Why Worry Be Safe
Travel insurance policies provide at least six types of coverage, intended for different types of travellers and trips:
- Comprehensive travel medical insurance is for people who don't have any other medical insurance, even at home. Since most people who can afford it have health care coverage in their home country, often through their employer, comprehensive travel medical insurance is mainly of interest to long-term travelers who've left their jobs and lost their insurance coverage at home, or to those living and working outside their country of citizenship or permanent residence.
- Emergency travel medical insurance is for people who have medical coverage at home, but whose health plan at home doesn't cover them while they are travelling. Emergency travel medical insurance only covers emergency services abroad; once you get home, you're on your own (or presumably, back under your regular home coverage) for any necessary follow-up treatment or continuing care. Most health insurance plans and health maintenance organizations in the USA include their own provisions for emergency care while abroad, at least for trips of less than 30 days. Check with your current insurer or HMO before you waste money on an emergency travel medical plan that duplicates your existing coverage.
- Medical evacuation (medevac) insurance covers the cost of an air ambulance, attending physician and nurse, etc. if you are so badly injured, or become so ill, that you can't come home (or get to a suitable medical facility) on a scheduled commercial passenger flight. Medical evacuations can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but are rarely necessary. Even very badly injured travellers usually can come home on regular flights after no more than a couple of weeks of emergency treatment and stabilization abroad. Some of the activities most likely to lead to a need for medical evacuation, such as scuba diving and extreme sports, are often excluded from medevac coverage. Read the fine print.
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance covers the cancellation or refund penalties and the cost of getting home if you have to cancel your trip, or cut it short, for specified reasons. The covered reasons vary (read the fine print), but typically include injury or illness to you, a travelling companion, or a member of your immediate family. War and terrorism may or may not be included, or may be covered only at additional charge.
- Supplier default insurance covers any money you lose because of the bankruptcy of an airline, cruise line, tour operator, or other provider of travel services. Supplier default coverage has been drastically cut back since 11 September 2001. Some travel insurance companies no longer offer it at all, while others pick and choose which travel suppliers they will insure. Read the fine print.