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Traveling Overseas: Your Health Insurance Needs

Jonathan January 25th, 2011 0 comments

Traveling overseas, sometimes for work, but usually for a holiday, can be an overwhelming prospect for some. Leaving the country, even for a week, means leaving behind all the medical facilities and assistance you take for granted while you’re at home. Australian consulates can only do so much for a traveler when a medical situation arises, so it’s always best to think about health insurance right after you book that dream holiday.

Will Your Current Health Policy Cover It?

If you’re on an organised tour, then travel health insurance arrangements may already have been made on your behalf. It’s still advisable determine exactly what you’re covered for and if you need to make your own supplemental arrangements.

Some individual health insurance policies also offer supplemental insurance for travelers for a modest fee. However, you would have to find out how far the cover extends (e.g. only hospital treatment, not clinics, or vice versa) and if the claim process differs from the norm.

Consider Standalone Travel Insurance

Most travelers are advised to purchase a comprehensive, separate travel insurance policy, which not only covers loss/damage/theft of valuables and baggage and flight plan amendments, and also, most importantly, expenses related to illness or injury. This may seem unnecessary initially, but it isn’t unheard of for uninsured travelers having to pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket in the event emergency medical treatment or evacuation is needed.

Whatever the you decide to buy, always read the terms and conditions to ensure it provides the coverage you might need. As a further precaution, all details and policy confirmation should be obtained in writing before you leave.

Cover All Bases

It’s all well and good if you’re traveling alone; you only have to look out for yourself. However, travelers usually holiday with their family or significant other. Insurance options makes allowances for this, and the person usually has to pick from either:

– A “single” plan, which provides cover for one adult and dependents aged under 21 years. Individuals aged under 25 years may be considered dependents if they are also listed under the adult’s existing policy as members.

– A “couple”/”family” plan that covers two adults and dependents as described above. Note that some health funds provide cover based on the stipulation that all members of the policy have the same itinerary.

Location, Location, Location

In addition to identifying the medical expenses your policy will cover, you also need to confirm that it actually provides cover for your destination and if the claims process for international medical expenses is different from the domestic process. Again, this information should be available in writing before you leave. Some funds may only certain regions or subject the traveler to hefty excess fees, which is something you shouldn’t find out at the last minute.

Keep Information at Your Fingertips

When narrowing down your choices for a travel health policy, it may in your best interest to declare any preexisting ailments or conditions (PEA). It may affect the fee incurred, but it guards against the possibility that the policy may not cover PEA at all.

It’s also a good idea to have your insurance card and claim information with you while you’re abroad, whether you have a travel insurance policy or under your own health insurance. Another precaution to take when traveling is to identify the participating healthcare facilities available in the region to which you’re traveling. The level of care (and English proficiency) may vary between facilities, and this knowledge can be helpful.

The world has become a much smaller place thanks to affordable travel options. However, the possibility of falling ill and incurring large medical expenses while traveling remains a perennial concern. Fortunately, due diligence in identifying and buying the most appropriate travel health insurance policy affords the individual peace of mind while he or she is on the road.

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