When you start planning to travel, you usually don’t think about health insurance as something necessary. Well experts say 15% of travelers encounter some kind of health problem while abroad and depending on where you go, your health insurance might not do you any good. Good news is, there are some ways to cover medical emergencies abroad that are surprisingly inexpensive, such as travel insurance.

Things to Consider

Checking with your health insurance carrier is always a good start. Most domestic health plans provide limited coverage overseas and won’t even cover prescriptions. If you do get covered for the treatment you receive, the care is typically charged as out-of-network care, which means higher copays and out-of-pocket costs.

The CDC recommends asking what the exclusions are for injuries relating to adventure activities such as scuba diving and hiking, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. Also ask whether preauthorization is needed for treatment.

You should also look into international health insurance. If you love to travel and are always on adventures, it’s a good thing to consider getting. Travel health insurance covers the holes or gaps your normal carrier doesn’t. Some of these companies even provide primary coverage too. One thing to know is, if you have pre-existing conditions, some of these companies won’t cover care for those conditions. You can buy a waiver to exclude that though.

Policies usually cost much less for younger buyers and less comprehensive plans. A $1-million-dollar medical insurance plan with a 0 deductible cost a 35-year-old $15 per day. Whereas the same plan could cost a 65-year-old, but with preexisting conditions with a condition waiver, medical evacuation, and $5,000 trip cancellation coverage, $220-$600 a week. The difference is crazy, but could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Benefits of Travel Insurance

Travel insurance covers a lot of things, but a comprehensive travel insurance plan will provide the following key benefits:

  • Trip Cancellation: Plans will cover specific reasons for cancelling the trip, such as a sickness or injury before you leave. Other reasons may include the death of a family member or unforeseeable natural disasters. Make sure to read the fine print of the policy to know exactly what is cover and what is not.
  • Trip Interruption: Plans will cover specific reasons for cutting a trip short, such as sickness or injury resulting to in you having to return home. Other covered reasons may include weather or natural disasters, but be sure to read the specifics of the policy to see what is covered.
  • Emergency Assistance (24/7): This service provides doctor or hospital recommendations and translation services.
  • Baggage Protection: Some plans offer reimbursement or a stipend if your bag becomes lost, stolen, damaged, or delayed.

Cost of Travel Insurance

Travel insurance plans run about 5-8 percent of your total cost. Again, some plans may or may not cover pre-existing medical conditions so make sure to check on that when looking into this insurance.  Also when you travel abroad be ready to pay up front because most foreign healthcare providers require payments in cash or credit card when you receive treatment. Only some U.S. insurers have direct relationships with healthcare providers all over the world.