After seven years of good luck health-wise while traveling around the world, I finally ended up in the hospital. And out of all places where my first ever hospitalization could of occurred, it ended up being a public hospital in Russia.
Fortunately, I came out the entire ordeal relatively unscathed, both physically and financially. However, the experience motivated me to research new travel health insurance options and spend the time calling companies and reading the fine print of different plans.
I wanted to purchase insurance which would pay for top notch care anywhere in the world. Since I am traveling outside the United States for the vast majority of a year, I also needed options that offered year long coverage, and did not just provide coverage for short trips.
There is a difference between trip insurance, which covers your trip costs in case your trip gets cancelled or interrupted (flights, lodgings, lost baggage, stolen items, etc), and health/medical insurance which covers seeing a doctor and hospital bills. Many companies combine both trip and health insurance together in their offers. The primary four main items which can be combined into a comprehensive travel insurance plans include:
- Health Insurance / Medical Expenses
- Emergency Evacuation
- Trip and Cancellation Costs
- Stolen Baggage and Belongings
However, you may have half of these things already covered by the credit card in your wallet without even knowing it.
By using my Chase Sapphire Preferred card to purchase all my flights and lodgings, they are automatically insured for no additional cost. The Chase Sapphire Preferred rewards card has an amazing signup bonus and gives double points for travel and dining purchases which can be redeemed for flights worldwide. On top of this, the complimentary trip insurance that it provides is better and easier to redeem than most other plans which one could purchase. The card also provides primary car insurance when renting a car.
Thus I personally have no interest/need to purchase any type of additional trip insurance, and focused my attention solely on health/medical insurance plans. However, depending on your own personal situation, you may want a more comprehensive travel insurance plan for yourself.
When applying for insurance, the insurance agency often takes into consideration your country of residence (where officially live, pay taxes, etc). Some plans require you to purchase their insurance while still in your home country and prior to you departing on your trip.
A second point to keep in mind is that waivers for pre-existing medical conditions are often only given if you purchase your insurance within 14 days of your initial trip purchase. This normally is when you purchase your departing flight from your home country. If you can prove that you were healthy at the time of purchasing the insurance, and did so within 2 weeks of booking your trip, many insurance companies will waive their exclusion of pre-existing conditions.
Provides no frills discount travel insurance that covers emergency hospitalization and evacuation. A good choice for backpackers looking to save a buck, and who don’t mind paying out of pocket to see a doctor in non-emergency situations. They will insure all your baggage and equipment, and are known to be good for reimbursing people who have had their stuff stolen. This type of insurance is the bare minimum that a traveler should have. In a bad situation, they will reimburse your hospital bills and get you home.
Allianz Worldwide Care
One of the biggest names in worldwide healthcare. The offer short and long duration plans that cover both inpatient and outpatient medical costs as well as trip and cancellation insurance. They have worldwide plans which include or excluding the USA, as well as Africa specific plans. I have friends who use this company and they have always had their claims reimbursed. Their plans are available to citizens of most nations.
To buy Geo Blue insurance you must be a US citizen, but you can apply for coverage while outside of the USA.
For sure not the cheapest option, but a well known provider. While Geo Blue only provides medical insurance and not trip insurance, its plans have no maximum coverage amount. It also will cover all pre-existing conditions as along as you can prove that you had other qualifying health insurance prior to purchasing one of their plans.
Their plans will cover you in every country in the world, and you can choose to either include or exclude the USA. The prices of the plans which exclude coverage in the USA are significantly cheaper. Geo Blue also one of the few companies which will (supposedly) directly pay a hospital that’s in their network, thus saving you from having to file a reimbursement claim. However, if you do end up going to an out of network healthcare provider, you can still file a claim to be reimbursed.
I also liked that you can choose to pay your premiums monthly and it will not cost you any more in the end than if you were to pay everything upfront. You can also cancel your plan at anytime without any fees and only be liable for paying for the current month’s coverage.
What turns most people off from this insurance is the fact that they make you fill out a 10 year long recent medical history report listing every ailment that you have had during that time period. Thus people who are not traveling indefinitely often find one of the other options on this list more convenient.
AIG Travel Guard
Another decent all around comprehensive travel insurance package that I came across. You can greatly customize their plans around what you need. While you should apply for the insurance before departing your home country, you can choose to extend the insurance once you are on your trip as long as you have yet to file any claims. Also make sure that you apply within 14 days of your initial trip purchase if you want any pre-existing conditions covered.by