Is International Health Insurance for Travelers Necessary?

International travel is an enjoyable experience for a person who loves exploring far off places. Although traveling can be exhilarating, many times the carefree traveler forgets to protect himself against unforeseen events. Travel insurance is necessary, since a person may lose his baggage; he might be forced to cancel his flight; or he may need to visit a doctor for emergency medical treatment. A person who uses his credit card to book tickets for international travel may be covered to a certain extent, as far as loss of baggage due to theft is concerned, and he may not require additional insurance. However, it is always best to have international health insurance even if one is embarking on a short trip, since there is nothing worse than the inability to afford medical treatment on account of lack of insurance.

The Need for International Health Insurance

Unforeseen Medical Expenses
The following expenses may be covered by international health insurance plans: cost of visiting a doctor in case of accidents; the cost of obtaining a prescription drug and other medical emergencies. In the US, companies provide international health insurance to travelers less than 75 years of age. The spouse and eligible dependents can also be covered for an additional premium. Some plans provide the benefit of the insurance even when a person cuts short his visit and returns home. Such plans are beneficial for people whose travel itinerary is flexible.

Additional Coverage
Emergency evacuation in case of medical complications; death and dismemberment coverage; rehabilitation; cost of ambulance and home nursing; are some options available to the international traveler for an additional premium. Generally plans that operate worldwide, but not in the US, carry a lower premium as compared to plans that operate even in the US. This is because the cost of medical treatment in the US is very high. Emergency evacuation facility is necessary for a person traveling to the third-world countries, since he may find it increasingly difficult to obtain quality medical care.

Pharmacy Coverage
The cost of obtaining prescription drugs may also be covered by paying a slightly higher premium. The advantage is that a person is comforted knowing that he can afford the drugs he may need during overseas travel. Of course, the need for this coverage depends a lot on the travel destination. For people traveling to the US, this is a must since medication is very costly. However, for US travelers interested in visiting countries where health care is the government’s responsibility, this coverage may not be necessary since most of the medicines would be available at a subsidized cost.

Pre-existing Conditions
Generally, a person with pre-existing health conditions should apply for a group insurance policy. It is possible that an individual who was refused coverage under an individual insurance plan may obtain coverage under a group health insurance plan. Exclusion period for pre-existing conditions is generally 6 months. During this period a person is on his own, i.e., he is not provided coverage.

Maternity Coverage
This is very important for women who intend to give birth to children in a foreign country. Generally, in case of maternity coverage, a woman would have to wait for 10 to 12 months before filing a claim. In other words, a woman should not be pregnant at the time of upgrading her policy to include maternity coverage. The premium would depend on the age of the would-be mother. Medical complications would result in a higher premium.

In addition to the above-mentioned events, international health insurance plans can be extended to include a number of other medical services. A greater coverage would mean a higher premium. International medical insurance is very important, especially if a person is traveling to a country where health care is privatized. In case of countries where health care is the government’s responsibility, the cost of medical services is much cheaper. Hence, while traveling to such countries, opting for a medical insurance policy with minimal coverage would suffice.

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