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Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

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My short answer is yes, for any trip outside the U.S., especially for medical. I’ve travelled all over the world and have had minor delays and lost bags, as most people traveling abroad have experienced once or twice. My husband and I even wasted a few days of our honeymoon sleeping on the floor of the LaGuardia and Heathrow airports due to flight delays. Travel insurance never entered my mind – until we heard Karl’s story.  Karl’s father died young of a heart attack, so my lean, vegan, yoga-studying friend in turn did everything he could to avoid his genetic fate. Unfortunately, it caught up with him in a remote village in Thailand while he was alone with his six-year-old son. His wife, along with the rest of the family, were out shopping while Karl and his son went back to the hotel room for antacids for his heart burn. It was there that he realized it wasn’t just bad heartburn. He was suffering a heart attack. He sent his six-year-old to go find help. Karl had travel insurance and he did live. He lived through watching his son stand alone on the beach as a water taxi took him away.  He lived through the care at an ill-equipped clinic in Rayong, where he remembers being wheeled through a puddle and then the swarm of disturbed bugs that flew to his face. He remembers his fear as he was left unattended in a group ward where no English was spoken. His family found his son, but no one could tell them what clinic Karl had been taken to. Here is where travel insurance started to shine. The travel insurance representative found where he was being triaged and immediately advised his wife not to approve any procedures in the facility. Within an hour, an ambulance arrived with a smartly dressed crew and he was medevacked to one of the finest cardiac units in Bangkok. Two surgeries and a week later, the kids had been sent home with friends and the travel insurance company paid for a doctor to accompany Karl and his wife all the way home in first-class.

Karl has great coverage through work that covered his care after he got home. But it was travel insurance that covered every procedure overseas – after all, as his paper bills later stated, it was all out of network. The travel insurance company located and provided transport to the cardiac hospital, they covered the medical bills, they put the family up in the hotel within walking distance of the hospital, they helped with the logistics of cancelling the rest of their trip, and they got the whole family home safely. Karl’s total out-of-pocket expense was $50. Savings to the family in extra stress; immeasurable.

Travel insurance offered in the marketplace today is generally comprehensive coverage. It typically covers lost and delayed bags, flight cancellation, flight interruption, evacuation, repatriation, accidents, and sickness – even many pre-existing conditions are covered.  It is priced by age and length of your trip, with the option of selecting different levels of coverage. For example, I am taking a 10-day overseas trip later this year; at the “silver” level, a 27-year-old would pay $160, a 57 year-old would pay $259, and a 77-year-old would pay $476.  Compare that to the trip cost of $5,000 and I ask you, why wouldn’t I consider travel insurance? The confusion of a foreign country and the immediacy of the need, coupled with the stress to my travelling companions seems large compared to a relatively small premium. In my opinion, a serious accident or illness in a foreign country is worth every dollar of premium.

Navigating the many considerations that go into deciding whether travel insurance is right for you can be overwhelming. Stay tuned next week as we get some tips and tricks from Alaska Travelgram’s very own Scott McMurren.

Marietta Hall, CFP®
Financial Advisor

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