traveler to pay for his care and then submit his bill for reimbursement after he gets home.

Travelers should always check with their insurance company to find out what kind of coverage they have while traveling. In the United States, for example, Medicare does not provide any coverage for those who travel outside the country. Travelers should also find out if their insurance will even be honored in the country where they plan to visit. Travelers should also ask about evacuation insurance. If a traveler becomes sick while traveling and needs to be brought home or to a hospital for treatment, the cost of evacuation can be substantial, making evacuation insurance an important add-on to a travel insurance policy.

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Discussion Comments

By MrSmirnov — On Nov 20, 2011

Does anyone know if you can find international travel insurance that helps cover the cost of getting procedures covered abroad?

My regular medical insurance in the US is just not going to cut it with the work that I need done, and I have found that in Thailand I can get comparable medical treatment for a fraction of the cost, even when taking airfare and accommodation into consideration. I would love if my travel insurance covered medical conditions I already have, but we all know that is a bit much to ask for. I am wondering if there is a way though I can help everyone save money by doing my treatments abroad?

By lonelygod — On Nov 19, 2011

There are things to be said for cheap travel insurance. I used to pay for a package of international travel medical insurance that covered just about everything, and found that it just wasn't worth the investment. I have never even gotten hurt while traveling, so I think the best way to go is get the real emergency stuff covered.

Now my insurance is pretty straightforward, I have emergency evacuation coverage if something horrible goes wrong, and hospital coverage for an extended stay, plus a death benefits for my family. Anything else I take care of myself. In most of the countries I have been to I can see a doctor for under $10 and get prescriptions filled for even less.

By nony — On Nov 19, 2011

@Mammmood - I lived overseas for four years and never had any travel health insurance. I taught at a school and so I think they handled all of that. That was one of the perks of the job I had.

I would say that if you live overseas or even travel for a long period of time, you should definitely have some system in place. Anything can happen, especially in countries that don’t have the kind of health system in place that we do.

Where I lived, sickness was in the air because of poor sanitary conditions and so it was important that I went to the doctor from time to time for routine checkups.

By Mammmood — On Nov 19, 2011

The only thing I would wonder about medical travel insurance coverage is how easy it would be to submit a claim while you were overseas, or how long it would take for the insurance company to reimburse the claim.

I’ve lived in developing countries where even using the phone system to make international phone calls was a hassle, and the country had its own mire of red tape and regulations to get even the simplest tasks done.

I wonder if these global insurance companies could function as efficiently communicating with these countries. I suppose the policy would tell you what country the policy would be honored in and so they should have systems in place to facilitate claims processing.

I am also guessing that with the Internet, most companies would prefer online claims processing. That’s good, again so long as the Internet connection functions well in the developing country.

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