The Best Medical Travel Insurance
How We Found the Best Medical Travel Insurance
15 Hours of Research
22 Providers Evaluated
4 Top Picks
The Best Medical Travel Insurance
When you’re traveling out of the country, one of the first things to look into is whether or not your health insurance will reimburse you for medical costs you might incur on your trip. Most of the time, your medical coverage doesn’t travel with you. That’s where medical travel insurance comes in. Along with situations covered under traditional travel insurance — flight delays, lost baggage, trip cancellation — the best medical travel insurance also covers emergency healthcare expenses and evacuation back home.
If you’re traveling with your family, we recommend Travelex's Select plan, which covers kids under 18 for free as long as they’re traveling with an adult family member. Aside from that, it has all the medical coverage you’d need: $50K for medical expenses ($500 for dental), $500K for emergency evacuation, and a pre-existing condition waiver if the plan is purchased within 21 days of your initial trip deposit. We also liked how Travelex offers customizable upgrades like increased medical coverage and a Cancel for Any Reason option so you can tailor your policy to exactly what you need.
For solo travelers, we prefer the plans from John Hancock. It has the same excellent medical coverage as Travelex, but you can’t add kids to your policy. For solo travelers or couples, John Hancock provides some of the most personalized coverage out there, with three tiers of coverage and a host of add-ons. Where it really set itself apart, though, was in the customer service department: John Hancock’s reps knew their policies inside and out, never pushed us for a sale, and were all-around some of the nicest agents we spoke to.
We also like Allianz and IMG. Though their coverage offerings aren’t as robust as Travelex or John Hancock, their worth considering for more unique trips. If you’re traveling to a remote or exotic location, check out the iTravelInsured LX plan from IMG. It accounts for specific situations like search and rescue, while also covering extreme sports like rock climbing and snowboarding. No matter what kind of far-flung adventure you’re going on, IMG will have you covered. Allianz's Classic Plan with Trip+ stood out to us as the only company to offer coverage for trips up to a year in length, a great option for those studying or teaching abroad.
How We Chose the Best Medical Travel Insurance
We started by combing the internet for all the medical travel insurance providers that sell individual policies nationwide. We left out companies like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip, as they only compare rates rather than provide coverage themselves. From there, the best had to offer three major coverage areas:
- Emergency Medical Care: Pays for emergency medical expenses like doctor’s visits and hospital stays. Without emergency medical coverage, you’d be stuck footing the entire bill for anything from a strep test to a broken bone.
- Medical Evacuation and Repatriation: Covers the cost of medical transportation to a nearby hospital or return home if necessary. Evacuation costs are separate from treatment, so even if your U.S. insurance travels abroad, it almost certainly doesn’t cover a medically-staffed flight back home.
- 24/7 Worldwide Assistance: Resources available any time to help you file a claim, locate a physician, or make arrangements during a medical emergency. With trips often taking place on opposite ends of the globe from your insurance company, we wanted to be sure that someone would be available to help no matter what time zone you’re in.
We found 22 companies that provided adequate coverage in these areas, so we moved on to comparing their performance in several other key attributes.
We cut any companies that didn’t have an “A” Financial Strength Rating from A.M. Best.
An insurance provider is useless if it can’t actually reimburse your claim. Ian Ford, founder and CEO of Undercover Tourist broke it down for us: “The one thing about this business is that it’s based on good faith. When I make that claim, I want to know that they’re still going to be in business.”
We wanted to make sure we were only looking at the very best, so we turned to A.M. Best, which has a reputation as the gold standard for Financial Strength Ratings among travel insurers. We felt confident that a seal of approval from them meant we were dealing with a trustworthy company, so we cut any contenders that didn’t have an “A” rating.
We set minimum coverage limits: at least $50,000 in primary coverage for medical treatment and $100,000 for emergency evacuation.
This is the meat and potatoes of travel medical insurance, and the travel experts we spoke to agreed that a quality policy would cover a substantial amount for each of these categories. Since most US health plans don’t cover you abroad, it’s crucial that your travel medical insurance policy can act as your primary insurance. This means it will essentially replace your existing health insurance while you’re on your trip — any claims you need to make will go through your travel policy first — an important consideration for a couple reasons.
For one, it’s an enormous time-saver. Filing a claim through your travel insurance company rather than your health insurance provider can shorten the process by several months. You’ll get reimbursed much faster, with a lot less paperwork. Stan Sandberg, Co-Founder of TravelInsurance.com, put it this way “You’re required to navigate what can be a very frustrating experience with your health insurance company first. With a secondary plan, you’d have to actually file a claim with your health insurance company, have them reject it, then take the letter of rejection to your travel insurance company. By purchasing a primary plan, you eliminate any of the hassle.”
Second, in the rare cases where your U.S. policy does hold up abroad, you won’t have to worry about meeting multiple deductibles, and the claims won’t apply to your U.S. policy’s annual or lifetime limits.
So how much coverage should you look for in a medical travel insurance policy? It’s different for everyone — a backpacking trip through the Andes won’t require the same coverage as a weekend in Toronto, for example — but our travel experts agreed that $50K is a good baseline for medical expenses.
Sandberg explained that this is often the minimum coverage required for visas. “The standard medical amount that we suggest is $50K of medical coverage, and that dovetails with the minimum amount that some visas require.” Dr. Wasim Mohideen, Director of Techmed Healthcare and Basil Wellness, agreed, adding, “If you are young and healthy, this should be more than sufficient.”
Coverage for medical evacuation is also essential in a medical travel insurance policy. In a medical emergency, you might need to be flown to the nearest hospital or back to the U.S. on a medically staffed flight, and these costs can quickly get out of hand. According to data from Travelex, the average medical evacuation within North America runs about $25K. From Europe, the cost can easily get up to $50K.
“If you’re going to a remote part of the Himalayas or deep into the Amazon, you’d want to err on the side of a higher coverage limit. An evacuation in these places is likely to be more expensive than if you were going to the Caribbean or traveling domestically.”
Yvette McQueen MD, an emergency physician specializing in travel wellness, suggests looking for a policy that doubled this amount, saying, “For medical evacuation, I recommend at least $100K value. Most medical evacuation flights start at $50K and it needs to cover personnel and supplies” A plan with at least $100K of emergency evacuation coverage is a good baseline for most people, but you might want to look for more coverage for certain types of trips.
We made sure providers covered pre-existing conditions.
Most travel insurance plans have a general exclusion for pre-existing conditions, so losses that result from a pre-existing condition won’t be covered without a waiver.
We wanted to make sure you’d be covered no matter what, so we confirmed that each of our remaining companies offer pre-existing condition waivers. The only catch? You’ll have to purchase your medical travel insurance policy pretty soon after you make the first payment towards your trip, usually within 14-21 days.
We gave extra points to companies with a wide, flexible range of coverage options.
After narrowing down all the companies that met our coverage targets, we wanted to take a closer look at their specific policy details. So we assigned scores to each company based on the availability of supplemental benefits and considerable coverage amounts.
Perks like “Cancel for Any Reason” earned the most points. This allows you to get reimbursed for events that aren’t explicitly covered under your policy. That means if you have an emergency at work that you can’t miss, or your basement floods the night before you leave on your big trip, you’ll still be covered for most of your expenses (usually around 75 percent).
We also gave preference to companies that offered customizable coverage for more “extreme” activities like skiing, snowboarding, zip lining, and mountain biking. Since those usually aren’t covered by typical medical travel insurance plans, we appreciated the ones that offered options for every type of trip. We also gave extra points to policies that covered kids for free, a nice perk that we wish more companies offered.
From there, we focused our analysis on how likely it was that someone would actually meet the requirements for certain coverages to kick in. Some policies were so stingy that they left us wondering why you would even get medical travel insurance to begin with. For example, Trawick International will reimburse you for food and a hotel room if your flight gets delayed, but only after a full 12 hours. For comparison, our pick for solo travelers, John Hancock, has flight delay coverage that kicks in after only three hours.
After adding up our scores, we continued with the seven companies that ranked above average: Allianz, April International, AXA, IMG, John Hancock, Travelex, and TripAssure.
Finally, we evaluated the customer service of our remaining options.
After narrowing it down to seven contenders, we called and emailed each company in order to experience the customer service side of all those lengthy policies. Ford told us that this was one of the first things he looks for in a travel insurance company, saying, “I’m trusting that this company has agents that are going to talk to me, listen to me, and cover me — not sell me.” With so much fine print involved, we wanted to make sure that we had access to a knowledgeable representative that could answer any of the questions that would inevitably come up. And since we’d certainly be spending a lot of time interacting with their customer service if we ever needed to file a claim, we felt this was a crucial final test to put them through.
While all of the companies were pretty easy to get a hold of through phone or email, the quality of responses differed greatly from provider to provider. Sometimes we got reps who were clearly just reading our policy to us over the phone; others knew the details inside and out, and seemed to have actual hands-on experience working with claims.
AXA and Allianz were some of the worst offenders. While we loved their coverage, their reps seemed to value making a sale more than answering our questions, probing for personal information as soon as we got on the line. To be fair, Allianz was the only company with a mobile app, but we still would have liked access to a supportive rep if we had questions in an emergency. We cut TripAssure because they didn’t have any email on their website, just a phone number and a declaration that, “We Are Social” with links to their social media accounts. All in all, the companies who had the policies we liked the most also had the best customer service, making our top picks an easy choice.
We found four top picks, but you'll have to get quotes to find the best price.
While we feel confident that these are the best medical travel insurance companies around, it’s still impossible to predict the cost of insurance premiums for anyone but yourself. There are a ton of factors at play: age of those traveling, length of the trip, where you’re going, what activities you’ll be doing.
However, a good rule of thumb is that you should expect to pay between 4-10 percent of the total cost of the trip.
Regardless, it only takes a few minutes to get a quote from each provider on their websites, or on comparison sites likes Squaremouth.
Our Top Picks for the Best Medical Travel Insurance
We liked Travelex as the best travel medical insurance for families because it includes kids under 18 for free, an incredible perk that we only saw with Travelex and the Classic Plan from Allianz. You’ll have to opt for the pricier Select plan, but we think it’s more than worth the upgrade.
The Travelex Select Plan met every one of our requirements: $50K for medical expenses ($500 for dental), $500K for emergency evacuation, and a pre-existing condition waiver if the plan is purchased within 21 days of your initial trip deposit. It’s also a primary coverage plan, so you won’t have to worry about the hassle of going through your U.S. health insurance company first if you need to make a claim.
We also loved how Travelex offered a number of customizable upgrades with their plans. You can add on a “Cancel for Any Reason” feature that covers 75% of your trip no matter what. And if you want to increase your coverage, they have options for an additional $50K of medical expenses and $500K for evacuation. Travelex has additional coverage for sports, too, so you can beef up your policy for riskier activities like skiing or mountain climbing.
Customer service was also excellent in every one of our tests. A Travelex agent answered our email in about four hours, and we were speaking with a real person within a minute of calling their number. Every rep we talked to knew their policies inside and out, and we never felt like they were pushing us towards a sale. We also liked knowing that Travelex’s underwriter, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company, holds financial strength ratings of A++ from AM Best and AA+ from Standard & Poor’s.
We loved almost everything about John Hancock’s travel insurance. It has zero deductible on any of its plans, three different coverage levels for emergency medical and evacuation, and the best customer service experience of any of the companies we tested. The only downside? Kids aren’t included for free, so it’s a better option for solo travelers.
While it’s coverage met every one of our strict guidelines, where John Hancock really stood out was in the customer service department. Our test calls were answered almost immediately, each time by an agent who clearly knew every aspect of the coverage in great detail. And they weren’t just reading off a script; they clearly had experience handling claims and could answer tricky hypothetical questions with ease. Aside from their exhaustive knowledge, each rep was kind, patient, and seemed to genuinely care that we got the coverage we needed. If we ever had to call in an emergency, we knew we’d be in good hands.
Aside from their medical coverage, John Hancock offers great all-around travel insurance with their three packages: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. We liked how you could tailor your coverage for every kind of trip. If you’re only traveling with a backpack of clothes, the Bronze plan insures it up to $500, while the Gold plan goes up to $2,500 if you’re taking more expensive gear. John Hancock also stood out in their trip delay coverage: You’ll get up to $150 a day for the Bronze and Silver plans and $200 a day for the Gold plan if your flight is delayed by three hours or more. Every other company we looked at required at least a five hour delay (and often as much as twelve) before the benefits kicked in. John Hancock’s policy makes it much more likely that you’d actually be able to use the benefit you’re paying for.
IMG has a number of quality options, but the iTravelInsured LX plan stuck out to us as the best choice for a specific type of traveler: the adventurer going to remote and exotic locations.
If you’re planning a trip to a location that’s especially difficult to get to, you’ll want to increase your coverage at nearly every level. IMG provides $500K in medical and up to $1 million in evacuation expenses. Whether you’re climbing Mount Everest or scuba diving off the coast of Fiji, this should be enough for any emergency situation.
Where IMG truly goes above and beyond is in its coverage for other types of evacuations. The iTravelInsured LX plan provides for $10,000 in search and rescue, and $50,000 for non-emergency evacuation. Since these situations aren’t typically covered under emergency evacuation policies — reserved for things like medically-staffed flights back to the U.S. — IMG’s coverage could end up being an enormous benefit in certain scenarios. It also doesn’t exclude any specific sports and activities, so you’ll be set no matter what type of trip you’re taking.
There were a couple quirks in IMG’s coverage that we weren’t crazy about. Pre-existing conditions are covered, but only if you buy the insurance within 24 hours of your final trip payment. That was a complete reverse from what most companies advertise — pre-existing conditions waived if you buy within two or three weeks of your first trip payment. IMG”s policy was a hassle, but as long as you’re aware of it, this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. The plan also has a maximum trip duration of 90 days, so if you’re planning a trek longer than that, you’ll need to consider other options.
The iTravelInsured LX plan isn’t for everybody. You’ll pay a little more than IMG’s other travel insurance plans for add-ons like search and rescue and inclusion of extreme sports and recreational activities. But if you’re planning a trip in a remote location with limited access to hospitals or even roads, the beefier coverage is more than worth it.
While Allianz’s global asset management and insurance business is one of the largest companies in the world, only one of their plans met all of our criteria: the Classic Plan with Trip+. It had all medical coverage we wanted, but with one unique benefit. Allianz will insure trips up to a year in length, while most companies top out around three months.
This lengthened coverage would be essential for those who are planning extended trips like studying abroad or backpacking around Europe. The Classic Plan with Trip+ has all the basics covered — $1 million in evacuation, $50K in medical, and a waiver for pre-existing conditions — without necessarily going above and beyond on any of them. It does cover kids under 18 for free, but we preferred the customization options on Travelex’s Select plan if you’re going to be traveling with kids.
Allianz didn’t offer very much that could help you personalize your policy. There weren’t any additional amount upgrades, no Cancel for Any Reason options, no “hazardous activities” coverage. We also weren’t thrilled with Allianz’s customer service. It wasn’t horrible — no one was rude or unprofessional — but we were on hold for five minutes before speaking with someone who seemed to know less about the plans than we did. If we had to spend hours on a claim, we could see how this could turn from a minor annoyance to seriously frustrating.
All things considered, if you’re planning a trip longer than six months, Allianz is one of your best options. It’s generous enough to see you through a worst-case scenario, even if it didn’t have all the perks we liked in our other picks.
How to Save on Your Medical Travel Insurance Policy
While the cost of your premiums depends mostly on factors like age, destination, and length of trip, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re not overpaying.
Buy your insurance as soon as you make your first trip deposit.
There are three main coverage options that are time-sensitive: the pre-existing conditions waiver (generally available for two to three weeks after you make your first trip payment), and reimbursement if you cancel your trip entirely.
The waiver for pre-existing conditions is the most important; without it, your insurance company could deny claims based on your previous medical history. With the waiver, all you have to do is prove that you were medically fit to travel on the day you bought your insurance. Without it, your claim could be denied as long as there was evidence of the issue in the two to six months prior.
The other two time-sensitive options have to do with optional upgrades for trip cancellation protection. Cancel for Work Reasons coverage kicks in if you’re forced to stay home for work reasons. It generally requires a note from your boss, but will reimburse you for any lost trip costs if you’re forced to stay home for any work-related reasons. Cancel for Any Reason is much broader (and more expensive): It lets you cancel your trip up to two days in advance, and still recover 75% of the costs. Be prepared to pay up to 40% more on your premiums for this bailout, though.
Check to see if you already have coverage in some areas through your current insurance or credit cards.
Many medical travel insurance policies offer add-ons that you might be covered for already. Things like lost property, rental car collisions, identity theft, and accidental death are features of a comprehensive policy, yet there’s often overlap. For example, most homeowners and renters policies cover belongings anywhere in the world, and many credit cards have rental car damage waivers that extend internationally. It’s worth double-checking your existing policies to make sure you don’t end up paying for the same coverage twice.