With recent news of Americans getting sick and dying on vacation in the Dominican Republic, the question isn’t so much whether to buy travel insurance but what kind and how much. Don’t just check the box without asking what’s covered, says Michael Grossman of travel insurer Starr Insurance Cos. The benefits can be a lifesaver.
What’s at risk? The answer differs for domestic vs. international travel. The average trip costs about $2,500 per person for domestic, $4,500 for international. That’s what you stand to lose, should you have to cancel a trip, say, for a medical reason – the most common cause of a trip cancellation.
For medical expenses, what’s covered? Does the policy cover your entire claim up to a policy limit or just the deductible on your regular health insurance? For a U.S. citizen traveling overseas, a big risk is medical emergency – including possible evacuation. Most U.S. medical insurance doesn’t cover emergency medical care outside the U.S.
Does your travel insurer provide 24/7 access to assistance? Does it help you in non-medical as well as medical emergencies?
“Bad things do happen that can ruin a trip – and they happen more often than you’d think,” Grossman says, noting that Starr pays thousands of claims every year. Here are actual cases from Starr’s files on insurance policies:
Medical Evacuation from Thailand: A Virginia woman in Thailand suffered a vertebrae fracture on a boat ride. She needed surgery but having it done locally would have meant convalescing in Thailand longer than her policy would have covered. Starr evacuated her back home, where she had the surgery and recovered. Starr paid more than $235,000 under her policy’s emergency medical evacuation benefit.
Trip Cancellation: A 76-year-old man and his wife were scheduled to fly from Seattle for a 21-day excursion to Australia and New Zealand. The trip had to be cancelled when he got the flu and was advised not to travel. Starr paid a $15,492 trip refund for both husband and wife.
Trip Cancellation, Pre-Existing Conditions Waiver: A 71-year-old Georgia woman booked a month’s trip with her husband to Brazil and Portugal. Two months after the booking, the insured suffered heart failure, prohibiting her from traveling. Her policy included a pre-existing conditions waiver, Starr reimbursed the couple $16,482 for non-refundable airfare and cruise expenses.
These kinds of costly – and often life-threatening – trip wreckers happen frequently. The right kind of coverage at least can take the financial sting out of the experience. The question isn’t whether to buy the coverage but how much and what kind. For more information, go to starrassist.com.