How to Choose the Best Travel Medical Insurance
Not only are there a variety of travel medical insurance providers to choose from, but most providers offer a wide selection of plans which vary in coverages, benefit levels, and price. So, how can you determine which is the best travel medical insurance plan for you?
Determine What Type of Policy You Need
Because different types of travelers have different needs when it comes to insurance, travel medical policies are structured in several ways. Which type of policy you need will be determined by one (or more) of the following factors:
- Type of travel
- Number of travelers
- Trip length
The following are 5 common policy types:
1. Single-Trip Plan
This is your standard travel medical policy. It will provide coverage for the duration you specify and apply to a single trip only. Depending on the plan, however, you may be able to extend or renew your policy.
NOTE: Single-trip plans are frequently offered in a couple different plan levels to ensure you find the coverage you need at a price you can afford. For example, Tokio Marine HCC – MIS Group offers its Atlas Series in 2 levels:
- Atlas Travel – Customizable, yet still affordable, this balanced plan offers higher coverage limits and some supplemental travel assistance benefits.
- Atlas Premium – This elite plan offers exceptional-quality coverage by providing higher coverage limits. The higher plan cost means higher coinsurance and lower out-of-pocket costs.
2. Multi-Trip Plan
A multi-trip plan is an annual insurance plan designed to accommodate travelers taking multiple trips throughout a one-year (or other) period. Multi-trip plans are beneficial for frequent international travelers and business executives/sales professionals who travel abroad often.
3. Group Plan
A group plan allows you to insure an entire group of people (typically five or more) under one policy—and often at a discounted rate. You may benefit from a group plan if you are traveling as part of a missionary group, student group, or large family.
4. Long-Term Plan
If you’re traveling long term, you have two basic coverage options: The first is a standard travel medical plan, which typically offers emergency medical and emergency evacuation coverage of up to 364 days (though you may be able to extend or renew your policy).
These plans can be very affordable and do not require an extensive application or underwriting process. They do not provide coverage for things like pre-existing conditions, wellness exams, and regular prescriptions, however.
Your second option is to purchase a travel major medical plan, or expatriate insurance. This type of insurance behaves more like your standard, home country health insurance in that it offers some coverage for prescription drugs and preventive care in addition to coverage for emergency care. It may also give you the option to extend your benefits for a period following your return home.
5. Student Plan
Every study abroad student can benefit from an international student health insurance plan, as it provides comprehensive medical coverage for full-time students and scholars studying outside of their home country.
NOTE: International student health plans are frequently offered in a variety of plan levels to ensure you find the coverage you need at a price you can afford. For example, Tokio Marine HCC – MIS Group offers its StudentSecure plan in 4 levels:
Not sure of the differences between travel insurance, travel medical insurance, and trip cancellation?
Determine What You're Looking for in Terms of Maximum Coverage
Your maximum coverage limit is the maximum amount of money your travel medical policy will pay toward your eligible expenses. This maximum amount may apply “per injury or illness” or “per certificate period” (the period of time from your policy’s effective date to your policy’s termination date).
You’ll want to ensure that your maximum limit will provide adequate coverage in case a medical emergency occurs abroad. Popular travel blogger Nomadic Matt suggests going with a minimum coverage amount of $100,000.
“High coverage limits are important,” he writes, “because if you get sick, injured, or need serious attention and have to seek professional care, you want to make sure your high hospital bills are covered.”
Many policies offer coverage between $50,000 and $1,000,000, though some elite plans offer up to $2,000,000 in coverage. It’s important to note, however, that your options may be limited by age (policies typically offer fewer coverage options for those ages 70 and up).
Learn more about how age affects policy costs!
Identify Which Benefits Are Most Important
What are your priorities when it comes to insuring your trip? Maybe you’ve read about the importance of having Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage or you’re worried about the airline losing your checked luggage. Listing out your travel concerns can help you figure out which benefits to look for in a policy.
Not sure where to start? The following questions and suggested benefits can help shape your list:
How important are certain medical coverages in providing you peace of mind?
A quality policy should offer the following medical benefits:
- Hospital Room and Board
- Local Ambulance
- Emergency Room Co-Payment
- Intensive Care Unit
- Physical Therapy
Do you have any safety concerns regarding your destination?
Look for the following (or similar) benefits to ease your worry:
Are you traveling for an extended period of time?
The longer you travel, the more likely you may be to need the following benefits:
- Emergency Reunion
- Bedside Visit
- Return of Minor Children
- Pet Return
Do you want to ensure that your family would be compensated for eligible expenses if something were to happen to you?
Look for benefits like:
- Repatriation of Remains
- Accidental Death and Dismemberment
- Local Burial or Cremation
Are you most worried about mishaps involving your trip, flight, or luggage?
Seek benefits like:
- Common Carrier Accidental Death
- Trip Interruption
- Lost Checked Luggage
- Travel Delay
Once you’ve compiled your list, it’s time to prioritize these coverages. Which are absolutely essential to your trip? Which would you consider “nice to have?” When searching for plans, cross any off the list that don’t at least offer your “must have” benefits.
Determine What You're Looking for in Terms of Per-Benefit Coverage
Each individual benefit will have a coverage limit, as well, which can be found in your Schedule of Limits and Benefits. Some benefits will offer a lifetime maximum, a maximum amount per day, or maximum amount per certificate period.
Others will list specific conditions for coverage (i.e. “usual, reasonable, and customary charges) or be subject to the overall maximum limit for the policy. Read this policy information carefully, as benefit details may vary.
When it comes to per-benefit coverage, the idea is to make sure you have enough potential compensation to cover each item you are insuring. For example, an emergency medical evacuation can exceed $100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, when searching for travel medical insurance, you may want to find a policy that offers at least $100,000 in medical evacuation coverage.
While you can’t definitively know how much an emergency situation or medical expense might cost, you can use the following suggestions to guide your search:
- Maximum Coverage — at least $50,000 (for those up to age 79)
- Emergency Medical Evacuation — $100,000+
- Repatriation of Remains — $25,000
- Personal Liability — $10,000
- Political Evacuation — $10,000
- Trip Interruption — $5,000
Consider Your Deductible
Your deductible is the predetermined dollar amount of eligible expenses that you must pay before your travel medical plan begins to cover its share of your remaining eligible expenses. Deductibles for travel medical policies typically range from $0 to a couple thousand dollars, with most plans offering a variety of deductible options.
Generally speaking, a lower deductible will result in a higher premium (the price you pay to purchase the plan), and a higher deductible will result in a lower premium.
If you’re looking for your coinsurance to kick in right away, should anything happen to you unexpectedly while abroad, it may be best to choose a $0 deductible and pay a slightly higher premium up front.
If you’re seeking worst-case-scenario coverage to ensure you won’t be solely responsible for any astronomical medical costs, and you could afford to pay any small medical costs out of pocket, then it may be best to choose a higher deductible so you can pay a lower premium when you purchase your policy.
If you’re taking a short trip and your plan cost is already low, it may be best to select a $0 deductible, as it likely won’t drastically increase your costs.
Pick the Best Carrier
As you begin your search for a reputable travel medical insurance provider, you’ll want to keep the following in mind:
- Company reputation — Is the insurance company you’re considering backed by a solid company reputation? Each company’s website should have an about page that tells you a little about its history, culture, service, and products. Consider the company’s financial ratings and how long it’s been in business. You can also use a site like resellerratings.com to check out past and current customer reviews.
- Extensive international provider network — Does the company offer an extensive international provider network? When you suffer an injury or come down with an illness while abroad, it’s important to know that you’ll be able to find an in-network provider nearby. Ease your mind by purchasing a plan that provides access to exceptional care in one hundred or more countries worldwide.
- 24/7 travel assistance services — Your safety is your number one priority when traveling abroad. A quality plan should offer 24/7 travel assistance services to help keep you safe.
To see more on customer reviews, check out "Understanding Insurance Reviews Online."
Get Reliable, Quality Coverage with an Atlas Series plan from Tokio Marine HCC – MIS Group
Based out of Indianapolis, IN, Tokio Marine HCC - MIS Group (formerly HCC Medical Insurance Services, HCCMIS) has been in business for almost 20 years. Tokio Marine HCC is rated "AA- (Very Strong)" by Standard & Poor's and "AA- (Very Strong)" by Fitch Ratings. In addition, Tokio Marine HCC’s domestic insurance companies are rated "A+ (Superior)" by A.M. Best Company.
Tokio Marine HCC - MIS Group (TM HCC – MIS Group) offers its Atlas Travel medical insurance in two different plan levels to ensure that you find the coverage you need at a price you can afford.
- Atlas Travel — Provides customizable coverage for international travelers seeking to balance essential and more specific needs.
- Atlas Premium — Offers the same great coverage as Atlas Travel- with even higher coverage limits.
Check out these Atlas Series highlights:
- Quality Coverage — Up to $2 million in overall coverage
- Affordability — International coverage starts at just a dollar per day
- Flexibility — Plans allow you to select your deductible, length of coverage, and level of coverage
- Eligibility — You can purchase coverage for yourself, your spouse, and any number of additional dependents; anyone who is at least 14 days old and traveling internationally is eligible for coverage
- Specialty Benefits — Terrorism, Personal Liability, Crisis Response, and Emergency Dental are just a few of the specialty benefits offered
- Extensive Provider Network —TM HCC – MIS Group maintains relationships with providers in over 130 countries and territories worldwide
- 24/7 Assistance — Atlas plans come with 24/7 non-U.S. customer service, travel alerts and warnings, tracking for lost luggage, emergency message relay, emergency cash transfers, lost passport and travel documents assistance, and more
TM HCC - MIS Group also offers Atlas Group insurance to those traveling in a group of 5 or more. It provides the same benefits and services of Atlas Travel — at a 10% discount!
And those taking multiple international trips a year can take advantage of an Atlas MultiTrip plan, which provides the convenience of a one-time payment and assured coverage for any number of last-minute trips abroad.
To learn more about Atlas Travel insurance, click here.