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The Comprehensive Guide to Emergency Medical Travel Insurance

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Experiencing a medical emergency when you’re traveling is one of the most stressful situations you can imagine. You’re far from friends and family. You may not speak the language. You’re possibly unfamiliar with the culture. Local hospitals may not offer the level of care you’re accustomed to. You don’t know how much your treatment will cost. And you’re feeling absolutely miserable.

That’s why emergency medical travel insurance is so important. When you have insurance, that means you’re not alone. You have a team of experts looking out for you, managing your care, arranging payment for your covered emergency medical expenses and working to bring you home quickly.

Here, you’ll find in-depth answers to all your questions about emergency medical travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance.

So… what does emergency medical travel insurance do?

The short answer: If you get seriously sick or injured while you’re traveling, your travel insurance can help make sure you receive the care you need and get home safely.

The long answer: Emergency medical and dental benefits can reimburse you for eligible costs of medical care if, while traveling, you experience a sudden, unexpected illness, injury, or medical condition that could cause serious harm if not treated. Emergency transportation benefits can pay for pre-approved, medically necessary transportation to the nearest appropriate hospital or other facility, as well as your transportation home.

Why do I need emergency medical travel insurance?

Your emergency medical benefits can help ensure that you receive high-quality care for a medical emergency without having to pay out of pocket for that care.

While this type of travel insurance is useful for any traveler, it’s absolutely crucial for anyone going overseas. That’s because in many countries, medical providers do not accept American health insurance plans. They’ll look at your card, shake their heads and tell you to pay cash upfront if you want treatment. Medicare doesn’t provide coverage outside of the United States, either. The cost of emergency care can get really steep, really fast, if you don’t have travel insurance to cover it.

An emergency medical evacuation — that is, being transported to a medical facility by helicopter, plane or ambulance — can be even more expensive. The cost of an emergency medical evacuation overseas can reach six figures in some parts of the world. Fortunately, insurance can arrange and pay for medically necessary emergency transportation.

Your emergency medical benefits also can cover:

  • Medical repatriation
  • Bringing a friend or family member to your bedside, if you’ll be hospitalized for more than 48 hours
  • Travel arrangements to send your dependents home, if they’re traveling with you and you’re hospitalized for more than 24 hours

What is medical repatriation?

Medical repatriation means getting you home after an illness or injury, once you’re well enough to travel. Repatriation can be as simple as booking a standard airline ticket, or as complex as arranging a private air ambulance with a medical escort.

Medical repatriation costs can be high — as much as $1 million in especially challenging situations, according to some estimates.1 Your emergency transportation benefits can cover medically necessary repatriation costs up to the stated limit.

What happens if I get sick or injured while traveling and I don’t have emergency medical travel insurance?

That depends on where you’re traveling and the specific nature of your emergency. However, you should know that you’ll be 100% responsible for the costs of any care you receive. If you’re in another country, the local U.S. Embassy will not pay any portion of your medical costs.

If you get sick or injured overseas and you don’t have insurance, you may:

  • Be treated in a public hospital or clinic that does not offer a high standard of care
  • Have to pay cash upfront before receiving medical care
  • Be refused treatment if you’re unable to pay
  • Have to manage your own treatment and figure out how to get yourself home

Is it likely that I’ll get sick or injured while traveling?

Travel, by its very nature, is unpredictable. You may do a 9-day trekking tour of Croatia and never take a tumble. You may be strolling through a park in Buenos Aires and get knocked down by a wayward cyclist. Anything can happen, and that’s why you need travel insurance with emergency medical benefits.

Each year, our Assistance team fields thousands of calls from travelers who are experiencing a medical emergency. The most common emergencies we see are fractures from falls, cardiovascular problems (such as heart attacks and strokes), trauma from vehicle accidents and other accidents, and pulmonary/respiratory conditions.

Which travel insurance plans include emergency medical benefits?

Plans with emergency medical benefits include:

  • OneTrip Basic, an economical plan with limited post-departure benefits
  • OneTrip Prime, a popular plan with substantial benefits and free coverage for children 17 and under when traveling with a parent or grandparent
  • OneTrip Premier, which doubles most OneTrip Prime post-departure benefit limits
  • OneTrip Emergency Medical, a flexible and affordable plan that includes only post-departure benefits
  • AllTrips Basic, an annual travel insurance plan that provides emergency medical benefits for frequent travelers
  • AllTrips Prime, which offers affordable, reliable protection for a full 365 days of travel
  • AllTrips Executive, an annual plan built for business travelers
  • AllTrips Premier, which protects world travelers with multiple tiers of benefits

Wondering which plan is right for you? Get a quote for your next trip.

What’s covered by the emergency dental benefits in my travel insurance plan?

Breaking a tooth can spoil your trip just as surely as breaking an ankle. Fortunately, your emergency medical benefits also can cover emergency dental care. Just be aware that a sublimit applies to these benefits. For example, if you have a $20,000 limit for emergency medical benefits, that may include a $750 limit for dental benefits.

You should know, too, that these benefits are for dental emergency care only: a dental injury or infection, a lost filling, or a broken tooth that requires treatment. Your travel insurance won’t cover preventive care, cosmetic procedures, or any procedure that could safely wait until you return home.

What does emergency medical travel insurance not cover?

Travel insurance is designed to protect you in case of certain, unforeseen travel mishaps and emergencies. It’s not intended to apply to every possible scenario. When you read your plan documents, you’ll see that your travel insurance does not cover:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions, unless your plan includes the existing medical condition waiver and you’ve met all the requirements
  • Any medical condition that resulted in you being unable to travel on your policy or trip purchase date
  • Non-emergency care or services, such as elective cosmetic surgery, routine exams, long-term care, and other types of care
  • Any loss, condition, or event that was known, foreseeable, intended, or expected when your policy or trip was purchased
  • Intentional self-harm
  • Normal pregnancy or childbirth
  • The use or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or any related physical symptoms
  • Participating in or training for any professional or amateur sporting competition
  • Participating in extreme, high-risk sports and activities

This is only a partial list of exclusions. Please check your plan documents for the specific exclusions associated with your plan.

Do my emergency medical travel insurance benefits cover COVID-19?

Getting sick with COVID can be miserable… and it’s even worse if you’re far from home. But we’re here to help!

If your plan includes emergency medical benefits and the Epidemic Coverage Endorsement, then you may be reimbursed for costs for emergency medical care for COVID-19 or another covered illness, up to your specific plan’s maximum limit for the emergency medical benefit.

If your plan includes emergency transportation benefits and the Epidemic Coverage Endorsement, then your medically necessary evacuation — whether you have COVID-19 or another covered illness/injury — may be covered. You also get medical repatriation benefits, which means we can arrange and pay for your transportation home once you’re well enough to travel (with medical accommodations, if necessary).

Please note, this coverage only applies to plans that include the applicable benefit and covered reason. All benefits are subject to maximum limits of liability, which may in some cases be subject to sublimits and daily maximums. See your plan for details.

So how do emergency medical benefits work? Does my travel insurance pay upfront for medical care, or reimburse me later?

That depends on the situation. If the medical care you need is minor, such as getting stitches for a cut or a splint for a sprained wrist, you may pay out of pocket and then file a claim for reimbursement later.

If you need to be admitted to a hospital for inpatient care for longer than 24 hours, Allianz Global Assistance can guarantee or advance payments, where accepted, up to the limit of your emergency medical/dental coverage.

If you need emergency medical transportation, we can arrange and pay for it. In order for emergency transportation to be covered, however, Allianz Global Assistance must determine that it’s medically necessary and make the arrangement in advance. If we did not authorize and arrange the transportation, we will only pay up to what we would have paid if we had made the arrangements.

If I have a medical emergency while traveling, what should I do?

  1. Don’t panic! Allianz Global Assistance is here to guide you.
  2. If your illness or injury is life-threatening and/or requires immediate attention, call local emergency services. Remember that 911 doesn’t work in every country. Use the free Allianz TravelSmart app to instantly access the right emergency number for your location.
  3. As soon as possible, contact Assistance and tell us what’s going on. Our Assistance team can refer you to a local, pre-screened medical provider; provide interpretation services when speaking with medical providers; guarantee payments to doctors or hospitals; and more.
  4. If our medical team determines that local medical facilities aren’t sufficient to treat your condition, we can arrange emergency transportation to the nearest appropriate facility.
  5. As you’re being treated, your Assistance coordinator will stay in touch with your doctor, review your medical reports, handle billing and keep your designated family member or friend updated on your condition.
  6. Once you’re stable enough to travel, we’ll arrange transportation home. If you need continuing medical care in the United States, we’ll work with your health insurance provider and your primary healthcare provider to figure out a treatment plan.

Read more: What To Do In A Medical Emergency

Is my emergency medical travel insurance primary or secondary coverage?

It’s secondary coverage, which means that if you have health insurance, you must submit your claim to that provider first. Any payments or reimbursements from your other insurance providers will be deducted from your claim. Not sure what your insurance covers? Contact us and we can help you figure it out.

Is there any deductible or co-pay for my emergency medical travel insurance benefits?

No, there’s no deductible or co-pay. There is, however, a maximum limit for your emergency medical/dental and emergency transportation benefits, which you’ll find in your plan documents.

How do I know if my travel insurance plan covers existing medical conditions?

You’ll need to select a plan that offers a Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver, and also meet the requirements in your plan. In short, if you insure your full non-refundable trip costs within 14 days of paying your first trip deposit, and you’re medically able to travel when you do so, you can be covered for most existing medical conditions.

An existing medical condition is defined as an injury, illness, or medical condition that, within the 120 days prior to and including the policy purchase date:

  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.

Read more: When Does Travel Insurance Cover Existing Medical Conditions?

How can the TravelSmart app help?

The Allianz TravelSmart app from Allianz Global Assistance can help you navigate medical emergencies (and other crises) almost anywhere in the world. Use the app to:

  • Contact Assistance for help
  • Contact local emergency services with a single tap
  • Find the closest hospitals, doctors and pharmacies, including those that Allianz Global Assistance has identified as preferred providers
  • Get quick translations of first-aid and medication terms to help you communicate with doctors and pharmacists

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