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Travel Insurance Can Help in a Disaster Zone

Source: Travel Insurance File

The world has had more than its share of natural and man-made disasters in the past 12 months, and thanks to travel insurance, many thousands of travelers have been spared great financial losses. You cant predict the next disruption. Get covered early. Dont wait until the day before you leave.

Traveling without insurance is no longer an option. There is no place on earth where your safety can be guaranteed, where you are isolated from risk of accident, injury, financial loss, travel disruption, sickness, epidemic, terrorism, or civil unrest. In the past 12 months we have seen Europe covered by volcanic ash, the Middle East and North Africa under siege, New Zealand and Japan rocked by disastrous earthquakes, Australia ravaged by floods, Mexico wracked by drug violence, and thats only a shortlist of danger zones.

In each of these areas, travel insurance has brought medical aid to the injured; covered financial losses due to cancelled or interrupted flights, tours and hotel reservations; extricated stranded travelers, and helped bring them home safely. But those who have benefitted most are those who have taken the time to understand what their insurance covered, what it excluded, and what their own responsibilities were when buying insurance and when they were suddenly confronted with an emergency and needed help.

Travel insurers like to make the purchase of their products look effortless. Its not. And dont rely on wording in promotional brochures to decide which plan to buy. You need to know the details. But with many policies now running to 30 or 40 pages of fine print, I doubt if one out of 100 purchasers is really going to read it all. Thats why its really important to talk to an agent who specializes in travel insurance and one who is willing to answer questions.

But if youre going to buy online, be prepared to invest some time. It will be worth it.

What to look for?

  • The definition of pre-existing condition and how it applies to you.
  • The definition of a stable condition.
  • Read the Exclusions and Limitations.
  • Read the details about Trip Cancellation/Interruption. These benefits have a lot of loopholes (e.g.) if your father-in-law died of a condition he had before you purchased your insurance, your trip cancellation benefit is invalidated due to a pre-existing condition.
  • If you are asked medical questions, be precise and complete. Non-disclosure can invalidate.
  • If you are buying Cancel For Any Reason coverage, read it well. Chances are youre only going to get part of your prepaid money back.
  • Most important, leave plenty of time to shop for your policy and dont buy on price. Higher prices only cover greater risks. They dont necessarily provide better coverage. On the other hand, avoid sites that compare plans by price, which many travel insurance aggregators do. Unless you know what that price includes, youre buying blindly. There is so much variance in what travel insurers offer, that its virtually impossible to make a direct comparison between plans that is meaningful.

Buy what you need. The best plan for you fits your health, age, financial circumstance, and destination. If it doesnt fit, its a bad buy.

Travel insurance is a serious purchase, not because the premiums are necessarily expensive, but because if you buy a plan that leaves you exposed to exclusions, you can be left with massive bills that the insurer wont cover. I have seen insured travelers stuck with medical bills of close to half a million dollars: not because their insurer cheated them, but because they didnt understand what they were buying.