Health and equipment insurance for travelers is a very important topic and it’s something that I can’t seem to find a whole lot of definitive information about. Like any type of insurance, a decent policy depends on your individual circumstances and finding that is a matter of prying through all the gray matter insurance companies blanket you with.
I promised my mother for my current South America trip I’d at least get some type of health insurance to cover my adventurous lifestyle choices and cover me incase of a serious emergency. I also just bought a brand new Mac Book Pro so if that baby gets lost or stolen I want to make sure I’m covered.
For my first adventure to Argentina I purchased a 3-month plan from STA insurance for about $275 without incident and never renewed it after that. Turns out, 2 months later I had to get surgery in Buenos Aires. Thankfully, I was able to pay for the whole surgery with drink coupons from the bar I worked at.
I don’t think I’ll be that lucky again, so I’m on a hunt for some quality travel insurance and use this post as a continuous worksheet to update insurance status for current and future endeavors, if for no other reason than to help mom sleep at night.
I know, I should have done this before I jumped off bridges, mountain biked volcanos and wrested around with monkeys. Better late than never.
Health and equipment travel insurance is a question I frequents my T2T inbox so hopefully this information will help all of you as well. If you have any further information about the topic, please add it to the comments below.
My Specific Travel Insurance Criteria:
- Emergency health coverage (I can pay out of pocket for anything minor)
- Technology gear coverage
- Overlapping coverage at home (New York, USA)
- Cost effective
- Minimal Coverage Time: December 1st until May 1st
My Insurance Conditions
- Health: I’m 27 years old with no medical history but an appetite for the extreme.
- Gear: I travel with a Mac Book Pro ($2500) and Canon S95 ($400).
Good Starting Point: Insure My Trip is an easy way to see what options are out there.
Popular Travel Insurance Organizations:
- World Nomads: For both health and equipment insurance, World Nomads is entirely online and easy to manage. While health coverage is very good, the WN electronics plan doesn’t cover a lot (under $500). However, World Nomads also allows you to pay a supplement for high value electronics, which is good for cameras and laptops. World Nomads also covers health insurance within the United States, but only if you are 100 miles away from home. This would work for me considering I have family in Chicago (which is 100 miles from home in New York). It’s also the preferred travel insurance of fellow travel bloggers, Nomadic Matt and Ayngelina, which tells you it’s been heavily researched.
- Clements Insurance – This NY based international insurance company is underwritten by Lloyds and London and vouched for by global nomads David Lee and Akila McConnell. Clements offers a variety of insurance including international car, property and health insurance. My friend David pays $149 per year for $5,000 in international property coverage and for claims of under $10,000 if completely robbed. They provide ‘personal property insurance’ for professionals abroad for $400/year. They cover scheduled and unscheduled gear with a deductible. It helps if you have multiple policies (health and property).
- Medex Assist (Frontier MEDEX) – Travel health insurance with four different plans (TravelMed Choice, Abroad, Global and International). Medex covers health up to $50k ($100 deductable) and lost baggage protection, but it does not cover electronics. For a 5-month plan I was quoted for $205.
- MedJet Assist – MedJet isn’t conventional travel insurance, it’s a medical-evacuation program for emergencies that will coordinate with the overseas hospital, etc. Membership is a few hundred bucks a year, but with intercontinental air ambulances costing $70-100k or more, the cost may be worth it. MedJet also covers travel within the US if you are x miles away from home. Like MedJet, also look at International SOS because it’s better than conventional insurance because they’re the actual service provider: they run the hospitals and operate their own jets allowing them to move quicker in the event of an emergency. This would be great for those extreme ski, bike and rafting outings.
- IMG Global/Patriot – IMG Global covers health insurance both in the US and abroad. Although there seems to be a high deductible within this travel insurance, they have continuity with other insurance (which is important in US health insurance). The main requirement seems to be that you have to be abroad for at least 6 months of the year. One thing that’s a bit disconcerting is that there is Patriot and Patriot Platinum health insurance plan, like if you don’t get the Platinum you’re risking 2nd-rate health attention. Luckily, Jodi from Legal Nomads vouches for IMG Patriot so I’m immediately put back at ease. However, it doesn’t cover any electronics.
- HTH Worldwide – You have to be outside the US to purchase this travel health insurance but it completely covers you within the US (including medical evacuation) with no requirement that you be out of the country a certain number of months each year (like IMG). HTH counts as credible coverage under HIPAA, which is important if you have pre-existing conditions. In a recent insurance conversation on a travel bloggers forum, Travel Guru and HTH policy holder, Sherry Ott said ”I pay $370 a month… and I am covered fully and can go anywhere outside of the US and in the US I get to use the Aetna PPO network for a copay. They aren’t travel insurance like world nomads – they are medical and offer preventative visits (annual physicals, mamograms, etc) as part of their policy. It was even cheaper when I was under 40. But it was perfect for my nomadic lifestyle which can land me in the US for months at a time and then outside the US.”
- STA Travel Insurance – This insurance is designed for US residents traveling outside the United States. Along with the basic travel insurance coverage (baggage, emergency medical, travel cancellation) STA also offers On-Demand Medical Care where if you get sick on the road you can call them and they will provide information about able physicians and medical advice nearby your location. I was quoted $429 for a 5-month coverage plan.
- TripInsurance.com – I relatively new player in the travel insurance game, this site compares different travel insurance policies based on a few details you provide to give you the best economic options. I got a price quote for $176 from “Old Republic Insurance Co” but something just doesn’t seem t0o reputable about this just yet. I like the concept though.
- Gateway Plans Travel Health Insurance - Offers a range of travel insurance plans from business travel insurance to insurance for students traveling internationally. Gateway also provides medical insurance coverage for foreign visitors to USA.
- Good2Go Travel Insurance – Australia-based travel insurance provider that claims to be able save you up to 50% on travel insurance. Their international traveler policy seems to cover a bunch of financial hardships like kidnapping, funeral and vehicle rental, but I’m not sure how great of a fit it is for U.S. citizens. I got a quote for a 5-month plan for $715.29.
Alternative Travel Insurance Options:
- State Farm Insurance Policy – Take a policy out on computer and camera equipment. Covers lost items and damaged items for any reason. You just need the receipt when purchased and they ask for that in the beginning. It’s insuring individual items (personal articles policy) anything from artwork to wedding rings and it works internationally. This coverage requires that you buy it in the state your address is and the agent will calculate the risk of providing you this statement.
- Homeowners Supplemental Insurance – Scheduled personal property insurance will cover expensive electronics while other travel insurance will not cover that much.
- Take out what is called a Travel Rider through your regular insurance company.
- Credit Card companies often provide travel insurance to their clients.
- I’m a member of AAA and they offer travel insurance options including health, baggage and trip cancellation.
- Setup an LLC if you are digital nomad and put it under a business expense.
- If you are fulltime travel writer you can try to join the SATW (Society of American Travel Writers) and get their health insurance. Gary Arndt mentioned that as being one benefit of the organization.
- Erin from Never Ending Voyage told me if you are a British photographer you can cover your electronics and camera through Photoguard.
- If you’re moving to a new country you can research local health care plans like I did for health care coverage in Argentina.
Pending the price tag on a multiple policy plan from Clement Insurance (need to call back), it looks like I’ll be going with World Nomads for the time being. While they don’t cover my computer value they cover major health coverage, which is most important. Also, I heard World Nomads were undertaking from Warren of Married with Luggage so I want to see if that effects their rates before I finalize a plan.
I will finalize the cost comparison between WN, Clements and IMG one last time before I confirm and hopefully have everything confirmed this week.
UPDATE (Dec 2011)
I decided to go with a 6-month policy from World Nomads. They were the most economical ($291) and covered the most basic of needs (health emergencies). The only downfall is that they don’t cover the cost of my computer or travel gear. I’ll just have to be careful until I can reevaluate my plan in a few months.