Travel Health Insurance

Most domestic health insurance policies are not accepted abroad, so there is a benefit to purchasing travel medical insurance as a supplement to your health insurance coverage. Travel medical insurance helps cover the cost of many emergency medical treatments during a trip. If you catch an unexpected sickness during your foreign trip, and you have a travel health insurance policy, you will be covered up to the plan limits. The travel medical coverage is only valid while you’re traveling. Travel health insurance is different from regular health insurance because it is active only while you are traveling abroad, and is meant to supplement your main health insurance when you are out of network.

Generally, there are two forms of travel medical insurance :

  • Stand-alone medical insurance plans: These plans cover emergency medical and dental expenses you incur while traveling. However, a stand-alone medical plan doesn’t include other travel insurance coverage such as trip cancellation insurance or baggage coverage.
  • As part of a comprehensive travel insurance plan: In addition to emergency medical benefits, a comprehensive travel insurance plan can package coverage for trip cancellation, trip delay, emergency medical evacuation, baggage loss, and more. It’s the best way to cover a host of potential problems.


Travel health insurance provides coverage for many emergency cases, but in general, it is not designed to be used for regular health care purposes. It’s used to cover emergencies such as:

  • Broken bones
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Emergency dental procedures
  • Medical evacuations
  • Emergency transport
  • Emergency repatriation

Anything that constitutes a medical emergency and forces you to seek treatment while you’re on your trip typically should be covered by a comprehensive travel medical insurance policy. If you’re going to a doctor for a routine checkup, you’ll be required to pay out of pocket or submit a claim to your health insurance provider.


There are four types of travel health insurance policies: Primary Medical Coverage, Secondary Medical Coverage, Single-Trip Coverage, and Multi-Trip Coverage.

Primary Medical Coverage will pay out before any other health insurance you might have. If you buy Secondary Medical Coverage then your primary health plan you own must pay first. If you’re traveling overseas and your U.S. health plan doesn’t provide coverage, a travel medical plan that’s “secondary” will essentially become primary coverage due to a lack of other insurance.

As for the Single-Trip and Multi-Trip Coverage, it depends on how often are you planning to travel in a calendar year. Single-Trip Coverage begins when you leave your home and travel to your destination (or destinations) and ends when you return home. The plan covers you for the duration of your trip. For example, you could purchase a single-trip plan for a four-week European vacation where you visit several different countries.

On the other hand, Multi-Trip coverage covers you for a calendar year and is good for travelers who take three or more trips per year. For example, you could take a trip to Italy, come home for several weeks, then travel to Germany, come home, then take off to Mexico, and you are covered on every trip.


Paying for health insurance during travel abroad seems like an unnecessary expense when calculated with all other travel expenses. Luckily, travel health insurance policies are usually very affordable. Policies average between $40 and $80. But do not forget that a better range of coverage and longer policy duration will increase the cost of the policy.

Basically how much you pay for travel medical insurance depends on these four factors:

  • Age
  • Trip duration
  • Destination
  • Coverage limit and deductible


Having a health insurance policy while traveling abroad is the easiest way to save money in case of emergency, and have peace of mind.

If you are traveling to a destination where your insurance provider does not have coverage, having a travel health insurance policy is a starter kit. If your carrier covers medical costs in the destination you are going to, purchasing policy can still help lower your expenses and reduce potential out-of-network costs for any emergencies that may arise.

This is also the case if you are traveling on a cruise ship. Typically, you will be able to receive some medical care onboard the ship and should be able to use your health insurance to cover those costs. But if your injuries require transfer to a medical facility on shore, a travel medical insurance policy can be very useful.

You may also want to research the country you are planning to visit in order to learn whether you will need travel medical insurance or not. Some countries may require you to show proof of travel medical insurance prior to entering their country.

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