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Travel Insurance is divided into 3 main category types:

  1. Short Term Travel Medical Insurance
  2. Long Term Travel Medical Insurance
  3. Trip Insurance

Which should you buy?

Well that depends on what you are trying to insure.  Trip insurance insures against the loss of not being able to go on an expensive vacation that you have already paid for.  Short term medical insures against medical problems that you many have while traveling, and often includes some benefits like: trip interruption, terrorism evacuation, lost luggage etc.  Long term medical insurance is primarily a medical insurance that is used by foreign nationals and expats living outside their country of residence. All of them will include emergency medical evacuation and repatriation.  Let’s take a look at some of the differences.

Trip Insurance

Trip insurance is purchased when your goal is to protect against the loss of money spent on a trip, should you not be able to go. Why wouldn’t you go on the trip you’ve been looking forward to all year? Well, what if you’re sick, break a leg, in a car crash? It can’t possibly be fun to go on that safari in Africa with a broken leg can it? Sometimes you can’t go on a trip because a loved one at home has fallen ill and you need to stay home and take care of them.  These types of situations come up all the time, and while they don’t happen to everyone all the time, they do happen often enough that there is a real need to consider trip insurance.  I would imagine that most 20-30 somethings in great health probably can forgo trip insurance and purchase a cheaper medical only plan or even an evacuation only plan, I know I always have. But then again, I’ve never been in the lucky position to purchase a really nice vacation ahead of time. When you do buy trip insurance their are several factors that will affect the cost. The most significant is the cost of the trip, the second is your age and the third is the difference between time of purchase and time of departure. In general a trip plan will cost somewhere between 5-10% of the trip cost. The last thing to consider when buying trip insurance is do you want it to cover the cancellation for a medical reason or for “any reason”.  “Any reason” plans cost more, as you can cancel for literally any reason, not just a family medical emergency.  Also watch out for “trip insurance” plans offered by the travel agent or cruise line, these are often not what they seem and will not necessarily refund your money, only offer you a voucher for a future cruise.

Short Term Travel Medical Insurance

Short term travel medical insurance is exactly what it sounds like.  It covers you or your group for a short amount of time, typically 5 days up to 180 days while traveling from your home country to another country. It covers medical expenses you might incur, evacuation for both medical and sometimes political reasons, repatriation of remains and other things as well.  It will often pay to fly a loved one to your side while you convalesce, and even refund some of your trip cost because your trip was interrupted by a medical emergency. Some plans will cover you for pre-existing conditions, while others will not. There are several different scenarios that make this type of insurance very important.  Travelers coming to the united states need insurance. A hospitalization in the USA can set you back tens of thousands of dollars, do not travel to the USA without medical insurance. The second group of travelers that really needs medical coverage are those going to areas with sub-standard medical care. If you are seeking adventure, remember that if an unexpected adventure occurs you are going to need to be evacuated to a hospital that can provide you with the proper care. Medical evacuations, even in the developing world, do not come cheap. Your life may depend upon the speed with which you can get to quality medical care. Included in the short term plans are annual renewable short term plans for the frequent traveler.  These plans are typically good for trips up to 60 days and are especially popular among business people who travel the world for their work. Travel companies and business owners who have clients or employees working abroad should either provide insurance for or require that their members have international insurance as a way of protecting their assets from liability claims. Youth groups and church groups also should find a plan that will cover their members while providing missionary service abroad.

Long Term Travel Medical Insurance

Long Term travel medical insurance is designed for both individuals, families and business employees that work abroad for the majority of the year. It functions much like a typical US style health plan, with a deductible, co-insurance (sometimes) and both in and out of network physicians that provide care.  They typically provide both inpatient, outpatient , wellness visits and additional benefits unique to the international marketplace, such as evacuation and repatriation. There are plans that cover people outside of their home country full time, as well as some plans that allow up to 6 months inside the USA or Canada.  There are some plans for US citizens that will allow you to spend a majority of time inside the USA, as long as you expect to also be outside of the US. Each plan is a little bit different with different networks and different guidelines.  What makes these plans similar to each other, and very different from the plans above is that each plan is medically underwritten, meaning you have to apply for the plan and most likely be in relatively good health to be accepted.  These plans are annually renewable and can be kept in force for many year.