What insurance do you already have?

In your day to day life, you probably have several types of insurance or access to insurance through your credit cards. Let’s take a look at some of these to see if they provide coverage when you’re traveling internationally.

Personal Health Insurance plan – will it cover medical expenses abroad?

Medicare does not cover medical expenses outside of the USA.

  • Note that USA does include its territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, etc. See the Medicare website for a clear understanding of the policy.
  • Some Medicare supplement insurance (Medigap) policies cover medical expenses outside of the USA. You should contact your Medigap provider and inquire what is covered, when in a foreign country, and who is responsible for payment to the medical provider. See the Medicare website regarding Medigap plans that provide coverage outside of the USA.
  • The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) may be able to provide additional information about foreign medical care coverage with Medicare supplement plans.

Personal health insurance plans might or might not cover emergency medical costs outside of the USA. If they do, the insured will usually have to make payment to the medical provider and then submit a claim, with required documentation, to seek reimbursement. They will probably not cover medical evacuation situations. You should contact your health insurance provider to understand what coverage, if any, is provided when you travel internationally. Questions to ask include:

  • What expenses are covered?
  • What are the limits in coverage?
  • Does this insurance policy return me to the United States for treatment if I become seriously ill or injured?
  • Does this insurance cover high-risk activities such as parasailing, mountain climbing, scuba diving and off-roading?
  • Does this policy cover pre-existing conditions?
  • Does the insurance company require pre-authorizations or second opinions before emergency treatment can begin?
  • Does the insurance company guarantee medical payments abroad?
  • Will the insurance company pay foreign hospitals and foreign doctors directly?
  • Does the insurance company have a 24-hour physician-backed support center?

Home insurance policy – will this cover personal belonging losses or damage abroad?

Personal belongings are covered by many home insurance plans. If they are stolen while traveling, they should be covered; however, most policies have a deductible. Since personal belonging losses might not amount to much, home insurance might not be helpful if the loss is less than the deductible. In addition, you might not want to file a claim on your home insurance plan for fear of an increased rate the following year. Have a home insurance agent review your policy with you to determine if any of the coverages can be applied abroad.

Umbrella liability policy

Sometimes a personal umbrella liability policy can be acquired at a very reasonable rate. This can be very handy when traveling abroad. For instance, it can provide the needed liability protection when renting a car in a foreign country if it’s not already included in the rental rate. Check with your insurance agent regarding this.

Auto insurance

Most auto insurance policies in the USA will not cover the insured when driving in a foreign country (with the possible exception of Canada). The Auto Club, on the front of its auto policy, states the following about driving in Mexico. “California law requires the following statement: WARNING – Unless you have automobile insurance written by a Mexican insurance company, you may spend many hours or days in jail, if you have an accident in Mexico.”

Credit Cards

The major credit cards offer limited types of insurance coverage. None of the credit cards can compete with the main travel insurance companies when it comes to trip cancellation, trip interruption, emergency medical or medical evacuation coverage. The credit cards primarily provide baggage, car rental coverage (theft/damage not liability), trip delay and flight accident insurance (which is life and AD&D while flying on a plane). If you already have a credit card, it’s nice to know what benefits it does provide. See the following links for a little more information about the coverages these cards provide.