If there’s one reason above all others to take out travel insurance, it has to be to cover the cost of medical treatment. If you fall ill or have an accident while visiting another country, chances are you won’t get access to any free or subsidized healthcare services.
When you’re traveling you have two choices when it comes to your medical needs. You can take the risk of not having medical coverage with your travel insurance, or you can have the coverage and take on the travel medical claim that comes with it.
Not having medical coverage with your travel insurance means having to pay for treatment at private rates. And depending on where you are and the nature of the treatment you need, that can be very, very expensive.
Medical coverage is therefore the most valuable part of any travel insurance policy.
It’s normal to find policies with seven-figure pay-out limits, reflecting just how much treatment could cost in a worst-case scenario of severe illness or trauma, a long hospital stay, and the need to fly you home under medical supervision.
It’s also the part that causes the most friction between insurance companies and their customers. Unfortunately, stories of people having their travel medical claim turned down because insurers subsequently go rummaging around in a customer’s medical history and find something they say should have been declared is far from uncommon.
Travel insurance is a particular sticking point for anyone with a pre-existing medical condition. From sky-high premiums to companies flat refusing to offer coverage, many people report terrible problems just finding a travel policy in the first place.
How to Avoid the Travel Medical Claim Nightmare
Make Sure You Share Your FULL Medical History Over the Past Two Years
Travel insurance providers ask for details of your medical history so they can assess the level of risk you pose of making a claim. If you have a long background of medical conditions and are in poor health, there’s a higher chance you will need medical assistance while away.
That’s what pushes premiums up for people with medical conditions.
But it isn’t just obvious long-term conditions like diabetes or cancer or cardiovascular disease that you have to declare (although these do of course have to be shared). What trips many travelers up is the requirement to declare any medical interventions or episodes from the previous two years.
For example, this article details the case of a holidaymaker who had a claim that refused treatment for dehydration in the US on the grounds that they hadn’t declared a urinary tract infection (UTI) they’d had treatment for in the previous two years.
When you make a travel medical claim, your insurer will ask for your medical records for that period from your doctor. Any small thing you didn’t share when you bought your policy could be used against you.
The best way to guard against this is to be thorough. Any medication you’ve been on, any medical investigations, any non-routine check-ups, even any symptoms you told a medical professional about – if you think it might show up in your medical records, tell your insurer about it.
If You Have Long Term Conditions, Seek Out a Specialist
Stories like the one above can leave many travelers with the distinct impression that their insurance company is trying to catch them. Others, especially those with long-term medical conditions, can also be left with the feeling that insurers don’t want to cover them at all.
Some providers won’t even bother hiding behind premiums so high they seem designed to put people off buying them. They will just refuse to sell policies to people with certain conditions on the grounds that they think the risks are too high.
Medical coverage is universal on all travel insurance policies, but travel insurance for pre-existing conditions is a specialist area. And when it comes to a travel medical claim, standard medical coverage is really only designed for general and emergency treatments.
But if you have a condition, there is a good chance that you could need specialist treatments specific to it if you fall ill while abroad.
These are likely to cost more, which is why mainstream providers will often refuse coverage, or at least push prices up so high. But specialist providers operate on the basis of providing targeted cover for an individual’s medical needs.
By looking at both your condition and your current state of health, they are able to offer the coverage you need at a fair price.
Research Your Destination and Its Healthcare System
Depending on the country or region you are traveling to, the healthcare systems and services available in that area can vary greatly.
Some countries may have very limited medical services, while others may offer a wide range of services, such as doctors, nurses, ambulance services, hospitals, and pharmacies.
When researching your destination, consider the type of medical services available, what medical insurance you may need, and the general quality of the healthcare system in that country or region. It is also important to check local regulations on health care and any restrictions on obtaining medical treatment.
In addition to researching your destination’s healthcare system, you should also take adequate precautions to protect yourself and your family while traveling to avoid a travel medical claim. This includes packing all your necessary medications, carrying copies of your insurance and medical documents, and researching any potential safety concerns in the area.
It’s also a good idea to keep your travel insurance policy up-to-date and make sure that it covers you for a particular condition in the event that you need to address a travel medical claim from medical emergencies.
If You Are Unwell, Don’t Travel
Finally, if you want to avoid the potential minefield of making your travel medical claim against your travel insurance, don’t take the risk of traveling if you’re not in a good state of health. Travel can be tiring and stressful and could easily make your symptoms worse.
Not only will this spoil your holiday, but you’ll also find yourself seeking medical assistance and then worrying about making a travel medical claim.
This is all especially important if your doctor advises you not to travel. That in effect invalidates your travel insurance should you decide to go anyway. If you make a travel medical claim, your doctor’s advice will appear on your medical records, and your insurer will refuse to pay out.
Travel insurance is a wise choice. If you have any preexisting conditions, even if they seem minor and common, be sure to disclose this to your policyholder.
You don’t want to be stuck in a foreign place with a travel medical claim that can’t get settled because you failed to disclose some minor information. It’s best to cover all the bases, especially if you’re not in tip-top health.
So, as you’re planning your trip, be sure to put some time aside for this important task. And plan to do a little legwork to get the right coverage that will work in the event that you find yourself having to file a travel medical claim from a distant or foreign location.
And of course, travel safely and be well.