Don’t Buy Travel Insurance on Price Alone

It may only be August, but it’s not too early to start shopping for travel insurance for that snowbird or winter vacation trip.  Insurers have plenty of new products and early bird specials to offer, but don’t buy on price alone. A “cheap” plan that leaves you stranded is a bad deal.

There are now thousands of options for you to choose from when selecting your travel insurance.  Brochures and online advertisements promising “carefree” coverage, instant quotes, no hassle applications, are available by a simple phone call or a click on your computer. But be careful. A plan, however cheap, that doesn’t fit your age, your health condition (as recorded in your doctor’s medical records), or your travel destination, can leave you exposed to financial catastrophe. It’s very easy to run up a six figure emergency medical bill in any foreign country you travel to—not just the United States. Medical care is terribly expensive wherever you go.

Travel insurers cover known risk.  If you have a medical condition or set of symptoms your insurer doesn’t know about (and they don’t always have to be diagnosed or branded with a fancy medical term) your policy may be invalidated and your claim denied. If you don’t notify your insurer’s assistance help line when you have an emergency, or you “authorize” doctors in a foreign hospital to do a heart bypass or replace your hip without your insurer’s permission, don’t expect your insurer to pay your bills.

Before you pay any part of your premium, you need to know what your travel insurance covers.  Every policy has a lot of exclusions and limitations. That’s not because insurers want to take advantage of you, but if they offered unlimited, comprehensive medical care such as is provided by your provincial medicare, their prices would have to be multipliers higher than they are.

Here’s the basic message.  Travel insurance covers only unexpected, unforeseen medical emergencies that need to be treated right away.  If it can wait until you can get home, it ‘s not covered. If it’s a condition or set of symptoms that was unstable and required treatment or a change of medication or testing before you left, the insurer has to know about it.  And it’s not your doctor who determines if your condition is stable and controlled: that’s a decision  made by your insurer.

Travel insurance is not a simple purchase that can be easily quantified or ranked by price. You need to understand your plan.  If it’s too complicated or you don’t understand the jargon, drop it and find a plan you can understand.

If you still need help, discuss your questions with an agent experienced in selling travel insurance who can explain it to you clearly, to your satisfaction.  Then, and only then, do your price comparisons.

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