Travel Health Insurance

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What Is Travel Health Insurance?

Travel health insurance is exactly what the name suggests, health coverage for those who are traveling or planning to travel outside their country. Travel health insurance is also popularly known as travel medical insurance.

How Does Travel Health Insurance Work?

Travel health insurance works similarly to how your regular health insurance plan would work. You find a travel health insurance company that meets your budget and needs, and you will usually make an upfront payment. This payment will be your contract with the travel health insurance company so if any medical emergency were to take place, they would cover the costs.

The slight difference with travel health insurance is that you are, in most cases, responsible for submitting your own claim. While travel health insurance companies will reimburse you for the costs of medical services received overseas, medical providers won’t always have the ability to submit claims for you like they would with domestic health insurance plans. However, submitting your own claim is a small price to pay for the peace of mind on your travels.

What Travel Health Insurance Covers

This all depends on the plan you sign up for, but you want to find a plan that fits your needs. There are tons of options available to you, and you can pick plans that cover any of the following medical services:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Contraceptive services
  • Surgeries
  • Cost of medical supplies
  • Injuries or illness related to terrorism
  • Inpatient care
  • Outpatient care
  • Medical evacuation
  • Mental health
  • Prescription medication

This list only includes some of the more popular travel coverage options, but some plans may give you more medical services to choose from. Now, it’s important to understand the type of trip you are embarking on because it’s likely you will not need all medical services covered.

For example, if you are traveling with your family for a week-long vacation, you may not need such comprehensive coverage. On the other hand, if you are a student traveling abroad for an extended period of time, or a missionary heading to a different country for charity work, you may want a plan that closely mirrors the coverage you would receive domestically.

What Travel Health Insurance Does Not Cover

This will really depend on the plan you choose. For example, if you get a basic plan that only covers you in case of emergencies, your pre-existing conditions or counseling treatments may not be covered. Travel health insurance plans will often let you pick a plan that suits your needs, so just consult with your agent on what you will and won’t be covered for.

Who Should Consider Travel Health Insurance?

Anyone who is traveling abroad should consider travel health insurance unless you are already enrolled in a health insurance plan that covers international medical services. The truth is, most health insurance plans have poor coverage once you leave the country, and you may be left footing the bill for most, if not all your own medical costs abroad.

Here are the people who should really be considering an international travel health insurance plans:

  • Families traveling abroad for vacation
  • Anyone traveling for business overseas
  • Students spending a semester abroad
  • Missionaries doing charity work in another country
  • Foreign aid workers

Is It Worth It To Get Travel Health Insurance?

Yes, quite simply travel health insurance has little downside. It gives you coverage that you may not otherwise have while you’re traveling internationally and also gives you the peace of mind you need so you can enjoy your trip to the fullest.

Is It Worth It To Get Travel Health Insurance?

If you don’t have travel health insurance you may be paying for all medical expenses out-of-pocket. Health insurance is in place to cover you financially from high medical costs, but most health insurance companies only cover you domestically. If you were to be traveling outside of the country and something were to happen, you would most likely be paying for all the medical expenses you incur on your own.

The Pros And Cons Of Travel Health Insurance

When it comes to travel health insurance, there is plenty to consider. In fact, before any purchase, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of the product. Here’s what to consider before buying a travel health insurance plan.

Pros of Travel Health Insurance

  • Easy to understand policies: Since you are purchasing travel health insurance domestically, you will have a better understanding of what the policy covers, and have an easier time submitting claims.
  • You’ll be covered: Nobody anticipates having medical emergencies when they are traveling, but it’s nice to know that you’re covered when you need it most. Best of all, you won’t have to worry about medical bills adding to the cost of your trip.
  • Access to a strong provider network abroad: Traveling can be fun and overwhelming at the same time. Travel health insurance may outline the best medical providers wherever you are, so you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Cons of Travel Health Insurance

  • No return on investment: You buy travel health insurance in the event of a medical emergency abroad, but what happens if you don’t use it? You don’t get a refund, so you may have spent money in vain.
  • Your trip becomes more expensive: The running theme with the drawbacks of travel health insurance is the money aspect. Travel health insurance will make your trip a bit more expensive.
  • Filing your own claims: If you have never filed a claim with a health insurance company before, or even if you have, it can get complicated fast. There is the potential you mess up on your claim and lose out on the reimbursement you are entitled to.

The Different Types Of Travel Health Insurance

Just like every other product or service in the US, you will have options when it comes to travel health insurance. Not all plans are built alike, and that’s important to understand. The last thing you want to do is pick the wrong international travel health insurance plan and either end up with coverage that doesn’t cover what you need, or an expensive plan that covers too much.

Travel health insurance will usually have a breakdown of the different plans they offer. These plans are commonly broken down into categories called general plans or specialty plans.

Catastrophic plans are purchased through the marketplace, and therefore can only be purchased during the Open Enrollment Period each year. Typically Open Enrollment will begin on November 1 and run through December 15.

General plans are best suited for families or individuals who may be taking a short business trip or vacation. General travel plans will offer basic coverage, and keep you protected from any medical emergencies. These plans tend to be a bit more affordable as well.

Specialty plans are geared more towards families or individuals who will spend significant time abroad. For example, if you are a student studying abroad for a semester, a specialty plan would be a better fit for you. Specialty plans are far more comprehensive, and will often cover preventive care, mental health, pre-existing conditions, and more. While specialty travel plans may be a bit more expensive than general plans, it is highly recommended you consider one before leaving the country.

How Much Does Travel Health Insurance Cost?

There are some factors to consider when it comes to cost, but typically you can find relatively affordable travel health insurance. Some plans may be as low as $40, while others can end up costing thousands. It really depends on the following:

  • How long you are traveling for
  • Your age
  • The number of people you are insuring
  • Type of coverage you are looking for

There are free quoting services and calculators that can help you get an idea of how much you will end up paying. You can also talk to a travel agent who can help you narrow down the best policy for your situation, and they will give you a better idea of how much your plan will cost.

Where To Buy Travel Health Plans

You can either purchase travel health insurance plans from the travel insurance company directly, or you can go to a third party. Third parties will often provide a side by side comparison of your travel medical insurance options and put you in touch with a live representative.

How Late Can You Buy Travel Health Insurance

Most travel health insurance companies will allow you to purchase your travel plan up to 24 hours before your trip. Since the travel health insurance won’t kick in until you are abroad, you have a little more flexibility about when you can purchase coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions


Yes, travel health insurance is typically cheaper than trip cancellation insurance. While travel medical insurance can be as little as a few dollars each day, trip cancellation insurance can be up to 10% of the total cost of your trip.


The 3 common types of travel health insurance include single trip, multi-trip, and long-term.


No, travel health plans need to be purchased through the private sector. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable options for you to choose from.


Most health insurance plans won’t cover international travel, but may cover domestic travel depending on which state you visit.

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