What does travel medical insurance cover?

Travel medical insurance covers emergency medical expenses for individuals who travel internationally or domestically. It typically covers emergency medical expenses, such as hospital stays, doctor visits, prescription medications, and emergency medical evacuations due to unforeseen illness or accidental injury while on your covered trip. With international travel medical coverage, you'll be prepared for unexpected health issues or accidents when traveling abroad. It can also give you peace of mind to know you have protection from potentially high medical costs.

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What does travel medical insurance cover?

A travel medical insurance policy typically offers medical benefits in case of an unforeseen illness or injury while traveling outside your home country. These policies reimburse medical bills for costs associated with an unforeseen illness or accidental injury. International travel medical insurance policies typically include the following:

  • Emergency Medical Expenses: Emergency medical treatment, hospital stays, surgeries, doctor visits, and prescription medications
  • Medical Evacuation: If you experience a medical emergency and must be transported to a different medical facility or back to your home country
  • Repatriation of Remains: In the unfortunate event of death while traveling, travel medical insurance can cover the expenses associated with transporting your remains back to your home country
  • 24/7 Emergency Assistance: Many travel medical insurance plans offer 'round-the-clock access to emergency assistance services like language interpretation and arranging medical appointments

Coverage will vary depending on your provider and the plan you choose. Carefully read the policy documentation or consult with the insurance provider to understand the exact coverage details before purchasing travel medical insurance.

Do I need travel medical insurance if I have health insurance?

Even if you already have health insurance, international travel medical insurance makes sense because of the following:

  • Your regular health insurer may provide limited coverage when you're outside of your home country. Some health insurers place restrictions or exclusions on international medical expenses.
  • Travel can come with unexpected accidents or illnesses, and the costs of medical treatments abroad can be high. Travel medical insurance coverage can help avoid an unexpected financial burden.
  • In a severe medical emergency, travel medical insurance may cover emergency medical evacuations, which can be costly. This coverage ensures you can be transported to the nearest suitable medical facility or repatriated to your home country if needed.

Before buying travel medical insurance, review your regular health insurance policy details, and consult with your provider to ask whether your policy includes global benefits and how you might access them while traveling.

Types of travel medical insurance coverage

The two most common types of travel insurance for medical coverage are comprehensive and medical-specific plans. Each covers medical-related costs differently.

  • Comprehensive travel insurance: A comprehensive travel insurance plan often includes travel medical coverage. If you experience an unexpected illness or injury during your trip, you may file a claim for covered medical and dental expenses. The policy may also offer coverage for the following if you experience a covered medical issue: trip cancellation or interruption, emergency evacuation, and accidental death and dismemberment. Coverage will vary by plan, so check yours for the specifics.
  • Medical travel insurance: Medical travel insurance plans are designed specifically to cover gaps in your primary health insurance while traveling internationally. While they can cover certain medical costs, they typically don't offer additional travel-related coverage options.

Learn more about how travel insurance plans work.

What is emergency medical evacuation insurance?

If you get sick or injured during your trip, emergency medical evacuation insurance can help provide transport assistance to a medical facility suitably equipped to treat you if your physician deems it necessary. Standalone medical evacuation plans are available, but this coverage may also be available through comprehensive and travel medical insurance plans.

Pro tip:

Most companies that offer emergency medical evacuation insurance cover the cost of transporting you to the nearest adequate facility. However, some plans from Progressive travel insurance through InsureMyTrip may offer a benefit that lets you choose which hospital you go to, possibly for an additional cost. This is known as a "hospital of choice" benefit, and availability ranges by plan.

Is treatment for pre-existing conditions covered?

Many comprehensive travel insurance plans cover pre-existing medical conditions at no additional charge if you qualify for and obtain a pre-existing medical conditions waiver. This waiver prevents the insurer from considering your recent medical history when evaluating a claim. Without the waiver, the insurance company may look back in your recent medical records and use any relevant information to deny your claim. If you're concerned about pre-existing conditions, ask about a medical conditions waiver before purchasing travel insurance.

Does travel insurance cover cancellation due to illness?

Comprehensive travel insurance plans typically cover trip cancellation and trip interruption, even for medical reasons. If you're concerned about an illness causing you to cancel your trip or cut it short, consider a comprehensive plan with trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage. For the most cancellation flexibility, consider the optional cancel for any reason (CFAR) coverage. However, this benefit is time-sensitive and has other eligibility requirements, so not all travelers will qualify.

How much travel medical insurance do I need?

Determining how much travel medical insurance you need depends on several factors including:

  • The healthcare system and medical costs in the country you're visiting. Some countries have higher medical costs than others, so understanding the average expenses in your destination can give you an idea of the coverage you'll need.
  • Your existing health insurance policy should outline the extent of coverage it provides while traveling. Identify any gaps or limitations in coverage, such as exclusions for international care or low reimbursement rates.
  • Your activities and itinerary: Will your trip involve adventure activities, sports, or visiting remote areas with limited access to medical facilities? If so, you may want to consider higher coverage. These activities can carry a higher risk of accidents or injuries, requiring more comprehensive coverage.
  • The length of your trip can impact the coverage you'll need. Longer trips may require more extensive coverage to protect against potential medical issues that could occur over an extended period.
  • Your personal health factors. Consider pre-existing conditions or ongoing health needs. Ensure your travel medical insurance covers these conditions adequately, including necessary medications or treatments.
  • Your budget and what you can comfortably afford for travel medical insurance. While it's essential to have sufficient coverage, finding a plan that fits your budget is also important.

How much does international travel medical insurance cost?

According to USA Today, on average, travel medical insurance typically costs about 6% of the cost of the trip. However, age is also a factor in determining travel medical insurance costs. Travelers above age 60 might expect to pay between 11% and 18% for a senior travel medical insurance policy per the USA Today article. Additional factors that may impact insurance costs include the number of travelers in your party, the type of policy you choose, and the policy coverage limits.

Do I need to purchase a new plan every time I travel?

Some medical travel insurance and emergency medical evacuation insurance policies include annual plan options covering multiple trips so you don't have to buy a new plan every time you travel. Other comprehensive travel insurance plans are only available per trip.

How to file a medical travel insurance claim

If you need to file a claim because you experience an illness or injury on your trip, call the plan provider before receiving treatment or a medical evacuation. If you're unable to contact your insurer immediately, be sure to call as soon as possible. Otherwise, the insurance company may deny your claim.

When you file your claim with the insurance company, you'll need to provide documentation of your illness or injuries, the treatment you received, and how much it cost. Be sure to get copies of your records before leaving your treatment facility, as it can be difficult to get records from a foreign country after you return home. If you need to be evacuated to receive adequate medical care, your insurance company must approve the evacuation and will likely arrange the transport.

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Learn more about travel insurance policies.

Please note: The above is meant as general information to help you understand the different aspects of insurance. Read our editorial standards for Answers content. This information is not an insurance policy, does not refer to any specific insurance policy, and does not modify any provisions, limitations, or exclusions expressly stated in any insurance policy. Descriptions of all coverages and other features are necessarily brief; in order to fully understand the coverages and other features of a specific insurance policy, we encourage you to read the applicable policy and/or speak to an insurance representative. Coverages and other features vary between insurers, vary by state, and are not available in all states. Whether an accident or other loss is covered is subject to the terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in the claim. References to average or typical premiums, amounts of losses, deductibles, costs of coverages/repair, etc., are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. We are not responsible for the content of any third-party sites linked from this page.