Last Updated on March 16, 2022
Safeguarding your health and finances while traveling abroad is a two-pronged fork. Part I of this two-part series examines the value and benefits of travel insurance, particularly for mature travelers. Part II will discuss the simple, but significant, actions we can take to mitigate some of the challenges inherent in medical emergencies.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
by Donna Manz
Immersing yourself in a new place in our world is the sexy part of travel…exploring another culture, trying local foods, inhaling the magic of historic towns and architecture. However, it’s occasionally the less-glamorous incidents – those that disrupt our trips — that lodge in our memory banks.
While we cannot protect ourselves fully from personal emergencies, there are sensible steps that can, at least, build a wall of security.
Cancel-For-Any-Reason Travel Insurance
The day before I left for my Danube river cruise, I broke two toes. Admittedly, it would have taken a much-greater crisis to keep me off that trip, but what this brings home is that medical emergencies, more significant than two broken toes, do arise.
I’ve become an evangelist for cancel-for-any-reason travel insurance. You do, however, have to read the fine print to ensure the policy you are buying is truly cancel-for-any-reason, including problems with pre-existing conditions. Speak to a travel consultant if you are having challenges locating a policy appropriate to your needs.
Cancel-for-any-reason travel insurance policies are not just for our own personal well-being, either. If we’re over 55, chances are our parents are aging, as well. We need a travel insurance plan that protects the cost of our trip, inbound and outbound, should a family member at-home suffer an emergency that demands our presence. That is where trip protection insurance has an advantage over our personal medical insurance policies, which cover only benefits to the insured recipient.
Trip-interruption coverage give us some peace of mind should we have to return home at an unscheduled date. While its coverage is not as exhaustive as that of cancel-for-any-reason, trip-interruption coverage reimburses a policyholder for costs incurred when a passenger has to return home during a crisis, such as the illness, injury or death of a family member.
Many travelers are not aware of costs they may incur in having to return home in an emergency. For example, many people assume that if they have to change their flight plans, they are only liable for the change fee. That’s not necessarily true. If the fare code you booked is no longer available, you not only have to pay a change fee but also the difference in cost between your fare code and the next one available, a cost covered by trip-interruption insurance.
Some company’s plans cover even more situations. Travel Guard, a company I recommended long before entering the travel industry, offers a “Gold” plan that also includes trip-interruption coverage that safeguards the policyholder in other circumstances such as strike, national disaster, court order or terrorism. Travel Guard’s most popular plan, it pays up to 150 percent of the insured trip cost, taking into account an increase in airfares. As a general rule, expect to pay about five- to seven-percent of your trip cost.
In purchasing such coverage it’s important to keep in mind that policies which include premium benefits must be purchased within 15 days of the initial trip deposit.
Airline Trip Protection
Most airlines sell their own trip protection. As an example, United Airlines sells ‘trip protection’ through Access America, but its plans are more restricted than those of Travel Guard or CSA Travel Protection, another well-known provider. Some airlines sell policies that only cover the nonrefundable cost of the ticket you purchased. These policies may not protect you if the cost of your ticket home is more expensive than the one you paid for.
Misconceptions About Medicare
Most important to Social Security Medicare participants is the understanding that Medicare does not provide coverage for any hospital or medical cost outside the United States. If you receive Medicare and will be traveling outside of the USA you should consider supplemental coverage through traditional insurance providers or through travel insurance providers, such as Travel Guard.
Know What Coverage Your Plan Provides
Travel insurance providers offer several tiers; make certain you are buying a policy that provides coverage for both doctors’ and hospital visits. People with life-threatening conditions should consider adding medical evacuation coverage, as well. Since so few tourists ever use medical evacuation support, adding this coverage to a policy costs relatively little.
Next week, health precautions mature travelers should take.