Understanding Travel Health Insurance

Does your travel health insurance plan have pages and pages of medical and legal jargon?

Are you confused about what is and is not covered?

You’re not alone.

Photo By: Hui Quan Yang

Understanding Travel Health Insurance:
Terms You Need to Know

Why we wrote this guide

We want to help demystify the world of travel health insurance. This guide clarifies common medical and legal terms and explains how they can affect your coverage.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of choosing a policy based on price, but a plan without adequate coverage could end up costing you thousands. To help you make an informed decision, this guide includes:

  • Definitions of common insurance terms
  • Helpful advice and examples
  • Questions to ask before you buy

This guide is written primarily with US and Canadian travellers in mind. However, travellers from other countries may find similarities in insurance coverage and will benefit from this guide too.

Who we are

IAMAT is a non-profit organization that has been helping travellers go confidently since 1960. We promote the health of travellers by providing health information and awarding scholarships to doctors and nurses in emerging travel destinations.

  • Did you know?

    You are not covered if you need medical care or hospitalization as a result of drinking alcohol.

    The majority of travel health insurance plans exclude injuries resulting from alcohol consumption. Some plans do cover injuries related to alcohol use but you cannot exceed the maximum allowable blood alcohol levels.

  • Did you know?

    Your travel health insurance plan is a legal contract. When you purchase a policy, you have to adhere to the terms set out within that specific policy for the insurer to fulfill their obligation to provide coverage.

    Remember that insurance only covers you for unforeseen and unexpected events – an unstable pre-existing condition or participating in activities that can increase your risk for personal harm or injury put your coverage at risk.

  • Did you know?

    Medical questionnaires are required to be completed at the time of purchase if you are over a certain age (typically over 60) or have a pre-existing condition. These forms can be complex and include medical jargon. If you need help, ask the insurance provider for clarification. Many insurers also want your doctor to sign off on the medical questionnaire.

    If you file a claim, insurers will look closely at the answers on your medical questionnaire to see if they match your medical file before accepting your claim.

  • Did you know?

    Mental health coverage is excluded from most standard travel health plans.

    If you have a first time mental health event or need care for a pre-existing psychiatric condition, you will have to pay out-of-pocket for medical services and prescription medication you need abroad.

  • Did you know?

    If your existing insurance benefits plan or credit card (primary coverage) doesn’t fully or adequately cover you for your health condition, you will need to get supplemental or secondary coverage (also known as excess insurance).

    This additional plan pays for medical expenses after your existing or primary coverage has reached the payout limits. The secondary insurer pays the balance of your medical costs.

Photo By: Sharif Hossain Sourav