Photo by Ulises Baga on Unsplash

Travel Insurance During COVID-19


Author: Anna Blekhman

With COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out around the world, there’s hope that travel restrictions will soon return to the kind of normal we haven’t seen since 2019. But until then…

As we already know, your travel plans should now include COVID testing before you leave home and on arrival in your destination port of entry. The consequences of you contracting coronavirus while you’re away will, most immediately, prevent you from traveling home, resulting in potential medical treatments or extending your stay.

In this post

Why you should purchase travel insurance with medical coverage

Travel insurance can cover you for a range of unexpected expenses like replacing lost luggage, having to cancel your trip, covered medical treatments if needed, or accommodations if an emergency means you can’t return home and need to stay longer than you had expected.

But with COVID-19 hotspots popping up all over the world, the unexpected impacts of a positive COVID test while you’re away should be taken into account when creating your travel plan.

Some destinations, such as Jamaica, Thailand, and Seychelles, require travelers to present proof of medical insurance that covers COVID-19 treatment.

Basics of travel insurance with medical coverage

Your travel insurance needs may vary depending on factors like where you’re going, how long you’re staying, what you’re planning to do when you’re there, and even your age.

While travel insurance is a great idea for all travelers, adding COVID coverage makes good sense wherever you’re traveling, even though your medical costs may be covered by universal healthcare which is available in certain areas.

The popular insurer, SafetyWing, offers medical and travel insurance for world travelers who need insurance when traveling outside their home country, and includes coverage for a COVID-19 diagnosis if you contract the virus on your travels.

How medical costs get paid in different countries

Information for travelers from the U.S.

There are a lot of countries with universal health care, where tax payers fund government-run healthcare systems, and where you’ll be able to get treatment for a most illnesses free of charge. This may change from country-to-country, so be sure to investigate the specific guidelines for the country you’re visiting. If you are visiting a Schengen Area country, your visa may require proof or medical insurance.

Information for travelers from the rest of the world

If you’re from a country with universal healthcare and you’re visiting the United States, you should definitely look into travel/medical insurance because U.S. healthcare is very different – and more complicated – than you’re accustomed to.

Hospital systems in the U.S. will triage visitors who arrive at the emergency room, but an emergency room visit can run up a bill for thousands of dollars for the uninsured. You can make an appointment with a primary care physician – general practitioners or family doctors – but they’ll need to give you a referral for more specialized care, and an appointment may not be immediately available.

Receiving medical treatment in the United States means you’ll be billed for all the services. There’ll be a portion of that bill you’ll be responsible for (the deductible), while your medical insurance provider will pay an additional portion (up to the maximum benefit level). Your insurance may include or exclude some specific conditions or treatments.

It’s not unusual for the medical provider and the insurance company to negotiate a lower price for your medical care, or to write off any charges in excess of the deductible you pay and the additional payments made by the insurer. However, it’s possible that you’ll be liable for all charges for your treatment that aren’t covered by your policy as a result of a) charges exceed the maximum payment amount the insurer is responsible for or b) the treatment you received is not covered by the insurance policy you purchased.

Buying travel insurance with medical coverage

For simple travel insurance, look for a policy that includes provisions for:

  • Trip cancellation
  • Trip interruption
  • Travel delays
  • Lost checked luggage
  • Relocation due to natural disaster, medical emergency or political evacuation

What you should look for in a medical insurance plan which includes provisions for COVID-19 are:

  • What’s the minimum you’ll have to pay out of pocket for medical expenses?
  • What’s the maximum the insurance company will pay for your treatments?
  • Does the policy have separate limits and maximums for specific services?
  • Are there exclusions for activities you plan to enjoy on your trip? For example, snowboarding may be considered a high-risk activity and might not be covered by your insurance.

As with any insurance policy, you should read the small print to make sure events you’re concerned about are covered and that you have the right amount of coverage for your needs and budget.