This article is part of our monthly travel and global health news round-up.
July and August are busy months for travellers. Several stories about travellers’ medical care experiences abroad have been in the news lately, so travel health insurance is the theme of this edition.
In the news this month
The Sydney Morning Herald
Great news! Two Australian insurance companies have removed exclusions that deny travellers coverage for mental health conditions. This is a step in the right direction.
We recognise the critical importance of incorporating specific cover for people with mental health conditions into our policies.
– Mike Emmett, chief executive of the insurance company Cover-More Australia
Travellers with well-managed mental health conditions can travel safely, but many insurance companies provide limited or no coverage for psychological disorders like anxiety, panic attacks, depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, or suicide attempts.
If you are travelling with a mental health condition, you may find the tips in our Travel and Mental Health series helpful. If you’re an IAMAT member, our Medical Directory lists some mental health practitioners and IAMAT doctors can refer you to local mental health practitioners if needed.
When it comes to insurance, things can be more complicated than they seem. Our Executive Director Tullia Marcolongo spoke with the Huffington Post about evacuation, medical questionnaires, and travel insurance for retirees.
Sometimes it’s a matter of getting you to a nearby city or country that has better care than the place you’re in. You might need a visa for that country or need to find air and ground crews and get cleared for landing. I’ve seen it take as long as two weeks.
– Tullia Marcolongo, IAMAT Executive Director
Older travellers are a diverse and growing group. When shopping for insurance, consider your health needs and pre-existing health conditions, your risk tolerance, and the activities you’re planning – then look for insurance to fit these criteria.
If you are over the age of 50, many insurers will ask you to fill out a medical questionnaire which may determine your premium and the type of coverage you’ll get. Learn more about how a medical questionnaire can affect your coverage on page 46 of our Guide to Travel Health Insurance.
Does your travel insurance cover what you think it does?
Having the right travel insurance can save you money and stress before your trip, as Donna Hopkins and her husband found out. The day they were scheduled to travel to Scotland and Ireland, Donna Hopkins was hospitalized with an infected gallbladder. She recovered, but was unable to claim the cost of the trip through their insurance due to confusion about the terminology in the policy.
The policy included trip interruption, but not trip cancellation coverage. Donna Hopkins says of her conversation with her insurer:
I tried to explain this was an interruption to our travels. I was told it would be considered an interruption only if we were on the plane, not in our dining room.
Unfortunately, these terms are often confused by travellers and result in travellers thinking they are covered when they are not. “Trip interruption” only applies after departure, while “trip cancellation” is for events that occur before departure. Similarly, “evacuation” (transportation by air or ground to a medical facility that is better able to deal with your injury or illness) is often confused with “repatriation” (transportation to a hospital in your own country or returning your remains). Don’t hesitate to call your insurer if you have any doubts about what is and is not covered by your travel insurance.
An American couple enjoying their “babymoon” in Mexico ran into unexpected costs when their baby was born prematurely in a Mexican hospital. The hospital required payment upfront to release the infant from hospital so he could be transferred to a hospital in the United States. A crowdfunding campaign raised over $50,000 to pay the hospital fees and cost of an air ambulance.
The Government of Canada provides this advice about medical facilities in Mexico:
Private hospitals and clinics in major cities offer good-quality care but are generally expensive and expect payment in advance. Many will not agree to deal directly with medical insurance companies. Be prepared to pay for treatment yourself and then request a refund from your insurer.
Even if you have travel insurance, you may be asked to pay upfront for medical services (in cash or by credit card) and be reimbursed later by your insurer. Be aware that this is common practice in some countries. Before you travel, check your government’s travel advisories or contact the embassy of your destination country for clarification.
Travel health insurance is complicated and finding coverage that fits your trip and your health can be time-consuming. Learn how to find the right insurance for you in our Guide to Travel Health Insurance.
Photo by Keith Moore.
Article by Daphne Hendsbee.