According to Consumer Reports, travelers spend about $2 billion a year to protect themselves from the unexpected. But do they know what they are getting when they purchase travel insurance? Perhaps the bigger question is this: Do they really need it at all?
Travel insurance is an umbrella term for five different types of coverage: trip cancellation or interruption, medical, baggage, flight, and evacuation. Several of these concerns are typically bundled in a policy; comprehensive policies include coverage for all five concerns. In addition, supplemental policies cover things such as identity theft and adventure travel.
The cost of travel insurance typically ranges from 5 percent to 10 percent of the total cost of a trip. The price of policies goes up for travelers who are 50 or older, but is less expensive, or even free, for travelers who are 17 or younger.
Travel agents often recommend travel insurance because they have worked with travelers in the past who have experienced trip interruptions or medical emergencies. However, travelers should bear in mind that agents can earn commission from selling policies. They also may hope that travel insurance will protect them from liability if a trip doesn’t go as planned.
Although purchasing travel insurance may be a good idea in some instances, it’s smart to first review the following:
- Existing insurance policies. Some health insurance policies provide coverage for care outside the United States, while others do not. According to Consumer Reports, “Medicare generally doesn’t cover health-care expenses outside the U.S, although some Medigap policies do.” Some homeowners or renters policies provide off-premises protection for personal property, which would cover stolen luggage. And some credit cards include travel protection in their contracts. Depending on a traveler’s destination and the amount paid up front for expenses, his or her existing insurance policies may provide enough protection.
- Online comparison tools. Websites such as https://www.insuremytrip.com/ and http://www.travelinsurance.com/ allow travelers to easily compare travel insurance offerings from some of the largest providers in the industry. Much like booking other travel services, users provide information about their trip and receive a list of policies and prices. They can then click “compare” to see details of each plan.
- Fine print and disclosures. This is tedious, but important. Are the maximum payment limits the same on things such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, medical care, and lost luggage? Is evacuation coverage included, and what is the maximum amount allowed?
- Coverage for pre-existing conditions. Travelers who have pre-existing medical conditions should ask specifically about a plan’s coverage and terms before purchasing it, and get the answers to their questions in writing.
- How “travel partners” or “family members” are defined. This is important in case a trip must be cancelled because of a loved one’s illness or death.
SentinelMED's Patient Transport Service
Many, but not all, travel insurance plans include patient transport service insurance. It’s important to know up front what a policy covers and the maximum dollar amount of coverage allowed. Some policies specify that the plan’s administrator is responsible for deciding if a traveler needs medical transport or a medical escort to return home. They also state that the administrator will select the transport service. As a result, the traveler and his or her family may have little input on such important decisions.
Travelers who do not purchase travel insurance or choose less-expensive plans should be aware of their options in the event that they suffer a serious injury or illness far from home. SentinelMED provides domestic and international patient medical transport services to the injured and elderly, as well as medical repatriation and medical escort services. The SentinelMED team works closely with hospital case managers to coordinate care for patients from a medical facility to a health care facility closer to their home, or to the home of a family member. In addition, our trained medical escorts are available to travel with patients on commercial airlines to help ensure their safety and comfort. This service can be a cost-effective alternative to air ambulances.
The SentinelMED team understands the complexity of delivering exceptional care to patients who need assistance during travel. Please contact us to learn more about the services that SentinelMED offers or its staff.