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Do I Need Travel Medical Insurance?

Do I Need Travel Medical Insurance

Do I Need Travel Medical Insurance
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Travel Medical Insurance is probably the most critical element to consider when heading overseas.

Travelers face tremendous financial costs if they do not have Medical Insurance.


Fortunately, Travel Medical Insurance is relatively inexpensive to buy. From a risk/reward perspective, it makes sense to ensure that medical coverage is in place before heading off on a trip.

If you read any of our other articles, you'll remember that we always offer a simple recommendation for Medical Insurance. Overseas travelers should have these minimum levels of protection:

  • Medical Insurance Coverage - $100,000
  • Medical Evacuation Coverage - $250,000
  • Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver – Included

In this article, we detail why we recommend these coverage levels and show you how much it costs to buy adequate Travel Medical Insurance.

Travel Medical Insurance Coverage

Most of us have comprehensive health insurance at home.

However, most American health insurance plans do not pay for treatment outside the country. If it makes sense to have health insurance at home, it does when we travel, too.

If you rely on Medicare or a Medicare supplement plan for health insurance, be aware that your coverage is limited. Medicare typically does not pay providers outside the US, and Medicare supplements often have low limits. They usually only provide a $50,000 lifetime limit, and often require a 20% copay. You could be paying upwards of $10,000 out-of-pocket, plus whatever exceeds the limit.

The State Department, CDC, and some Senior Member Organizations all give consistent advice: US travelers heading overseas should buy adequate travel medical insurance every time.

Suggested Minimum Level of Health Insurance Coverage

While each situation is different, we typically recommend a minimum level of medical coverage when traveling outside the US.

We base our advice on a potential worst-case scenario, according to our research. To us, a worst-case scenario is a critical illness or a traumatic accident. Traffic accidents happen to travelers all over the world, as do heart attacks and strokes.

Wouldn't you prefer to receive immediate treatment at a state-of-the-art private hospital with the most skilled physicians? Or take your chances at a charity hospital, not knowing when they can treat you? We prefer the former.

And keep in mind that foreign countries don't want to care for travelers in their public facilities, so Americans usually receive treatment in private hospitals anyway. An in-patient hospital stay easily costs $3,000 to $4,000 per day before the cost of medication, therapy, tests, and surgeries.

Our recommendation of $100,000 Medical Insurance accounts for these combined costs.

When we examine the Travel Medical Insurance coverage on our most popular plans, we see a theme that most mid-range and top-tier programs provide at least $100,000 in Medical Insurance. Basic-level plans offer much less Medical Insurance since they are intended for domestic travel in the US.

Some plans have Primary Travel Medical Insurance which means they will not ask questions about any other medical coverage—they will pay first regardless. For many travelers, this is a convenience they prefer over Secondary Travel Medical Insurance.

Medical Evacuation Insurance for Travelers

Foreign hospitals can treat the majority of accidents or incidents on a trip. Still, there is always a chance that you will require Medical Evacuation to a nearby medical facility. Or, in severe circumstances, the attending physician feels your condition is stable enough to Evacuate back to the USA for further treatment.

While rare, Evacuation could be on a long-range private medical jet with a team of doctors and nurses. Air Medical Evacuation costs are catastrophic because health insurance rarely covers it.

A near-shore Medical Evacuation, like from the Caribbean back to the US, can easily bill over $100,000. However, we recommend $250,000 in case of a longer Medical Evacuation, like from Puerto Rico to California. Of course, if you travel somewhere remote, like the polar regions, the Galapagos, or the African bush, $500,000 in Medical Evacuation coverage is more appropriate.

If you enjoy cruising on your vacations, consider how often passengers require helicopter Medical Evacuation from the ship. Cruise ships provide triage services, not the comprehensive facilities of a hospital. While cruise lines practice helicopter evacuations, they are not responsible for paying for them.

It is wise to make sure you have appropriate Medical Evacuation coverage before you need it.

When we examine the Travel Medical Evacuation coverage on our most popular plans, we see a theme that most mid-range and top-tier programs provide at least $500,000 - $1,000,000 in Medical Evacuation coverage. Basic-level plans offer much less Medical Evacuation coverage since they are intended for domestic travel within the US.

Pre-Existing Medical Exclusion

Travel Medical Insurance protects you from an unexpected illness or injury. Insurance companies do not offer protection if you are already suffering from a disease or injury.

Typically, travel insurance excludes Pre-Existing Medical Conditions from coverage.

You may think Pre-existing Conditions mean "any disease or injury you ever had since you were born." Travel insurance defines Pre-existing differently.

If you have long-term medical issues like high blood pressure that are controlled by medication or lifestyle, you might think travel insurance will not cover that condition.

However, there is some excellent news if you have a Pre-existing Condition: they only exclude recently diagnosed and recently changed conditions. If your doctor recently changed a prescription, recommended additional testing, or if you have had developments with a new or worsening condition, your travel insurance plan will exclude those conditions..

When we say recent, the time varies between Travel Medical Insurance carriers. The best travel medical plans only 'Look Back' 60 days. Specifically, if your new or changed medical condition is older than 60 days (from the day you buy your travel medical insurance policy), then you have coverage.

Policies with a short 60-day Look-Back period are more generous to a traveler, and we recommend these whenever possible.

If your medical condition is older than 60 days and you have not had treatment or a change in medication in the last 60 days, then most travel medical insurance policies will cover the condition.

Unfortunately, if your Medical condition fails one or more of the above requirements, your condition will be excluded from coverage unless you get a Waiver. With a Waiver of Pre-existing Medical Condition Exclusions, the policy will cover your medical condition.

Too confusing? Let us explain.

Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver

As previously explained, travel insurance typically excludes recent medical conditions from coverage. However, many of the comprehensive trip insurance plans include a Waiver if you purchase the policy early in the planning process. In other words, the insurance company will Waive the exclusion of the medical condition, so you now have full coverage.

This unusual process is called the Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver and is necessary if you recently received medical treatment.

How do you get a Medical Waiver? Easy. Buy a Travel Medical plan that includes a Medical Waiver and buy the policy early.

Medical Waiver is a 'Time Sensitive' benefit, which means it is only available if you purchase travel medical insurance within a few weeks of any initial trip deposit or payment. Most policies that offer the waiver also require a traveler to insure all of their prepaid, non-refundable trip costs to get this benefit.

Most travel insurance policies require that you buy the insurance within 14-21 days of the first money paid toward your trip. We suggest purchasing a policy within a week of your first trip deposit or payment. By planning early, you have plenty of time to compare travel medical insurance plans and find the best coverage and value.

Travel Medical Insurance Purchasing Options

There are two ways to buy travel medical insurance:

  • Comprehensive Travel Insurance – Medical and Trip Cancellation
  • Comprehensive Travel Insurance – Medical & Minimal Trip Cancellation

We will look at these individually.

Comprehensive Travel Insurance – Medical and Trip Cancellation

All comprehensive travel insurance policies include some travel medical insurance.

Once you leave the US, you will need robust medical insurance in a travel policy. Comprehensive trip cancellation policies cover everything from lost baggage, delayed flights, sickness-causing cancellations, Medical Insurance, and Medical Evacuation.

Choose a policy that has $100,000 Medical Insurance, our recommended minimum, if you're traveling outside the US.

However, if you are staying in the USA, you can opt for a policy with lower Medical Insurance. Assuming your private health insurance covers you across the country, you won't need as much protection.

Comprehensive trip insurance plans offer great value for money and are suitable for most travelers.

Comprehensive Travel Insurance – Medical with Minimal Trip Cancellation

If you do not need to protect your total financial investment in the trip from Cancellation and Interruption, but still want medical benefits, you have options.

If this is the case, run a travel insurance quote, but enter $500 per traveler for the Trip Cost. This minimizes the premium due and offers a variety of policy options that focus more on medical coverage. However, you can enjoy the other benefits the plan provides. We call this a ‘Medical-Only’ policy even though you do have other benefits available too.

These plans includes Travel Medical Insurance and Travel Medical Evacuation coverage. We think that this is an affordable solution if you want low-cost travel medical protection.

There is a catch—make sure you do not have a Pre-existing Medical Condition. Many policies require that you insure 100% of all prepaid, non-refundable Trip Costs to activate the Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver, so be sure to check the policy specifics before purchasing.

Before you buy a policy with minimal trip cancellation, check with one of our agents to review the document and confirm that it provides full Medical coverage and a Waiver. It only takes a minute or two.


When you travel, you have many excellent travel insurance carriers from which to choose. They offer first-class travel Medical Insurance within their comprehensive trip insurance plans.

We will always recommend that a traveler heading overseas chooses a travel medical plan with:

  • Medical Insurance Coverage - $100,000
  • Medical Evacuation Coverage - $250,000
  • Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver – Included

It is easy to run a quote and choose one that offers the best value.

AARDY - Travel Insurance Marketplace

AARDY helps travelers protect their trip costs and enjoy significant medical protection.

We built a simple and intuitive comparison tool that guides travelers to find the coverage they need quickly.

Compare dozens of travel insurance quotes in one place. It only takes a minute of your time. Our policies are sorted from least expensive to most expensive.

US anti-discrimination laws guarantee that you will not find a lower price for the same travel insurance plan. Our prices are identical to the insurance carriers if you go directly to them.

Save time and effort by shopping the open marketplace through AARDY.

Safe travels.

This article has been written for review purposes only and does not suggest sponsorship or endorsement of AARDY by the trademark owner.

Recent AARDY Travel Insurance Customer Reviews

Trustpilot reviews image
Trustpilot 5 star rating
about 3 hours ago

Amanda was able to explain all the options we had and made the purchase easy.

Trustpilot 5 star rating
about 4 hours ago
Very helpful

Very pleasant and informative. Great experience

Elaine Mantor
Trustpilot 5 star rating
about 14 hours ago
Haven’t used it yet

Haven’t used it yet. Trip is next year. However what you offer seems very appropriate and fits my needs. Thanks