Travelling to a foreign country can be an enriching experience, but it can also have some challenges if you are not eligible for medical insurance. One of the primary challenges world travellers face is getting global medical insurance. As you get older, this becomes more and more challenging. While many foreign countries have excellent healthcare programs for citizens, you will find that you don’t qualify.
When you hit 70, getting health and travel insurance can be complex. Getting decent travel insurance for 45 days isn’t as easy as it used to be and undoubtedly expensive once you’re looking at over 60 days.
This is where belonging to various senior groups can be very handy. We belong to the federal retirees, and they have an excellent travel insurance program. Our annual package covered everything under the sun for 60 days. However, extending that to approximately 90 days cost us close to $1000 for the two of us. This is still cheap compared to other stories I have heard.
The AAA or CAA (here in Canada) is well-worth membership in North America. The membership belongs to the person and not the car. It can be pretty handy if you get a flat tire. Many places give a 10% discount. Most importantly, they provide good travel insurance.
Your home and car insurance company may also provide decent travel insurance, but there are no guarantees. The same can be said for your bank.
Understanding the insurance itself is crucial to finding an appropriate insurance plan.
The basics of global medical insurance:
1. How are the premiums determined?
- Like any individual policy, premiums are based primarily on age, medical history, and coverage area.
- Many plans have two separate premiums worldwide, excluding the USA. This is due to the high cost of health care in the United States.
- Some policies will give rates for a particular country, but you’ll only be covered for medical care there.
- Most policies are ‘globally portable,’ so you can use them wherever you happen to be when needed. However, the policy won’t provide coverage when you return to the United States.
- These policies are usually purchased on an annual basis. If you’re planning on being abroad for a relatively short period, a travel medical policy might be a better solution. These policies cost less but are only in effect for a specific time.
2. Examine your needs.
- If your health is solid, you might be best served by a basic policy with a high deductible and co-pay. If you are over 70, I would recommend getting comprehensive coverage. This is particularly true if you’re prone to health issues.
- Increasing the coverage will also increase your premiums, but it might be worth it.
- Remember, this is insurance; hopefully, you will not need it. In all my travels, I have needed to use mine only once, many years ago.
3. Consider using a broker.
- The cost is the same, but you’ll get several quotes from different companies. Compare the plans, charges, and policy specifications.
4. Know how the insurance will pay your bills.
- Not every policy is the same. Some policies will pay the medical provider directly, but some plans only reimburse you for your medical costs. This means you’ll have to pay the bills with your money before the insurance company pays.
5. Know the difference between a basic and a comprehensive policy.
- Most insurance companies will offer one or more levels of coverage. Read the information about the specific policy beforehand.
- A basic plan will generally only cover inpatient costs. These are typically going to be your more serious medical conditions and injuries. For example, a trip to the doctor for a sore throat wouldn’t be covered. Emergency surgery, however, would be.
- A comprehensive plan will cover all the items in the basic policy but will also cover outpatient care.
- While not all pre-existing conditions are eligible for insurance coverage, they may be in some cases. The pre-existing condition is eligible with some policies, provided no treatment has been received in the previous 24 months.
7. Be aware of the exclusions.
- Health and travel insurance policies were not covering issues arising from Covid, but that is changing, and we made sure to get covered.
- Unfortunately, exclusions exist, and most are related to routine or elective care. Elective surgery and routine physical examinations are two such examples. There are many more, but they vary from policy to policy.
It’s never wise to be without health and medical insurance; being overseas is no exception.
Get online, do additional research, and pay attention to the small print. Talking to a broker is a good idea. It doesn’t increase your cost, and you’ll have an expert.