Usually we expect that nothing will go wrong, until it does, and then we hope that the coverage offered through our credit cards or health insurance will cover the situation. And that's usually not the case. As a travel advisor, I always advise my clients to obtain a policy adequate to the amount of money they're spending on their vacation. Now I can’t advise which policy would be best because I'm not an insurance agent, so I always recommend that the client read over the terms and conditions of the policy in question before purchase.
Another thing to consider is: do you have enough coverage on your credit card to pay for any expenses that may arise while on your trip? There is a possibility you may encounter a situation in which either the hospital or the physician may require money up front before beginning treatment.
If there’s ever a time to read the fine print, purchasing travel insurance is it. Don’t take my word for any of the following, or the word of the person selling you the policy, or the sales page of the insurance company’s website — read the contract for yourself. It will be an enlightening experience.
The old adage “you get what you pay for” tends to apply here; less expensive insurance packages typically include less comprehensive coverage.
Below we’ve listed the top 5 things travel insurance coverage might not include. For purposes of clarity, most apply to the highest tiers offered by most insurance companies; that is, most of these travel insurance exclusions apply to even the most comprehensive policies. In some cases, you can purchase special add-ons to cover these exclusions; ask when purchasing. Do you purchase travel insurance? Why or why not? Do you read the fine print? Post in the comments and let us know!
1. Losses Due to Pre-Existing Conditions
Travel insurance coverage does not extend to most pre-existing medical conditions, and the definition of “pre-existing” often depends on the timing of when you are diagnosed and when you purchase your travel insurance — with a so-called “look-back period” that is usually 60, 90, or 180 days prior to the day you purchase your insurance.
In short, your travel insurance does not cover losses due to conditions for which there were either symptoms or treatment during the look-back period. You will be covered for losses due to so-called “stable” conditions for which no change in treatment or symptoms has occurred.
Say you’ve had arthritis for several years, with no major flare-ups or medication changes in the past six months. In this case you would likely be covered if you had an intense, debilitating flare-up during your trip. But if you had been having trouble with the condition in the months leading up to your vacation, your trip insurance would be unlikely to cover any losses related to your arthritis unless you purchased a specific add-on.
2. Travel for Medical Procedures
Most trip insurance will not cover issues that arise for those traveling specifically to get medical treatment (such as procedures available overseas that are not available or are too expensive at home).
3. Natural Disasters That Begin Before You Purchase Insurance
Trip insurance generally covers losses due to hurricanes or tropical storms, but you must make the purchase before the storm is named. Similar conditions typically apply to other natural disasters; if you buy a policy after a volcano starts erupting, for example, you won’t be covered for any losses related to that volcano’s activity.
4. Risky Activities and Sports
Active travelers, take note: Many travel insurance policies exclude losses due to adventure sports such as bungee jumping, backcountry skiing, snowboarding, rafting, caving, sky diving, scuba diving … you get the idea. Some policies take this even further, applying exemptions for any sports involving bodily contact. (That means your kid’s football tournament might not be covered.) If you’re planning an active vacation, carefully check the terms of your policy before committing.
5. Medical Evacuation
It might seem logical that medical coverage would include the cost of getting you to a place that offers said medical coverage, but that is not always the case. If you range far from reliable medical facilities and might need transport by helicopter, plane, or other unusual method, make sure your policy includes evacuation costs (or buy an add-on).
Note also that evacuation coverage does not guarantee that you’ll be airlifted to your preferred hospital; in most cases, it will be to the nearest credentialed hospital. If you want full-bore evacuation coverage, consider a service like Medjet Assist.