Recently, a visitor to Travel Insurance File asked if he could buy a lifetime travel medical insurance policy so that he wouldn’t have to keep applying before each trip, and so he could lock in while in good health. I would love to say “Yes.” But here’s why it won’t work.
All travel insurance has limitations and exclusions. It’s not intended as a substitute for your regular domestic insurance but an adjunct to it. It’s also priced a lot lower than all-inclusive health insurance because it is based on your health, age, and travel plans when you apply.
Healthy 45-year-olds will pay far lower premiums than elderly people with a broad spectrum of health problems that are quite normal for their age. To charge that healthy 45-year-old the same rates as a 65-year-old with high blood pressure, diabetes, and a slight heart murmur (all of which can often settle later in life) is bad business—and so is charging someone who will be out of the country for six months the same rates as an infrequent traveller.
Besides plans for travellers, there are plans for students, workers posted abroad, and expatriates who don’t qualify for health insurance in their host country. But even those are reissued every year and usually (though not always) are based on one’s health status at the time of application.
Technically, travel plans are not renewed, as a renewal would mean they were reissued at the original terms. You have to reapply each time you need coverage, and for most travel plans, 365 days is the maximum issue time.
Even the very popular annual multi-trip plans that allow you to take an unlimited number of trips up to a maximum duration (e.g., 15 days, 30, 45, 90, or more) are only issued for up to one year. And even then, if you have a claim during one of your travel segments, or your health changes, you have to reapply on the basis of your new health status.
It’s the direct linking of your age, health, and trip duration to your premium that allows travel insurance to be as cheap as it is.
Shopping for a travel plan you could buy at 40 that would cover you at 60 sounds too good to be true. It is. But there are plenty of good options out there for travellers at any age.