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Health Insurance While Traveling

Cheaper than you think...and worth every penny!

Travel Medical Insurance
2 Comments 06 September 2010

The state of health insurance has been in the US news a lot this past year, and a key issue that continually comes up in the debate is how expensive American health care is. Health care costs are far cheaper in the rest of the world and insanely cheaper in the developing world. This disparity results in many backpackers foregoing health insurance while abroad with the assumption that the possible cost of getting treated will be less than that of insurance. This is wrong!

Because health care outside of America is so much cheaper, medical insurance that covers you while outside of your home country is drastically cheaper as well. Applying for coverage while abroad is also far easier than while at home. In a matter of minutes, you can use your credit card to buy full coverage online that kicks in immediately. Whether you end up needing antibiotics for a skin infection in Israel, getting hospitalized for food poisoning in India, or catching swine flu in Thailand – all of which, and more unfortunately, happened to me – you’ll be able to mail or fax in your receipts and be reimbursed a few weeks later. While far lower than their American counterparts, these sort of medical expenses rack up very quickly and more than offset the cost of the coverage.

For my trip, I paid $300 for 7 months of coverage with a $100 deductible and later renewed for another 5 months for $200 with an additional $100 deductible. So for $500 I got half a million dollars worth of coverage so long as I paid the first $200 of expenses accrued. How much of that coverage did I end up using? Oh just $8,300. So it’s fair to say this paid for itself.

So, what sort of coverage should you get? If you really want to get into the nitty gritty details of each option out there, you can pour over one of several insurance reseller websites with comparison charts. At the end of the day, though, the coverage offered by top rated providers are fairly similar and you might as well go with a trusted recommendation. When choosing coverage for my trip, I spent several hours comparing plans, premiums, deductibles, exceptions, and more before finally calling up one travel insurance reseller and asking which plan their staff used. I went with that and, after interacting with the company extensively, can unequivocally say that it worked out wonderfully.

Thus, Connected Traveling recommends: International Medical Group. Their Patriot Travel Medical Insurance plan is reasonably priced and offers coverage ranging from $50,000 to $2 million. This includes all kinds of nasty scenarios from repatriation of remains to terrorist attacks. As an added bonus, you also get a couple of weeks of coverage in your home country so you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car the moment you get off the airplane once your trip is over, or, as was the case during my trip, coming home to take a break after 6 months and realizing you brought a parasite back with you.

Like all providers out there, IMG is not perfect. In most cases you have to pay for your expenses up front and wait for IMG to mail you a check. Thus it’s a good idea to put these sorts of expenses on your credit card, get the points, and wait until the check arrives. Note, you won’t be reimbursed for any resultant credit card foreign transaction fees, so make sure you have a card that doesn’t charge any!  You also have to call up their emergency hotline to get pre-certification before being admitted to a hospital, but again, these sorts of things are standard, though worth noting.

Some Universities provide on-call medical professionals to their students studying abroad. These professionals check in with your foreign doctor to ensure the coverage you are getting is on par with western standards of medicine. If traveling abroad with a student program, check to see if you have this option. IMG offers a similar 24-hour on call medical assistance service but it doesn’t follow your doctor’s care in the same way. Despite these fallbacks, all in all, my experience with IMG was very positive, which is one nice thing to come out of the amount of health-related bad luck I ran into while backpacking.

Anything can happen while traveling.  In the best case scenario, you take our advice and spend some money on peace of mind, finishing your trip without having tapped into your coverage. If you end up following in my foot steps, though, and end up in a New Delhi hospital trying to describe crippling nausea to an attendant who doesn’t speak English, footing the bill will be one thing you’ll be glad you won’t have to worry about.

Your Comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Rose says:

    Was this your only health insurance coverage? Or did you also have coverage at home?

  2. Yaron says:

    Hi Rose!
    This was the only health insurance coverage I had while traveling. It covered me for a month while I was home in the middle of my trip. Once my trip was over I signed up for standard American health insurance.


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