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What To Look For In A Travel Insurance Policy

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Many policies are sold as "travel health insurance" when all they offer is trip interruption and cancellation, medical transport/evacuation benefits and telephone advice lines but not actual travel health insurance.

As a person with a pre-existing medical condition, it is recommended that you only consider a travel insurance policy that:

  • Is underwritten by an insurance company. For example, insurance from a cruise line doesn't help if the cruise line goes bankrupt.
  • Does not exclude coverage for pre-existing medical conditions
    • Some policies exclude pre-existing conditions, but provide the option of waiving the clause for an additional premium. 
    • Watch for a provision which states that pre-existing conditions are excluded if the policy is not purchased within a particular number of days after making your first payment for the trip. 
  • Provides comprehensive health coverage, including services rendered by doctors and other health care providers and hospitals. 
    • This is especially important if you travel outside the U.S. 
    • Note that health insurance in travel insurance policies generally only covers the excess costs above what are paid for by your health insurance..
  • Provides medical evacuation (a provision which pays for an ambulance, medical helicopter or other transportation if you have to be transported for medical care.) This is particularly important if you are traveling to an undeveloped country or will not be need an appropriate level of medical care. In some cases, coverage may be for transport back to the U.S. if you are abroad.
  • Includes trip cancellation/interruption. This provision insures against the loss of your deposit or prepaid expenses if the trip is cancelled or interrupted because of one of the covered reasons. It is particularly important that the policy covers if:
    • You become injured or sick.
    • A family member dies.

Also consider whether you want coverage for any of the following:

  • Supplier default: This coverage reimburses you if the company you book your trip through goes out of business.
  • Baggage: Covers your belongings that are lost, stolen or damaged anytime during your trip. Airlines only cover baggage in their possession, and even then, only for a limited amount of money.
  • High-risk sports and activities: Some policies may not cover accidents and injuries related to certain high-risk sports and activities. Scuba diving is often listed as one of these risks.
  • Terrorism coverage: Reimburses if your specific destination becomes a terrorism target.
  • Hijacking or quarantining of you or the person traveling with you
  • If you are a teacher: Coverage in case the school year is extended beyond the date you are scheduled to leave for your trip.
  • If you are stranded at an airport because of a weather delay or cancellation. 
    • An insurer can help cover the costs of a hotel, meals and other incidental expenses up to a fixed dollar amount. Policies with this provision usually also provide access to a 24/7 assistance hotline which works with the airline to help keep rebook a flight, keep track of your luggage, and find a hotel room.
    • You cannot buy this coverage after learning that a storm is forecast. The coverage is only for "unforeseen events." 
  • Life insurance: Covers in the event of death or dismemberment while traveling. This is in addition to any other life insurance you may have.
  • Reparation of remains: Covers the cost of moving the insured's remains to the U.S. in the event of death while traveling.

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