How Travel Medical Insurance Works & Why You Need It

How Travel Medical Insurance Works & Why You Need It

International travel comes with certain expenses. There are things that you can plan for, such as your transportation and lodging arrangements, but then there are the things that you can't plan for, such as medical expenses should you fall ill or become injured during your travels. Travel insurance helps you prepare for these unexpected events and ensure that you are protected financially.

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.

What Is Travel Medical Insurance?

Travel medical insurance is short-term health insurance that can cover things like hospitalization, surgery, and other treatment for unexpected illnesses or injuries that occur during your travels should you need to seek medical care.

Learn more about what international travel medical insurance is and how it can help offer protection during a trip abroad.

Why Is Travel Medical Insurance Necessary?

Most people may have a domestic health insurance plan that covers them for their medical care, especially in the United States. However, most domestic medical insurance plans are not accepted outside of one’s home country, and getting necessary treatment abroad can be very costly without insurance. For example, the price of emergency medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost upwards of $50,000.

Thankfully, a travel medical insurance policy can help cover the cost of medical and health services for travelers overseas, saving them from a potential huge financial burden that a medical emergency abroad can bring.

How Does Travel Medical Insurance Work?

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

There are both comprehensive and limited coverage options available when it comes to travel medical insurance, which will offer varying ranges of coverage and benefits.

What Does Travel Medical Insurance Cover?

In general, travel medical insurance coverage will help travelers with costs such as:

  • Medical services for any new sickness or illness that emerges during the trip 
  • Healthcare 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

How to Use Your Travel Medical Insurance Plan

When you buy a policy ahead of your trip's departure date, you'll receive a confirmation email that will have all the information you need to show proof of travel medical insurance.

Carry your travel medical insurance plan information with you at all times during your trip. This way, if you need to access medical care at an emergency room, urgent care facility or doctor's office during your trip, you have physical proof of insurance.

Finding a Healthcare Provider

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 the doctor’s office or facility you visit is within your provider's care network. Seeing a health provider outside the network could mean that services aren't covered, and you'll personally be liable for the cost.

Payment and Claims Process

After receiving medical help, keep copies of any bills, receipts or documentation the healthcare provider gives you, and show your proof of travel medical insurance to the reception or billing department.

Direct Billing

If the provider offers direct billing, they will make a copy of your travel insurance information, 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, assuming that your eligible claims will be approved. You still need to submit a claim even if the facility offers direct billing.

Up-front Payment

In other instances, you may have to pay for services up front, and then file a claim with your health insurance plan provider afterward. In this process, you'll fill out a claims form and submit it to the insurance company. If the claim is approved, 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.

Learn more about how direct billing, upfront payments, and claims work.

How to Purchase a Travel Medical Insurance Plan

Travel medical insurance plans can be purchased online through marketplaces such as VisitorsCoverage. Purchasing a plan usually just takes a small amount of your time.

Here are a few things to consider when purchasing a plan:

  • 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.

Frequently Asked Questions


Does travel insurance cover medical expenses?

Travel insurance can cover eligible medical expenses for new and unexpected illnesses or injuries that occur during one’s covered trip dates.


How much travel medical insurance do I need?

When traveling to the U.S., a comprehensive travel medical insurance plan with a high policy maximum is recommended since medical costs are so high. Learn more about comprehensive plans.


How much is travel medical insurance?

The cost of a travel medical insurance plan will vary based on the type of policy, policy maximum, benefits, deductible, and more. Get a quote today.


Does my medical insurance cover international travel?

Most domestic medical insurance plans will not offer coverage abroad. Check with your insurance provider to see whether or not international care is covered under your plan.


Do I need travel medical insurance?

Travel medical insurance is highly recommended, especially for travelers coming to the U.S. where medical costs are expensive.