International travel comes with certain expenses. There are things that you can plan for, including your transportation and lodging arrangements, and more. But then there are the things that you can't plan for. Travel insurance helps you prepare for these unexpected events.

In this context, we're referring to medical expenses that can emerge should you fall ill or become injured during a trip abroad. It's difficult enough to consider issues like the potential language or cultural differences. Navigating the healthcare services of another country can be particularly challenging, and the expenses that can come along with these instances can be incredibly costly.

If you're planning an international trip, one thing that you don't want to leave home without is travel medical insurance, or visitors insurance. Investing in a travel medical insurance plan is a key step to take before you head out to explore another country.

Why do travelers need medical insurance?

The U.S. Department of State noted that domestic medical insurance is usually not accepted outside the country and getting necessary treatment abroad can be very costly. The price of a medical evacuation to the U.S., for instance, can come with a bill of $50,000 or more.

And the U.S. isn't unique in this respect. Any regular health insurance acquired in a travelers home country likely wont provide coverage for a trip abroad. Thankfully, a travel medical insurance policy can help cover the cost of medical and health services for travelers overseas.

How does travel medical insurance work?

Unlike a trip insurance plan, which covers things like lost or delayed bags, trip interruption or cancellation, travel medical plans can help pay or reimburse travelers for their medical expenses if an illness or injury takes place during their journey.

There are both comprehensive and limited coverage options available. But, in general, this type of coverage will help travelers with costs like:

  • Medical services for any new sickness or illness that emerges during the trip
  • Health care for any accidents or injuries that affect policyholders
  • Necessary medical evacuations
  • The return of mortal remains, in the event of death

A travel medical insurance plan usually does not cover:

  • Pre-existing conditions, or other problems related to existing medical situations
  • Preventive care like routine checkups, exams, immunization shots, etc.
  • Major dental issues
  • Vision treatments, checkups or eyeglasses
  • Maternity, pregnancy or childbirth

Using a travel medical policy

When you buy a policy (ahead of your trips departure date), you'll receive a virtual insurance card which you should print out and carry with you. This way, if you need to access medical care at an emergency room, urgent care facility or doctors office during your trip, you have physical proof of insurance.

Seek assistance

If you fall ill or become injured, seek medical help at a nearby facility. Depending upon the type of policy, this may require you to check your coverage network to ensure that office or facility you visit is within your providers care network. Seeing a health provider outside the network could mean that services are not covered, and you will personally be liable for the cost without the benefit of your insurance coverage.

Payment process and claims

After receiving medical help, keep a copy of any bills, receipts or documentation the health care provider gives you, and show your travel medical insurance card to the reception or billing department. They will make a copy, verify your insurance policy, and bill the provider directly. In these instances, your only out-of-pocket expenses will be the deductible or co-pay amount.

In other instances, you may have to pay for services at that time, and then file a claim with your health insurance plan provider afterward. With this process, you'll fill out a claims form and submit it to the insurance company, which will then be evaluated. At the end of the process, the insurer will reimburse you for medical services according to the specifications of the travel medical health insurance plan, its deductible and your level of coverage.

Check out our article here to learn more about how this type of coverage works.

Purchasing a travel medical insurance plan

There are a few things to keep in mind when buying your policy:

  • Type of coverage: There are limited coverage plans, and comprehensive coverage, which offer more benefits. Weigh your options carefully to ensure you have the coverage you need for your journey.
  • Insurance companies: Providers based inside and outside the U.S. provide travel medical coverage. However, travelers planning trips from their home country to the U.S. should consider purchasing from a U.S.-based insurance company, as this coverage will be more familiar to American health service providers and easier to work with.
  • Medical expenses at your destination: Be sure to read the specifics of your chosen travel insurance plan and ensure that coverage levels align with the cost of health services at your destination.

A travel medical insurance plan can offer financial support for unexpected healthcare needs, as well as peace of mind for overseas travelers.