Travel Insurance vs Travel Health Insurance: What’s the Difference?

Here is an article that was recently posted on the Allianz Travel Insurance blog. I though it was perfect to repost because it’s a question I get asked a lot about as a global ambassador. So please do have a read for some good information.

Travel Insurance vs Travel Health Insurance: What’s the Difference?

We often see the terms “travel insurance” and “travel health insurance” used interchangeably. They sound similar. And they both can help pay medical bills when you’re overseas. But they’re very different things.

Here’s one way to think about it. Travel health insurance is your sidekick, covering routine medical care if you’re going to be overseas for a long time. Travel insurance with emergency medical benefits is your superhero, leaping into action when you experience a serious, even catastrophic, covered medical emergency abroad. We’ll explain what you need to know about both.

Travel Insurance with Emergency Medical Benefits Covers Just That — Emergencies.

Emergency medical and dental benefits, included in many travel insurance plans, can cover losses due to covered medical and dental emergencies that occur during your trip. A covered medical emergency means a sudden, unexpected illness or injury during your trip that’s either life-threatening or could cause serious and irreparable harm if it isn’t treated. For emergency dental benefits, a covered emergency refers to an injury or infection, a lost filling or a broken tooth during your trip that requires immediate treatment by a dentist.

Put simply, emergency medical and dental benefits exist to protect you when you experience a serious covered medical crisis — not a minor health issue. These benefits do not cover things like routine preventative care, normal childbirth, elective cosmetic surgery, palliative care, experimental treatments or allergy treatments (unless life-threatening).

Travel Health Insurance is Designed for Long-Term Residency Overseas.

If you’re planning to live overseas for an extended time because you’re working, volunteering or retiring in another country, you should consider getting travel health insurance (also called travel medical insurance or international medical insurance). Travel health insurance is similar to domestic health insurance: It may cover things like checkups, visits to your primary care doctor, mental health care, prescriptions, etc.

Unlike travel insurance with emergency medical benefits, travel health insurance may require medical underwriting (a review of your medical history) and the payment of deductibles. Allianz Global Assistance does not sell travel health insurance. If you need travel insurance with emergency medical benefits for a longer trip, consider our OneTrip Emergency Medical Plan.Designed for trips up to 180 days in length, this plan offers flexible and affordable travel insurance for travelers with few pre-paid expenses.

Medical Emergencies Overseas are More Common Than You Think.

What are the biggest risks to your health while you’re traveling? Most people guess things like exotic tropical diseases, muggings, or even crocodile or shark attacks. The truth is more mundane: car accidents are the number-one killer of healthy Americans traveling overseas, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Every year, Allianz Global Assistance gets thousands of calls from American customers who need help dealing with a medical emergency overseas. The most common emergencies they experience are:

  • Fractures from falls, often to the hip, ankle, tibia, and fibia
  • Cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks and strokes
  • Trauma, often from accidents involving cars, mopeds, and scooters
  • Pulmonary/respiratory problems, such as pneumothorax (collapsed lung)

Your Regular Health Insurance Probably Won’t Cover You Abroad.

“Most domestic health plans provide limited coverage overseas and won’t cover prescriptions abroad,” Margaret Wilson, M.D., chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Global, tells Consumer Reports. That includes Medicare, which, in most cases, does not cover plan participants outside the United States. (Some Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans include worldwide emergency care.)

Every health insurance plan is different, so call your provider before you travel and ask what’s covered. If the plan does cover you while you’re traveling, ask about the dollar limits, as well as the procedure for submitting claims and getting reimbursed. Many hospitals overseas expect payment up front, so don’t expect to be able to present your health insurance card to a hospital and have everything taken care of. If you have travel insurance with emergency medical benefits, we often work with hospitals to guarantee payment, so you can be treated as quickly as possible following a covered injury or illness.

Know the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Coverage.

If you purchase a travel insurance plan with primary emergency medical and dental benefits, that means the travel insurance company is the first payer or reimburser of those benefits. Secondary insurance coverage, on the other hand, only kicks in after primary benefits have been paid. To find out if your travel insurance plan includes primary emergency medical and dental benefits, read your policy documents and contact Allianz Global Assistance with any questions.

If You Have an Existing Medical Condition, Make Sure You’re Covered.

Do you have a chronic illness, a bum knee or another existing medical condition? Be cautious when you’re buying insurance.  Travel health insurance plans typically won’t cover pre-existing conditions, unless you purchase a special waiver.

Certain travel insurance plans can cover existing medical conditions, but specific requirements must be met. You must insure your full nonrefundable trip costs within 14 days of paying your first trip deposit, and you must be medically able to travel when you do so. Some exclusions apply, however. Read more about how travel insurance covers existing medical conditions.


Disclaimer: I work as an ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and receive financial compensation.

Comments

  1. I had never really thought about the difference between travel insurance and travel health insurance, but it does make sense that you’d want to know. However, I do have to say that I am more surprised to learn that medical emergencies overseas are so common. Since that is most likely the case I can easily see why someone would want to have temporary traveling health insurance just in case.

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