Allianz - Travel
Travel Resources

Why Buy Emergency Medical Travel Insurance?

doctor and piggy bank
Allianz - doctor and piggy bank

While vacationing in Bolivia, you start to feel weak and nauseous. It’s just altitude sickness, you think, so you wait a day to see if you feel better. Then, you come down with a high fever and severe stomach pain. I’m really sick, you realize. What happens now?

That depends on whether you bought travel insurance with emergency medical/dental benefits. Here are two possible scenarios.

Scenario 1: Sick Overseas Without Emergency Medical Coverage

You call an ambulance and, in broken Spanish, manage to tell them where you are. The ambulance carries you to a nearby clinic. The place looks a little dilapidated, but at this point you’re past caring. You present your Medicare card, and the clinic staff shake their heads. Your health insurance isn’t accepted here. The doctor won’t see you until you can provide a substantial cash deposit or high-limit credit card.i They agree to accept your Amex, and at last you get a diagnosis: typhoid fever. You end up paying out of pocket for the ambulance ride, a course of antibiotics, and a multi-day hospital stay while you recover.

Scenario 2: Sick Overseas With Emergency Medical Coverage 

You call the Allianz Global Assistance emergency hotline and explain you’re seriously ill. The Assistance coordinator immediately dispatches an ambulance to your hotel, which brings you to a modern hospital in La Paz. The coordinator pre-arranges payment, up to the limits of your emergency medical coverage, and calls in members of our experienced medical team to review your case. She also acts as your interpreter, helping you explain your symptoms to the doctor. You’re swiftly diagnosed with typhoid fever and given a course of antibiotics. Over the next few days, your Assistance coordinator checks in daily with you and your doctor to monitor your recovery, and updates your loved ones back in the United States on your progress.

How Emergency Medical Travel Insurance Coverage Protects You

American travelers are often surprised to find that their domestic health insurance card doesn’t work overseas. “Many foreign medical facilities and providers require cash payment up front and do not accept U.S. insurance plans. Medicare does not provide coverage outside of the United States,” the U.S. Department of State explains.ii

While the local embassy can help you find a hospital, or communicate with family back home, the State Department says in no uncertain terms: “We do not pay medical bills. Payment of hospital and other expenses is the patient’s responsibility.”iii Your health insurance plan may reimburse you for out-of-pocket costs paid for a medical emergency overseas; read your policy documents to find out.

This is why it’s so important to protect yourself with travel insurance that includes emergency medical and dental benefits. This coverage can reimburse the reasonable and customary costs of emergency medical or dental care (up to the limits stated in your plan) if, while traveling, you experience a sudden, unexpected covered illness, injury, or medical condition that could cause serious harm if it is not treated; or a dental injury or infection, a lost filling, or a broken tooth that requires treatment. We can also guarantee or advance payments, where accepted, if you’ll be hospitalized for more than 24 hours.

Why Healthy Travelers Need Emergency Medical Travel Insurance

Travelers who are fit and generally healthy often think they don’t need emergency medical coverage. They’re wrong. Each year, our emergency assistance hotline receives more than 4,000 calls from people who are experiencing a medical crisis during their trip. The most common emergencies we see are fractures from falls; traumas (often from car accidents, scooter/moped accidents, and assault); cardiovascular problems, such a heart attack or stroke; and pulmonary/respiratory problems, such as a collapsed lung. These things can happen to any traveler, even someone without a history of health problems. Without travel insurance, you’ll have to seek treatment and pay for medical care on your own.

Pre-Existing Medical Conditions and Emergency Medical Travel Insurance

Even if you have a chronic illness or other pre-existing medical condition, you can still benefit from having emergency medical coverage while traveling. We define a pre-existing medical condition as an injury, illness, or medical condition that, within the 120 days prior to and including the purchase date of your policy:

  1. Caused a person to seek medical examination, diagnosis, care, or treatment by a doctor;
  2. Presented symptoms; or
  3. Required a person to take medication prescribed by a doctor (unless the condition or symptoms are controlled by that prescription, and the prescription has not changed).

The illness, injury, or medical condition does not need to be formally diagnosed in order to be considered a pre-existing medical condition.

Certain travel insurance plans include the Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver. If your policy includes this waiver, you can be covered for losses due to a pre-existing medical condition if you meet all of the following requirements:

  1. Your policy was purchased within the time frame specified in your plan (usually 14 days of the date of the first trip payment or deposit.)
  2. You were a U.S. resident when the policy was purchased.
  3. You were medically able to travel when the policy was purchased.
  4. On the policy purchase date, you insured the full non-refundable cost of your trip with Allianz Global Assistance. This includes trip arrangements that will become non-refundable or subject to cancellation penalties between the policy purchase date and the departure date. If you incur additional non-refundable trip expenses after you purchase your policy, you must insure those expenses with us within 14 days of their purchase. If you do not, those expenses will still be subject to the pre-existing medical condition exclusion.

Do you have questions about how emergency medical travel insurance benefits work, or which plan is right for you? We can help! Get a quote for your next trip to compare available plans and costs. Or contact us anytime — we’re happy to advise you.

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