How to Choose the Best Travel Medical Insurance
Not only are there a variety of travel medical insurance providers to choose from, but many 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 is influenced 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 provides coverage for the duration you specify and applies 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 so you can 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:
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, business executives, and 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
Nearly every study abroad student can benefit from an international student health insurance plan, as it provides 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 accommodate different needs and budgets. For example, Tokio Marine HCC – MIS Group offers its StudentSecure plan in 4 coverage levels:
- StudentSecure Elite – lowest deductible, highest maximum benefits (highest price)
- StudentSecure Select – low deductible, high maximum benefits (higher price)
- StudentSecure Budget – mid-level deductible, mid-level benefits (mid-level price)
- StudentSecure Smart – highest deductible, lowest maximum benefits (lowest price)
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 overall maximum 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).
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:
PRO TIP: Be sure to check the benefit language for any important restrictions or limitations.
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, luggage, or travel documents?
Seek benefits like:
- Common Carrier Accidental Death
- Trip Interruption
- Lost Checked Luggage
- Travel Delay
- Lost or Stolen Passport/Travel Visa
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 which you can find 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 — $25,000
- 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 provider 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 product offerings.
Consider the company’s financial ratings and how long it’s been in business. You can also check out past and current customer reviews.
- Provider search capabilities
If the plan utilizes a preferred provider organization and offers discounts for using in-network providers, how accessible is the network? Are you able to easily find in-network providers nearby?
Some plans place no restrictions on providers, meaning you’ll pay the same amount for a covered medical expense regardless of the provider you choose. In this case, does the plan offer a provider search engine or similar portal you can use to find nearby providers in your destination country?
In addition to an international provider search engine, some plans offer referrals for medical facilities, hospitals, dental practices, and pharmacies via their customer service line.
- Travel assistance services
A quality plan should offer multilingual travel assistance services in case of an emergency abroad. These services may include:
- Translation and interpretation assistance
- Help replacing lost passports and travel documents
- Access to a tracking service for locating lost luggage
- Assistance in making emergency travel arrangements in case of medical emergencies, political evacuations, and natural disasters
- Consultations with attending medical professionals during your hospitalization and establishment of a single point-of-contact for family members or friends to receive ongoing updates regarding your medical status
To see more on customer reviews, check out "Understanding Insurance Reviews Online.
Get Reliable 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 three different plan levels to help you find the ideal coverage for you at a budget-friendly price.
- Atlas Essential — Provides coverage for basic emergency care at a budget price
- Atlas Travel — Provides flexible coverage that allows you to choose your maximum coverage limit and deductible
- Atlas Premium — Offers higher coverage limits than Travel or Essential
Check Out These Atlas Series Highlights:
|High Coverage Limits||Up to $2 million in overall coverage|
International coverage starts at just a dollar per day
Plans allow you to select your deductible, length of coverage, and level of coverage
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
Terrorism, Personal Liability, Crisis Response, and Emergency Dental are just a few of the specialty benefits that come with your Atlas plan
International Provider Search Engine
Access to a search engine that will direct you to nearby doctors and hospitals worldwide
Travel Assistance Services
Multilingual services including 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.