Travel tips from Condé Nast Traveler magazine's Wendy Perrin.
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December 14, 2006

Best Medical Care For Travelers Abroad

By Wendy Perrin

I'm thrilled to see that one Todd Binkowski of International S.O.S. has written in about my last post, where I was trying to help a reader who did not find in International S.O.S the travel medical insurance he was seeking. (I had recommended International S.O.S. because I believe it provides the best medical care to travelers overseas.)

Continue reading "Best Medical Care For Travelers Abroad" »

December 14, 2006

Which Travel Medical Insurance Is Best?

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader Cschiu in response to Travel Insurance: Best Companies:

"So it seems International S.O.S. doesn't reimburse your doctor/hospital expenses if you become sick or injured overseas.  It's more of an emergency evacuation/referral service. Do you have a travel medical insurance provider that you would recommend?"

It depends on the type of trip you're taking. (Where are you traveling to?  How close is it to home and how good are the hospitals there?   How old are you?  Do you have preexisting medical conditions and thus need a policy that will cover you if you have to cancel your trip, or abort it midway through, due to such a preexisting condition?  Are you going on a cruise, a safari, or an independent overland journey? Have you put down an initial trip deposit and, if so, when?  Etc.)

Without knowing these details, all I can do is advise you to contact both Travelex and Travel Guard International and compare how their offerings match your particular needs.   Travelex is typically more expensive and provides more extensive coverage and benefits. Good luck.

October 01, 2006

Think It Can't Happen To You? (Part 2)

By Wendy Perrin

A comment came in from reader SavvyTraveler re: my post about MedjetAssist. I wrote, "Should you get sick or injured on a trip and end up hospitalized, it will evacuate you by medical aircraft (basically a staffed I.C.U.) from the hospital overseas to the hospital of your choice (annual membership, $205; individual trip policy, $75)."  I thought I was clearly stating that what MedjetAssist does is transport you from hospital to hospital--no more, no less.  I guess not, because reader SavvyTraveler wrote back:

"I had a MedjetAssist annual plan, and it won't happen again. READ THE FINE PRINT!  First of all, MedjetAssist won't perform an evacuation unless you are hospitalized as an inpatient. Secondly, MedjetAssist doesn't cover the medical expenses you incur, even though it requires you to be hospitalized to qualify for its services.  Finally, MedjetAssist has a number of medical situations for which it won't provide evacuation services, including injuries or illnesses which can be treated by local doctors.  You can have MedjetAssist.  I'll take the medical evacuation coverage that is automatically covered in most travel insurance plans at no additional cost."

I can assure you I would not pay $205 per year for something without reading the restrictions and exclusions.  I never said that MedJetAssist is a replacement for other travel insurance!

Continue reading "Think It Can't Happen To You? (Part 2)" »

September 27, 2006

Think It Can't Happen To You?

By Wendy Perrin

Many travelers are shocked when they hear how much an emergency medical evacuation from a foreign country to their hospital back home can cost.  Today MedjetAssist, the medical evacuation service, is paying $65,000 to transport back to Philadelphia a client who fell and broke her hip in Budapest.  And that's the wholesale rate.  If the woman had arranged the medical transportation on her own, it would have cost 15% to 20% more.

That's what Roy Berger, MedjetAssist's president, was telling me in my office earlier today. Here's what I already knew about MedjetAssist: Should you get sick or injured on a trip and end up hospitalized, it will evacuate you by medical aircraft (basically a staffed I.C.U.) from the hospital overseas to the hospital of your choice (annual membership, $205; individual trip policy, $75). What I didn't know but am extremely glad I know now is this:  Even if you don't own a MedjetAssist policy, if you're traveling and suddenly require evacuation to your hospital back home, MedjetAssist can provide it--at a lower cost than what you'd pay if you tried to arrange it on your own.

Continue reading "Think It Can't Happen To You?" »

September 01, 2006

Travel Insurance Update

By Wendy Perrin

There is no less sexy topic than travel insurance. But, considering how much you can lose by purchasing the wrong policy (from hundreds of thousands of dollars to your life), I want to keep you posted on the latest:

Travel Guard International just unrolled a new program called My Travel Guard that lets you choose which hospital you end up in, should you require medical evacuation during a trip. When you suffer an accident or injury midtrip, normally it's the insurance company that decides which medical facility you'll go to. It chooses the nearest facility that it considers adequate for treating your problem. With My Travel Guard, you can pay a little extra in exchange for control over which hospital you end up in.  You can go to "your hospital of choice," even your hospital back home.

Before this new program, a much more expensive policy from MedJetAssist was the only way to get coverage for medical transportation to your hospital back home, should you end up hospitalized overseas.

Exactly how do these programs differ?  I talked to both companies this morning in an attempt to figure it out. Travel Guard said that MedJetAssist doesn't cover the medical or hospital expenses you incur; it covers only your transportation (with the necessary medical staff and equipment) from hospital to hospital. MedJetAssist said that Travel Guard will move you to your "hospital of choice" only if the attending physician finds it medically necessary to move you. In other words, you don't really have control over which hospital you end up in.

Confused yet?  Join the club.  I invite both Travel Guard and MedJetAssist to clarify their programs by posting a comment here.

August 25, 2006

Travel Insurance: Best Companies

By Wendy Perrin

A reader who saw Travel Insurance: Caveat Emptor posted this question:

"Are there any particular travel insurance companies you recommend over others? What does travel insurance cost?"

If you're headed to a place where medical care is unreliable and your main goal is to get the best local care and emergency evacuation to the nearest reliable hospital, use International S.O.S.

If you want a guarantee that you will be evacuated by plane to your hospital back home in the event that you are hospitalized overseas, use MedjetAssist.

If your main goal is to avoid losing money if you must cancel a trip, ask the travel company if it sells a cancellation-penalty waiver.  If it doesn't, consider policies offered by Travel Guard International and Access America, but read the fine print before buying so that you fully comprehend what reasons for cancellation are not covered.

As for the cost, it varies enormously and depends on your age, trip cost, and trip length. Travel Guard and Access America policies tend to cost on average about $6 for every $100 worth of coverage. An International S.O.S. policy  for an individual trip can cost hundreds of dollars; if you travel overseas a lot, it's a better deal to buy a yearly membership.  An annual membership in MedjetAssist costs $205.

August 24, 2006

Travel Insurance: Caveat Emptor

By Wendy Perrin

The most accurate and useful article I've ever read on the topic of travel insurance--and believe me, I've read plenty of misleading ones--was published in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday: The Exclusions and Illusions of Travel Insurance, by Scott McCartney.  Travel insurance can protect you from losing any non-refundable payments you've made, should you need to cancel a trip or leave in the middle.  It can also cover your expenses should you suffer a medical emergency overseas and require a doctor's care and evacuation to a decent hospital. Travelers needing such insurance tend to be those taking expensive trips that must be paid in advance--cruises, tours, safaris, vacation packages--and those heading to remote, exotic parts of the world where medical care is not reliable.  Before buying travel insurance, do yourself a favor and read this article!