Why you should get travel medical insurance – but which one?

I'm in the process of changing my medical insurance and while talking to the broker she was asking what kind of medical insurance I would need internationally. I replied with 'full coverage' and she started laughing. I always just blindly assumed that Kaisers, Blue Cross & Co. would cover me for medical costs when traveling, worst case I could lay onto my credit card company insurance.

Seth Kugel summed it up today:

But I was still suspicious. I offered a hypothetical to the customer service phone line: what if, in an emergency, I ended up at an out-of-network hospital because I couldn't communicate with paramedics or there was no affiliated hospital nearby?

The representative was stumped, put me on hold, and came back. "I checked with a supervisor," she said. "The claim would come through, we would deny it, then you would have to appeal it," she said. Appeals, she added, were made on a "case by case" basis.

That was a similar line as what my health insurance broker gave me earlier. So I was stumped. Apparently getting the big domestic health insurers to pay for international claims is more of a lottery..

My next call was to Chase and to my surprise Chase DOES NOT offer any type of medical insurance. Lost baggage and electronics (up to $500) are covered but no medical expenses.

Now single trip coverage is usually cheap ($20+ per person) and easy enough. Especially since it's often based on how much you paid for the trip. Well paying with miles is does not count 🙂 But still you need to remember to do it all the time and often comes with restrictions and high deductibles.

I used to have an medical insurance with Worldnomads but they now price a 12 month insurance for a family with $1,826 – wow! An individual is currently $913 a year!

Here is the interesting part of the coverage:

Medical Expense…………………………………………………….$100,000
Hospital Room and Board (Maximum of $50 per day) …$2,000
Emergency Evacuation……………………………………………$300,000
Accidental Death & Dismemberment…………………………….$5,000
Security Evacuation………………………………………………..$300,000

When I had a policy with them it had a deductible of $150 for each category claim. They may have since done away with that – I could not find it at least. When I filed the claim they required extensive paperwork but paid quickly at the time. Now Worldnomads insurance is meant to be for the full-time traveler who is not returning home and may likely not have primary medical insurance in the home country anymore. That's not my case.

My next address was Atlas Professional to check. My quote came out to $200/year with a $250 deductible and a similar coverage though with higher limits. Atlas Professional insures multi-trips with a maximum trip length of 30 days.

After more searching I finally settled on AMEX Travel Medical Protection. It's a multi-trip insurance (max 45 days) and covers $100,000 in Medical and Dental Emergencies or Death Benefits. So it will work for any of my upcoming trips and cover me including evacuation for a yearly total of $109 (charged to an AMEX card, which I happen to have some 🙂 I also do have a pretty good trust in AMEX as the underwriter (it's not outsourced) will pay out for valid claims.

Btw I also found out that you can also insure your electronics (laptops, cameras etc) individually. A yearly policy is about 10-15% of the purchase price. Might be useful for expensive photo equipment which can be a pain to watch or keep in a hotel all the time.

How are you covered?