• International Insurance Blog

  • Wednesday, August 23, 2017

One frequently asked question in connection with international travel health insurance is this: If medical care is most expensive in the United States, I know I’ll probably be paying less when I get treated abroad anyway. Why should I even bother with travel insurance?

The answer lies in the very nature of a travel health insurance policy. No one expects to break the bank for a visit to the doctor because of a common cold, and you can manage that without insurance. Travel insurance is meant for sudden conditions that result in major unforeseen expenses. When abroad, there are several illnesses and conditions that might rear their ugly heads, some of them costing thousands of dollars to treat. If the condition is not treatable at the local hospital, then insurance will provide for your medical evacuation as well.

For example, if an uninsured traveler to Singapore is in a car accident, major surgery and other expenses will be involved. The trip will likely have to be postponed, and expenses related to the cancellation of tickets and hotel rooms will also have to borne by the traveler.

In this situation, international travel insurance can help protect the plan holder against a big hole in the pocket. It is, however, a good idea to find out how expensive medical care is in your destination country, in order to determine the level of coverage and deductible to choose. Traveling without insurance, however, is not an idea worth considering.
While most international travel insurance plans are short-term plans, long-term plans are useful for specific kinds of travelers. We looked at short-term insurance in the article, "The Long and Short of International Insurance-I." Long-term insurance plans, on the other hand, are meant for people with longer stays in a foreign country, and usually provide more coverage.

Long-term international insurance can usually be purchased for durations over three months. Since it is meant for a longer term, people who avail of this type of insurance are typically those taking longer trips, or expatriates. Some international student insurance plans also come under long-term international insurance.

Some of the additional benefits that long-term insurance offers include maternity, and some coverage for pre-existing conditions, typically after one year of continuous coverage. Plans also offer eye and dental care. These benefits are in addition to the usual coverage: inpatient and outpatient care, emergency care, accidental death and dismemberment, and repatriation of remains.

Whether you choose long-term insurance or short-term insurance depends on many factors--prime among them being the duration of your travel, and the type of travel that you will be undertaking. As a general rule, if you're thinking in terms of "visiting" a country, short-term insurance will probably suffice, and if you are thinking of "living in" a country, then you're probably looking for long-term insurance.

International health insurance plans are a complex maze, and can be especially bewildering to immigrants. Students, in particular, are amazed at the different options and plans available to cover almost any event. One area of confusion is between short-term travel insurance and long-term travel insurance, and the implications of both types of insurance.

Short-term insurance and long-term travel insurance plans do not just differ in the ideal duration of coverage. There are short-term plans available for up to three years, and long-term insurance for even six months! The difference lies in the kind of coverage you need, and the stage of life you are in.

Let’s take a look at short-term insurance. It is primarily meant as a stop-gap insurance plan, when a person has, or is soon expecting, adequate coverage. It is meant to safeguard against costs arising from sudden or unexpected events, and as a result, is very popular for travel insurance, and study abroad insurance.

Usually, short-term insurance plans do not cover pre-existing conditions and planned medical care, thus excluding pregnancy, regular dental and eye care, and periodic checkups. They cover emergency medical care, outpatient and inpatient care, and in the case of travel insurance, evacuation and repatriation of remains. Some popular short-term insurance plans include VisitUSA, Atlas America, and Visitors Care Insurance.
International travel insurance is an important part of international travel, no matter what your destination is. Recently, in an Indian forest, one tourist died and another was injured when an elephant they were trying to photograph was apparently startled by the camera’s flash, and trampled them.

The news not just underscores the need for travel insurance, but also the need for prudence when traveling abroad, especially in case of wildlife tourism. In many parts of the world, wildlife tourism is not well regulated, and it is wise to trust common sense.

When wildlife tourism will be a part of your trip, verify that injuries sustained during wildlife safaris will be covered. Most policies will cover these. It is also important that you know more about the destination and the habitat there. Locals are often the best sources of information, but remember that the dollar might exert a strong influence on their opinion. Always heed official warnings if any. Check the credentials of tour operators and guides.

Display responsible behavior when visiting national parks and forests. Remember that you are invading the animals’ space, and might be treated as intruders. Where the official warnings differ from that of the locals, err on the side of caution. It is better to be a few pictures short and alive, than dead with a memory card full of pictures.
We live in an ever-shrinking world. A journey of a day can take us to the farthest corner in the world. Unfortunately, all this technological advancement means that humans can act as carriers to many kinds of germs and disease-carrying microbes.

A pandemic that started in one part of the world is still threatening people living thousands of miles away in another part. People who have never visited any country outside their own too are at risk from those who did. What we need is an international travel health insurance plan that travels with us, and covers us wherever our journeys may take us; or stays with us if we live overseas for a longer period and still covers us there.

Students who came to study in a country other than their own often have to live with (or in spite of) the local germ population that they may not be immune to. They need an international student health insurance plan that covers their unplanned and usually unexpected medical expenditure.

We all need coverage from the unforeseen events that can often have irrecoverable effects. Health insurance is the easiest way of reducing the risk, or rather buying peace of mind in place of uncertainty.
One of the costliest parts of any medical treatment is the expense for time spent in an ICU (intensive care unit). Every day in the ICU might cost upwards of $1000 and in the final hospital bill it is usually the biggest component. If you would ever need to undergo an operation which requires such care, your international health insurance policy will cover it along with normal hospital room charges along with other expenditures. But, there are a few clauses and policy maximum limits.

The limits to intensive care are set differently in different policies. Some policies set a limit of a dollar amount, say 1 million dollars for intensive care (which is usually the policy limit itself). Such policies might have a limit to each individual component as the policy limit, which means all together cannot exceed a pre-declared fixed number.

There are other international medical insurance policies that set a daily limit, say $1500 per day for intensive care and $600 per day for hospital room. Along with this, there could be a limit on the number of days that can be spent in an ICU or a room, say 180 days or 240 days.

Understand the limits and limitations of a policy before signing on the dotted line, or clicking on the buy button. (Note: All numbers quoted are indicative figures used as examples, and not the actual limits. Limits vary from policy to policy)

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