Here, we will explain what travel medical insurance is, discuss the key factors to consider when choosing a policy, recommend some top providers, and answer frequently asked questions. Let’s get started!
Going on a trip, whether domestic or international, is always exciting. But what if you fall ill or get injured while traveling? Your regular health insurance may not cover you outside of your home area. This is why having a good travel medical insurance policy is essential for peace of mind when traveling.
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What is Travel Medical Insurance?
Travel medical insurance provides coverage for medical emergencies and expenses you may incur while traveling outside of your home country or home province. It fills the gaps left by your regular provincial or employer health insurance coverage.
A travel medical insurance plan can reimburse you for emergency medical treatment, prescription drugs, and other covered expenses if you get sick or injured during your trip. Policies can include coverage like:
- Emergency medical/dental treatment
- Ambulance transportation
- Prescription drugs
- Emergency medical evacuations
- Trip cancellation or interruption
- Accidental death & dismemberment
- Baggage loss or delay
- 24/7 travel assistance services
Having this supplemental coverage gives you peace of mind and financial protection if the worst happens. Travel medical insurance covers expenses your regular insurance may not, so you aren’t stuck paying thousands out of pocket.
Why You Need Travel Medical Insurance
There are several important reasons why purchasing travel medical insurance is highly recommended:
Limited provincial health coverage when traveling – Provincial health plans only cover a small portion of medical costs overseas. You would be responsible for the remainder of any bills.
No coverage under workplace insurance when traveling – Group benefit plans through your job generally only cover emergency medical costs in your province.
Very high medical costs abroad – In the U.S., medical bills are extremely expensive, sometimes averaging $3,000 per day for hospitalization. Overseas trips also carry high medical costs.
Medical evacuation costs – Emergency evacuation back home via air ambulance can cost up to $100,000 or more depending on your location.
Provides access to travel assistance – Insurers offer 24/7 travel assistance while abroad to help with things like translations, contacting your embassy, arranging direct hospital bill payments, coordinating evacuations, etc.
Protects trip costs – Trip cancellation/interruption coverage reimburses you if you need to cancel for covered medical reasons prior to departure or cut a trip short. This helps avoid losing costly prepaid trip expenses.
As you can see, travel medical insurance is designed to protect you when away from home. It provides vital coverage at a relatively low cost compared to potential medical bills. Next, let’s look at key factors to consider when choosing a travel insurance policy.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Travel Medical Insurance
Selecting the right travel medical insurance policy means comparing plans based on your specific needs and trip details. Here are some of the main factors to look at:
Coverage Types & Benefits
Travel medical plans can bundle various coverages together. Here are some of the main benefits to look for:
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance – Reimburses prepaid, non-refundable trip expenses if you need to cancel for a covered reason like illness/injury or quarantine. Also covers costs to return home if a trip is interrupted.
Emergency medical/dental coverage – Covers overseas hospital, doctor, ambulance costs as well as dental expenses for relief of sudden pain.
Medical evacuation coverage – Pays for evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility or back home for treatment if necessary. Air ambulance costs can exceed $100,000.
Baggage loss/delay coverage – Reimburses you if bags are lost, stolen or delayed. Helpful for replacing essential items.
Look for plans that bundle these four core benefits. Other secondary coverages may include:
- Prescription drug coverage
- Accidental death & dismemberment
- Quarantine expenses
- Mental health services
- Travel assistance services
The more comprehensive the benefits, the better protected you’ll be. Compare covered expenses and limits.
Geographic Coverage Area
Where exactly will you be covered geographically? Options include:
Worldwide coverage – Offers protection anywhere globally. Best for trips that cover multiple regions or destinations.
Specific regional coverage – Narrower plans for a single region like Europe, Asia, etc. Can be less expensive.
USA or Canada only – For trips within just one country. Least comprehensive.
For frequent travelers, worldwide coverage is best. For a trip focused in one area abroad, a regional plan could suffice.
The overall policy limits will determine how much you’re covered for:
Per trip maximum – The limit for all claims combined per single trip. $1-5 million is common.
Per condition maximum – The limit for treatment per medical condition. $500,000 is a good benchmark.
Deductible amount – Your out of pocket amount before coverage kicks in. Typically $250-$1000.
Compare these numbers across plans. Higher maximums provide better protection for serious illnesses or injuries requiring extensive treatment.
Insurer Reputation & Customer Service
Consider the reputation and service you’ll receive should you need to make a claim:
Financial stability – Choose an established insurer that’s highly rated by agencies like AM Best. This ensures they can pay out claims.
Customer service reputation – Read reviews and complaints to gauge ease of getting support and processing claims.
Claims processing time – Average turnaround times for reimbursements. Faster payouts are always better.
An insurer that excels in these areas will make the claims process smoother.
Additional Benefits & Upgrades
Some other benefits that may be available for an added premium:
- Coverage for pre-existing medical conditions
- Higher trip cancellation / medical maximums
- Adventurous activities coverage add-on
- Rental car damage coverage
Consider upgrades if you may need more trip cancellation coverage or have a pre-existing condition. Compare costs vs. added benefits when choosing extra add-ons.
Using these criteria will help you select a feature-rich travel medical insurance policy tailored to your trip and needs. Next, we’ll look at some top recommended providers.
Top Recommended Providers of Travel Medical Insurance
Here are three highly reputable insurers that offer comprehensive travel medical insurance policies:
1. Manulife CoverMe Travel Insurance
Manulife is a leading Canadian insurer with over 130 years of experience. Their CoverMe plans are flexible and you can buy online or over the phone.
- Single-trip plans
- Multi-trip annual plans
- Top-up coverage
- $10 million emergency medical maximum
- Trip cancellation up to total trip cost
- Generous baggage coverage
- Easy online claims
- Direct billing available with overseas hospitals
- Covers pandemic-related trip cancellations
- Strong customer service reputation
- Limited pricing options online
With strong emergency medical and trip cancellation coverage, Manulife CoverMe plans are a top pick.
2. Blue Cross Travel Insurance
Blue Cross is another major Canadian insurer with 80+ years of experience and excellent financial ratings.
- Single-trip and multi-trip
- Comprehensive and budget plans
- $10 million medical maximum
- Trip cancellation up to $20,000
- Baggage delay benefits
- Fast online claims system
- Covers high-risk destinations like Cuba
- Generous trip delay benefits
- Online pricing for all ages
- Limited to North American travelers
Blue Cross is ideal if you want reliable coverage just for North American trips.
3. TuGo Travel Insurance
TuGo is one of Canada’s largest travel insurers, part of North America’s Barcelona Group.
- Single-trip and multi-trip options
- Budget, standard, and deluxe plans
- $10 million emergency medical coverage
- Cancel for any reason available
- Sports equipment rental coverage
- Strong trip cancellation benefits
- Covers visitors to Canada
- Live chat customer support
- Only emergency dental covered
With generous trip cancellation and medical benefits, TuGo is a leading choice.
As you can see, these top Canadian insurers offer robust features, strong coverage, and excellent reputations – everything you need for peace of mind while traveling.
What Affects Travel Insurance Costs?
Travel medical insurance premiums can range quite a bit depending on these primary factors:
Policies are priced based on total trip length:
Single-trip plans – You choose an exact trip duration, ranging from a few days up to a year. The longer the trip, the higher the premium.
Annual multi-trip plans – Covers all trips for a 12-month period, with each trip limited to a set number of days. This is cost-effective for frequent travelers.
Trip duration significantly impacts rates, so input carefully when getting quotes.
Older travelers will pay more for coverage:
- Premiums start going up after age 50.
- 70+ years olds can expect to pay 2-3X more.
- Maximum insurable age is usually 75-85 years depending on insurer.
So travel insurance costs more the older you are. Factor this in if comparing rates across family members.
Where you’re traveling to also affects your costs:
- U.S. trips cost more than domestic due to high medical costs.
- High-risk destinations like Asia/Africa increase premiums.
- Embedded war zones may have limited coverage.
Research if your destination drives up rates when shopping for quotes.
The policy’s coverage maximums for medical, trip cancellation, etc also impact premiums.
- Higher overall policy maximums cost more.
- Lower deductibles reduce out-of-pocket costs but increase premiums.
- Maximize limits to your specific trip price/length.
Finding the optimal balance between premium cost and sufficient coverage is the goal. Don’t over or under insure.
Adding extra benefits and upgrades increases the total insurance cost:
- Pre-existing condition coverage comes at a premium cost.
- Adventurous sports riders also cost extra.
- Increasing trip cancellation limits raises rates.
Look at the incremental cost of upgrades against the benefit value for your situation.
Using the criteria above, you can get a reasonable estimate of potential costs. Always compare quotes between insurers for the best rates.
Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Medical Insurance
Let’s go over answers to some of the most common questions regarding travel medical insurance.
What is the difference between travel insurance and travel medical insurance?
Travel insurance is an umbrella term that can cover many types of benefits geared towards travelers. This includes trip cancellation, interruption, baggage loss, delays, plus accident and life coverage.
Travel medical insurance specifically covers emergency medical costs and evacuations if you become ill or injured while traveling. This is the most crucial benefit, but medical policies can bundle in other coverages too.
So travel medical insurance just focuses on medical protections whereas travel insurance is broader. But there can be overlap between the two.
When should I buy travel medical insurance?
You should purchase travel medical insurance as soon as you book your trip to get full cancellation coverage.
For a cruise or tour, buy it within 1-2 weeks of your initial trip deposit. This ensures cancellation coverage kicks in immediately.
You can buy it up until the departure date but you often lose the trip cancellation benefits at that point.
To have full coverage, buy at least 7-10 days prior to departure. Don’t wait until the last minute!
What factors determine the cost of travel medical insurance?
There are four primary factors that determine how much travel medical insurance costs:
- Length of trip – The longer the trip, the higher the premium.
- Traveler age – Older travelers pay more than younger travelers.
- Destination – Higher risk destinations have higher premiums.
- Policy coverage limits – Higher limits increase policy costs.
Comparing quotes between insurers is key to finding the best rate based on these criteria.
Does travel medical insurance cover pre-existing conditions?
Most standard policies do NOT cover medical claims related to pre-existing conditions. You’ll need to purchase a special rider for an additional premium to have pre-existing condition coverage.
Without the rider, routine care and complications for conditions you already have won’t be reimbursed. So it’s crucial to understand this limitation before buying a policy.
What is medical evacuation coverage?
Medical evacuation coverage pays for emergency transportation to an appropriate medical facility, often back home to your province when treatment locally is inadequate.
This can involve an air ambulance flight with onboard medical staff or a commercial flight with a nurse escort as needed.
Given how expensive medical evacuations are, having coverage for emergencies is essential. This benefit will transport you to quality care and likely save your life if severely ill or injured while travelling.
Does travel medical insurance cover COVID-19?
During the pandemic, most insurers include COVID-19 the same as any other illness – so emergency treatment and medical evacuation related to COVID-19 will be covered.
Some things to verify:
- Quarantine costs – Check if quarantine lodging/food costs are reimbursed if you contract COVID while travelling.
- Trip cancellation – If you have to cancel due to a COVID diagnosis, this will only be covered if your policy includes cancellation for any reason or sickness.
So COVID-19 claims are generally covered but do still read the fine print exclusions.
Am I covered under my regular health insurance when traveling internationally?
Unfortunately, no – provincial health plans only cover a very small portion of medical costs overseas, if any. Typical
That’s why purchasing travel medical insurance is vital whenever travelling outside your province or outside Canada. Never assume your public health insurance will cover you sufficiently abroad.
While it does provide some urgent care abroad, the coverage is very limited. Having comprehensive travel medical insurance that shields you from enormous bills is a must for all international trips.
As mentioned throughout this guide, travel medical insurance provides invaluable protection against medical emergencies, costly bills and trip interruptions when travelling.
While no one expects to have a medical issue on vacation, you’ll regret not having coverage should an unexpected accident or illness occur.
By understanding key coverage details, comparing plans and insurers, and answering common questions, you can select the ideal travel medical insurance policy for your next trip.
This gives you financial security and peace of mind so you can relax and enjoy your travels to the fullest. Safe travels!