Getting sick is a biggie for travelers. What do you do when you are sick? Or get in an accident? What if you are far from home and need help?
There really is no stock answer to that question – it all depends on the individual situation and we can’t predict what the situation will be like. Sometimes we’ll move on anyway, other times we’ll take time off. Sometimes we will need a hospital, other times we won’t. When it happens, we look at the individual circumstances and make a decision.
Health insurance for travelers
What I can say, however, is that we would never travel without health insurance. I understand that different travelers have varying takes on this one, but I can’t imagine going without. When we planned for our journey, we planned for insurance just like we planned for our fixed rate bonds, how we would store our belongings, and how we would communicate with our families. Health insurance, as far as we’re concerned, is an essential for the traveler.
I cycled around Asia for a year without insurance many years ago. Although nothing bad happened, I look back on that time now and realize how dumb I was. I won’t make that mistake again.
It is true that medical costs in most countries around the world are reasonable, unlike in the USA. It is very true that it’s very unlikely that you will need to place a claim with your insurance company because you’ll be able to simply pay the bill. But what if something big happens and you want to come back to the USA to recover? You will not get care in America and will be stuck overseas for, possibly, the remainder of your life. Is that a risk you are willing to accept?
While on the road, we opted for a high-deductible travelers’ policy through IMG. The stipulations were that we were outside of the USA for at least six months each year, and we could not pick it up until the day we planned to leave the country. They have different plans to choose from, but we chose one that would cover us if/when we returned to the US on vacation.
We look at insurance as exactly that – insurance. We didn’t use it on a regular basis, but knowing it was there in case something went drastically wrong was comforting. We opted for a $5000 deductible, and never needed to use it while on our journey. All the small stuff we paid for out of our own pocket – but in Latin America health care was quite reasonable.
There are lots of insurance companies out there that can provide insurance for you, and you will have to read the fine print on them all. We went with IMG, and didn’t need to file a claim until John had an appendectomy once we arrived back home.
The other type of insurance that I would recommend to any traveler visiting foreign countries is evacuation insurance. I wrote about John’s evacuation from Ethiopia to Israel here and I can’t encourage you enough to read that story. I know I don’t want my international bank account drained because of a simple accident or health issue, and I somehow doubt you do either. One medical evacuation could wipe out your life savings in a heart beat.
Read John’s story, and you’ll never travel without evac insurance again. It’s cheap, so get it.