Health Insurance

When Is Travel Insurance a Good Idea?

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You’ve just landed in Mexico, and you trip on the sidewalk. Your ankle is throbbing. What do you do? The simple answer, you might think, is go straight to the hospital. But, depending on your health insurance, your broken bone may not be covered. Even if it is, finding a hospital that has an English translator on staff, and doctors who will see you right away and accept your coverage, can be difficult. In fact, most hospitals and doctors outside of the United States require payment of medical fees upfront even if you do have your own medical insurance, according to Matt Tassey, past chairman of the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, a non-profit insurance educational firm. This means you may end up shelling out thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.

Travel insurance can help you avoid this problem, especially if you are traveling overseas. There are several kinds of travel insurance policies available. They cost between 4% and 8% of your trip costs, and are typically purchased for the length of your trip. Coverage is only good in the countries you designate-it won’t cover you if you get sick during a side excursion to Italy if you were only scheduled to travel to Portugal, for example — and often have other limitations, too. Extreme sports injuries are excluded, and if you catch something considered a pandemic illness such as the H1N1 (also known as swine) flu, you’re on your own financially. Make sure you’re covered by reading the fine print before you buy a policy, suggests Tassey. “Do some homework to make sure you’re buying from a reputable company,” he says.

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