Packing for your summer vacation means finding room for all the essentials. One that many might forget is travel health insurance. 

Now, keep in mind that trip insurance and travel insurance are very different. Trip insurance, usually purchased from your agent or online booking site, insures you against loss for having to cancel or postpone your trip. Travel insurance, or international health insurance, insures you against loss for health emergency or accidental injury while traveling abroad. Most group or individual health plans offered in California have no coverage beyond U.S. borders. Some Medicare supplements do have a $50,000 lifetime coverage for international accidental injury, but this coverage may not be enough and may be somewhat difficult to use. This coverage is also limited to pay just what Medicare would have approved and covered if the condition happened in the U.S. 

Travel insurance covers many costs we might not think of in an emergency: medical evacuation (medically supervised flight home), family visitation (flight for family member to see you if you are confined to a foreign hospital alone), even repatriation of remains if the insured dies overseas. 

While health care costs in many countries are less than here at home, they are rising. It is becoming common to now see foreign hospital stays in the tens of thousands. So what should you look for in an international health plan? 

  • A 24-hour help line or app that can assist in quickly receiving medical attention. 
  • Contracted doctors and hospitals at your destination that will bill your insurance, reducing the upfront costs to you and avoiding having to wait for a claim reimbursement.
  • Downloadable policy and ID card, often necessary to enter some countries.
  • Medical evacuation to your home airport, not just nearest U.S. port. 
  • The option of multi-trip coverage, which can greatly reduce your per-day cost.

Finally, be aware that every international health insurance plan will have specific countries that they will not cover and may have sports activities that are excluded. For instance, one client specified that he wanted to be covered while cliff diving in Mexico. We soon discovered this is specifically prohibited on every policy we have seen. 

At an average cost of $10 per day, travel health insurance is worth considering as an essential part of your next summer vacation. 

Randy Foulds of Foulds Health Insurance Agency is an independent broker and Medicare specialist in La Quinta (license #0G69218). He can be reached at (760) 346.6565. This is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional advice.

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