Insuring your trip and your health, too
Packing your bags for a trip? Don’t forget travel insurance. It can protect you if unforeseen circumstances force you to cancel or interrupt a trip — or if you get sick while on the road.
Retiree John Murtagh said health coverage was a key reason he purchased travel insurance last year. He knew Medicare wouldn’t provide coverage outside the U.S. So, before embarking on a two-week cruise in May from Miami to Southampton, England, the 66-year-old bought a WaveCare travel insurance policy from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection for about $500.
“I travel quite a bit,” Murtagh said. “It’s essential coverage.”
To maximize a travel policy’s benefits, “the number-one thing to remember is to buy travel insurance right after making the first payment” for the trip, said Carol Mueller, vice president of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.
Purchasing insurance within 14 days of that first payment typically ensures you will get coverage for preexisting conditions, experts say, and mitigates the risk of not being covered if a hurricane, terrorist attack or other disaster ruins your trip before it begins.
Policy premiums depend on the traveler’s age and the length and cost of the trip.
“You want to cover anything prepaid or not refundable,” said Erin Gavin, an insurance product analyst for InsureMyTrip.com. If you have nonrefundable transportation costs of $1,200 and a refundable hotel reservation for $2,000, buy coverage just for the transport costs. Generally, Gavin said, the premium will run 4% to 10% of the cost of the trip.
Comparison shopping helps
“A higher price tag doesn’t mean more benefits or better service,” said Jenna Hummer, director of public relations for SquareMouth.
You can buy standalone medical coverage, but in many cases, it makes sense to buy a comprehensive policy that includes trip cancellation, trip interruption and medical expenses.
A policy that lets you cancel “for any reason” gives you the most flexibility but also costs more.
Frequent travelers should weigh the costs of single-trip policies versus an annual travel policy. “You buy [annual insurance] once and have coverage for all the trips and travel emergencies you might face in a year,” said Daniel Durazo, director of marketing and communications for Allianz Partners USA. Allianz offers annual policies that start at $135.
Medicare no, Medigap maybe
Whether you have private health insurance or Medicare, check whether your insurance will cover you while traveling, particularly if you are headed overseas.
Traditional Medicare typically doesn’t cover healthcare outside the U.S. and its territories. But some Medigap supplemental insurance plans offer coverage for foreign emergency healthcare.
Medicare Advantage beneficiaries may run into coverage issues while traveling abroad — and even within the U.S. Advantage plans generally have limited service networks, and traveling outside your local area can throw you out of network, making needed care costlier.
Make sure the activities on your trip agenda aren’t excluded from coverage. Active boomers seeking thrills on vacation by rock climbing or heli-skiing can buy travel insurance policies that will specifically cover those riskier activities.
Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection offers a policy called AdrenalineCare geared to active travelers, and SquareMouth.com recently launched an “Adventure & Sports Travel Insurance” section that lets you search policies specific to active travel.
You can also buy travel insurance geared toward cruises, as Murtagh did. Such a policy could come in handy if you miss the boat at a port of call, or need healthcare beyond the scope of the ship’s doctor.
Before buying a policy, check the coverage for medical evacuation. Without it, you could be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in transport costs if you have to be flown to the nearest hospital or back home because of a medical emergency.
© 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.