MedicalForNomads

Does Travel Insurance Cover Medical Expenses?

Does Travel Insurance Cover Medical Expenses?

Does Travel Insurance Cover Medical Expenses?

Travel Insurance Exposed By Medical Experts

Does travel insurance cover medical expenses: Quick answer; Yes, travel insurance covers medical expenses, but only for accidents and emergencies. Travel insurance typically does not cover ongoing healthcare management, chronic illnesses, or treatments for pre-existing conditions. It’s mainly for emergency situations.

So, will your travel insurance cover medical expenses? It’s a fantastic question, and one that needs to be explored so we can get the most accurate answer. 

Travel insurance might be great when it comes to help with stuff like lost bags or if you need to cancel your trip. But when it comes to health, it’s a bit like a plaster – it’s good for small cuts but not the big stuff.

Starting a new adventure in another country is super exciting, but it’s also super important to think about staying healthy while you’re there. I’m going to be clearing up a few things to explain what medical expenses travel insurance will cover, and which ones they will not. 

A lot of travel insurance companies will try to ‘market’ their insurance as medical insurance, but this is totally wrong. You’ll find that a large percentage of medical insurance will not be covered in travel insurance and there will be a lot of hiccups on the way as well. 

Well, I don’t want to give it all away in the first paragraph, so let’s keep reading to find out exactly what is covered in your travel insurance and what is missing. 

Quick summary: Travel insurance primarily covers travel-related incidents like lost luggage or trip cancellations and only emergency medical expenses. You could be out of pocket without proper medical coverage on a long term trip or travelling overseas. For more comprehensive health care, It’s better to look at medical insurance. Travel insurance does not cover medical expenses like mental health, outpatient care, minor surgeries, dentals and more which is covered in medical insurance.

What Is Travel Insurance?

In short, travel insurance is a type of insurance that covers the risks associated with travelling, such as trip cancellations, lost luggage, travel delays, and some unexpected medical expenses while away from home. It’s designed to protect travellers from financial losses they wouldn’t typically be able to afford.

Travel insurance is primarily designed for travel purposes only. It is not designed for expats or nomads who are living overseas for a long period of time. It’s also not suited for business entrepreneurs who travel globally and care about their health.

Travel insurance will not cover any medical expenses for therapy

Deep Dive into Medical Coverage: Comparing Travel Insurance Packages

Ok, so to help you visualise what medicals are covered in travel insurance, we’ve actually done market research on 3 of the most popular travel insurance companies to see what medical insurance they cover.

The three that we have chosen are; Allianz Travel Insurance, World Nomads, and AIG Travel Guard. These are some top players claiming to have some of the best travel insurance packages in the world, but do they really cover medical expenses? Let’s find out.

Allianz Travel Insurance

Packages:

Basic (Trip Cancellation & Interruption)

  • No medical coverage included.

Standard (Classic, Plus, Platinum):

  • Emergency medical expenses covered up to plan limits.
  • Emergency medical evacuation included.
  • Pre-existing conditions excluded unless purchased as an add-on (limitations apply).

Enhanced (Premier, Executive):

  • Higher coverage limits for medical expenses and evacuation.
  • Additional benefits like dental emergencies and trip interruption.
  • Cancel for Any Reason: Allows trip cancellation for any reason (including medical) for an additional premium.

World Nomads

Packages:

Standard (Explorer, Standard):

  • Emergency medical expenses covered up to plan limits.
  • Emergency medical evacuation included.
  • Pre-existing conditions excluded unless purchased as an add-on (limitations apply).

Adventure:

  • Higher coverage limits for medical expenses and evacuation.
  • Includes coverage for adventure activities like skiing and scuba diving.

Customisable:

  • Build your own plan with add-on options like extreme sports coverage, pre-existing condition coverage (specific limitations apply), and medical evacuation return.

AIG Travel Guard

Packages:

Basic (Economy, Value):

  • Emergency medical expenses covered up to plan limits.
  • Emergency medical evacuation included.
  • Pre-existing conditions excluded unless purchased as an add-on (limitations apply).

Essentials:

  • Higher coverage limits for medical expenses and evacuation.
  • Trip interruption coverage included.

Platinum:

  • Comprehensive coverage with highest limits for medical expenses and evacuation.
  • Medical evacuation return included.
  • Accidental death & dismemberment coverage.

Comparison of medical coverage

Feature Allianz World Nomads AIG Travel Guard
Outpatient/Ongoing Medical Support Limited to emergencies, some plans exclude pre-existing conditions. Check details. May be included in some plans, may exclude pre-existing conditions. Check details. Limited to emergencies, some plans exclude pre-existing conditions. Check details.
Mental Health Support Very limited, usually excludes pre-existing conditions. Check details. May be included in some plans, limited and may exclude pre-existing conditions. Check details. Very limited, usually excludes pre-existing conditions. Check details.
Emergency Health (e.g., car crash) Typically covered up to plan limits. Typically covered up to plan limits. Typically covered up to plan limits.
Minor Surgery Covered up to plan limits, may exclude pre-existing conditions. Check details. Covered up to plan limits, may exclude pre-existing conditions. Check details. Covered up to plan limits, may exclude pre-existing conditions. Check details.
Prescription Drugs Limited coverage, may require specific prescriptions. Check details. Limited coverage, may require specific prescriptions. Check details. Limited coverage, may require specific prescriptions. Check details.
Adventure Activity Coverage Standard plans exclude most, requires add-ons. Included in Adventure plan, customizable in others. Excluded in standard plans, requires add-ons.
Evacuation Coverage Limits Varies by plan, typically lower in basic plans. Varies by plan, generally higher than Allianz. High limits in all plans.
Additional Benefits Trip interruption available in higher plans. Includes dental emergencies in some plans. Medical evacuation return and accidental death & dismemberment in the highest plan.

Does Travel Insurance Cover Medical Expenses?

Travel insurance does cover medical expenses, but the coverage is quite limited. It generally only includes Accident & Emergency (A&E) treatment, which is a small part of hospital services. Most medical issues aren’t A&E related, so relying on travel insurance for medical cover can be risky.

In my professional opinion, the medical coverage provided by travel insurance is far from comprehensive. It’s designed to offer a safety net for unforeseen accidents and emergencies that require immediate attention, such as injuries from a fall or a sudden heart attack. 

However, A&E services represent just a fraction of hospital care, often less than 10% of hospital admissions. The reality is that most medical conditions require more than just emergency care; they need ongoing treatment, specialist consultations, and possibly surgery, none of which are typically covered by travel insurance.

Honestly, I’ve seen many clients mistakenly believe that their travel insurance will cover all medical eventualities. This misconception can lead to significant financial and emotional stress when they realise that their policy doesn’t cover the cost of non-emergency medical care.

travel insurance is very limited in covering medical expenses

Most Of The Time You Will Need To Pay Deductibles Or Up Front Costs

The way travel insurance handles claims can actually be a critical issue. Typically, you’re required to pay for your medical treatment upfront and then submit a claim to your insurance provider for reimbursement. This process can be fraught with challenges, especially in urgent situations. 

Consider a scenario where you’re hospitalised abroad. The hospital demands payment before treatment can commence, and the costs are substantial. If you don’t have immediate access to the necessary funds, you could be left in a very ugly situation. 

This isn’t just inconvenient; it’s a matter of life and death. Hospitals in some countries won’t even start treatment without a guarantee of payment. This is why relying on travel insurance for your medical can be a huge risk.

This reimbursement model puts you at the mercy of whatever money you can scrape together quickly. If your resources don’t stretch to cover the costs, you’re left in a vulnerable position. You’ll be left in a similar situation if you have to pay deductibles as well.

In contrast, a good medical insurance policy (like ours) allows for direct billing between the provider and the hospital. This means the insurance company settles the bills directly, and you’re spared the cost of upfront payment.

You Will Likely Miss Out On Out-Patient Benefits

Out-patient benefits are a critical component of medical insurance that you typically won’t find in a travel insurance policy, outside of A&E/ER treatment. You tend to only find these in medical insurance policies, not travel insurance.

These benefits cover medical treatments where you’re not admitted to a hospital overnight, such as doctor’s consultations, minor medical procedures, prescription medications, and follow-up care. In my opinion, the absence of out-patient coverage in travel insurance is a significant drawback for policyholders.

Many medical conditions and treatments fall under the out-patient category. For example, if you’re managing a chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension while travelling, you’ll need regular check-ups and medication. These are different to inpatient benefits

Or, if you sustain a minor injury that requires x-rays, stitches, or physiotherapy, these are all out-patient services. Without out-patient benefits, you would be responsible for these costs, which can accumulate quickly, especially if you require ongoing treatment.

Travel insurance is primarily designed to help with unexpected emergencies that disrupt your travel plans, not for comprehensive health care. It’s a common misconception that travel insurance is a substitute for medical insurance. This is simply not the case. 

As a medical insurance specialist, I’ve seen many travellers caught off-guard by these limitations, facing hefty bills for out-patient services they assumed were covered. It’s crucial to understand that for complete medical protection, especially for those living or travelling abroad frequently, a dedicated medical insurance policy with out-patient benefits is indispensable.

Travel insurance does not actually cover outpatient benefits

What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

Ok, so as we’ve covered travel insurance is mostly for short term holidays coverage, so the main focus is on things that are closely related to travel. Now, we’ve listed below all of the things that are usually covered in travel insurance (in general). 

Trip cancellation

Reimbursement for non-refundable trip costs if you need to cancel for a covered reason like illness, death of a family member, or job loss. This is tailored towards travel only, and nothing to do with medical expenses.

Trip interruption

Coverage for the portion of your trip that is cut short due to covered reasons similar to trip cancellation. Same as above, it’s not relevant to medical costs or expenses. 

Emergency medical expenses

Costs for unforeseen medical treatment while travelling. These are usually emergencies only, and not outpatient care. 

Emergency medical evacuation

Costs for unforeseen medical treatment while travelling. These are usually emergencies only, and not outpatient care. 

Baggage and personal belongings

Compensation for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage and personal items. Highly related to travel, and usually this coverage will not be found in medical insurance. 

Baggage delay

Reimbursement for the purchase of essentials if bags are delayed for over a certain period (usually 12-24 hours). Again, highly related to travel and not ultra important to medical coverage.

Travel delay

Reimbursement for additional accommodation, travel, and meal expenses if your travel is delayed due to covered reasons. It’s in the name, travel delay. Another thing that is not ultra related to covering your medical expenses.

Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D):

A lump sum payment for accidental death or loss of limb/sight. This is slightly relevant but still nothing to do with medical expenses being covered.

24/7 emergency assistance

Access to a support team to assist with emergencies, including coordination of medical care and transportation. This could be covered in larger travel insurance packages, but how effective it is, I don’t know. 

Rental car damage protection

Coverage for damages to a rental car due to collision, theft, vandalism, windstorm, fire, hail, flood, or any cause not in your control while in possession of the vehicle. Usually as an expat wanting medical insurance, this isn’t ultra relevant.

Repatriation of remains

Costs for returning a deceased’s body back to their home country. Now this is something similar to what is included in medical insurance related to covering the costs of a death.

Summary of coverage

Well, as you can likely see above what travel insurance covers, some things are not highly related to much medical expenses at all. Sure there are a few emergency coverage for medical expenses but the bulk of the coverage is highly related to travel. 

So overall, it’s safe to say you should get travel insurance if you’re looking to travel around and want to be covered for that. But you should get medical insurance if you are looking for comprehensive medical coverage.

What Does Travel Insurance Not Cover?

Now, we’ve seen what travel insurance does cover, now let’s see what travel insurance does not cover. Specifically on the medical expenses side of things. 

Routine medical exams

Regular health check-ups and routine exams are not covered. This is super important, especially if you are overseas for a while. 

Mental health care

Some policies exclude mental health care, including psychiatric treatment or substance abuse treatment. This is super important across nomads and expats who are far from home and families.

Pregnancy and childbirth

Expenses related to normal pregnancy, childbirth, or related complications are often excluded, although some policies may offer coverage as an add-on. Likely this is best to get covered under medical insurance. 

Dental care

Except for emergency dental treatment resulting from an accident, routine dental care is not covered. Most of the time dental is not included in travel insurance so it’s a risk for expats and other nomads.

Vision care

Routine eye exams and vision correction are not covered. If you are someone who needs glasses, or wakes up with an issue in your eye, then this could be very expensive if it’s not covered. 

Long-term care

Expenses for long-term care facilities or prolonged rehabilitation are not covered. Medical insurance does cover this, whereby you can get any rehabilitation for a long time without being out of pocket. 

Adventure sports injuries

Injuries sustained from high-risk activities such as skydiving, mountaineering, or bungee jumping are often excluded unless specific adventure sports coverage is purchased.

War and conflict

Injuries or illnesses resulting from war, military action, civil unrest, or terrorism might be excluded. These are included in medical insurance but it depends on which package you get.  

Travel Insurance Likely Only Covers Major Medical Emergencies

So, as I mentioned above, the coverage for major medical emergencies provided by travel insurance is indeed limited to acute, unexpected incidents that require immediate attention. 

This might include situations like a severe injury from an accident or a sudden, life-threatening illness that occurs while you’re travelling. However, it’s important to note that even in these emergency situations, travel insurance often does not facilitate direct payment to hospitals.

This means that if you’re hospitalised, you’ll typically need to settle the bill yourself at the point of service. After paying, you must then file a claim with your travel insurance provider, providing all the necessary documentation and receipts. 

This process can be time-consuming and requires you to have the financial means to cover the costs upfront. It’s a significant concern for many travellers, as not everyone has the ability to pay potentially large sums at short notice.

travel insurance only covers major medical emergencies - man with hospital bed

Travel Insurance Claims Process

Then we can move to the travel insurance claims process when it comes to medical expenses. Well, the problem is that the travel insurance company doesn’t really want to be paying out all of your medical bills, so they will find different ways to prevent having to pay. 

Not only that, but the fact you have to claim it back says to me that it’s going to be a hassle and leave you very much out of pocket. I’ll cover it more shortly. 

Here’s a list of the biggest issues when it comes to claiming back your medical expenses from travel insurance companies. 

Most travel insurance have a complex document requirement

Most travel insurance providers will have a claims process that requires loads of different technical documents such as detailed medical reports, original receipts and even proof of travel. This can be super frustrating especially if you’re in a foreign country and need to request those documents with language barriers.

Travel insurance comes with exclusions and loopholes

Sadly, this does happen. And it’s happened to a lot of our clients. Insurance policies often have a long list of exclusions, and some may use these to deny claims. This is a huge risk to be taking and I’m sure everyone has heard a horror story or two about insurance companies doing this. 

Most travel insurance wont pay hospitals directly

When you’re faced with a medical emergency in a foreign country, the last thing you want to worry about is whether you have enough credit on your card or cash in your account to cover hospital expenses, let’s be realistic. 

Yet, this is precisely the situation many travellers find themselves in due to most travel insurance policies not actually paying the hospitals directly. 

Imagine being on holiday and having to suddenly find thousands of pounds to cover a hospital bill, with the added stress of knowing you’ll have to navigate the claims process later. 

It’s not just the financial strain. It’s the time and effort involved in the reimbursement process, which can be complex and require persistent follow-up. Now you’re having to waste your time fighting with your travel insurance to get your money back. 

In my years of experience, I’ve seen the relief on my clients’ faces when they realise their medical insurance plan includes direct billing. It’s a game-changer. The hospital liaises directly with the insurer, and you’re left to focus on what’s most important – your health and recovery. 

Travel insurance will not pay direct to your hospital

Medical Insurance Is Usually Cheaper Than Travel Insurance

The cost-effectiveness of medical insurance is because it solely focuses on healthcare. Unlike travel insurance, which encompasses a variety of travel-related issues such as lost luggage, cancelled flights, and minor medical emergencies, medical insurance dedicates its resources solely to your health. 

This singular focus allows for a more efficient allocation of funds towards comprehensive medical care, which can result in lower cost of your insurance for a more extensive health care coverage.

Travel insurance policy costs are often higher because they’re priced to cover a wide range of travel contingencies. These policies must account for the diverse risks associated with travel, from the inconvenience of a delayed bag to the expense of a last-minute flight cancellation. 

However, the medical component of travel insurance is just a fraction of its overall coverage and is typically limited to acute emergencies, which means you’re paying more for a broad package that may not provide the depth of medical coverage you actually need.

This specialisation in healthcare is why I often recommend medical insurance to those seeking thorough and cost-effective coverage for their health, particularly for expats and long-term travellers who need reliable medical protection.

Be Careful Choosing Travel Insurance As An Option To Cover Your Medical Bills

If you are choosing travel insurance, it’s so important to recognise its limitations. Travel insurance is designed for short-term coverage. This focuses on travel inconveniences rather than comprehensive health care. 

For expatriates or those living abroad, the medical component of travel insurance is often insufficient. It’s not going to be enough. It typically covers only immediate, emergency treatments and lacks the depth needed for someone residing in a foreign country.

The limitations of travel insurance become particularly evident when you consider the need for ongoing medical care, which is a common requirement for expats. 

For instance, managing chronic conditions, accessing regular prescriptions, or needing maternity care are aspects of healthcare that travel insurance does not traditionally cover.

Therefore, for expats and long-term residents abroad, investing in a medical insurance policy that aligns with their healthcare needs is a wise decision. It ensures that you have access to the necessary medical care without the financial strain and limitations associated with travel insurance. 

It’s not just about having any insurance; it’s about having the right insurance for your lifestyle and health requirements.

Confused and upset nomad who travel insurance will not cover medical expenses

Conclusion

To summarise this all in a non-biassed way, travel insurance is often perceived as a catch-all safety net for travellers, but it is not designed to address the full spectrum of healthcare needs that one might encounter.

Especially for those expats and nomads living abroad for extended periods. The medical coverage within travel insurance is typically limited to emergency situations and does not cater to the ongoing healthcare management that you will often require.

On the other hand, medical insurance is a more suitable and economical option for those seeking extensive healthcare coverage. It is tailored to provide a comprehensive suite of medical services, from routine care to complex procedures, and is managed by healthcare experts who understand the intricacies of global medical needs. 

For expatriates and long-term travellers, the choice is clear: investing in medical insurance ensures a level of coverage that travel insurance simply cannot match, safeguarding not just your health but also your financial security. It’s a strategic choice that offers continuity of care, no matter where your travels take you.

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Damon

With a decade of experience in medical insurance, Damon crafts solutions for nomads and global entrepreneurs. Often seen at global seminars or featured in industry publications, he’s dedicated to simplifying medical insurance for all.

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