For seniors like Shari Warren and her husband, making hotel or tour reservations is perhaps the most complicated part of planning a trip. It’s buying travel insurance.
“We’ve rarely used it, except for a few doctor’s visits on a ship,” said Warren, a retired librarian from Hoschton, Georgia.
But that changed after the pandemic. The pair happened to travel through New Zealand in March, just as the country was starting to close.
“We had to hurry to get home quickly,” she recalls.
Since then, Warren has been thinking about – and rethinking – travel insurance. She’s in good company.
Before 9/11, only 10% of vacationers bought travel insurance, the American Travel Insurance Association. Before COVID-19, it had risen to 30%. Now the number is about to grow again – and perhaps especially among seniors.
Experts say older travelers should pay attention to insurance and understand exactly what is and isn’t covered.
“There has never been a more important time than now to pay attention to the fine print,” said Claire Westmacott, a research specialist with the International Association of Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT), a nonprofit that helps travelers plan of a healthy journey. .
“In particular the inclusions and exclusions of your travel health insurance. Unfortunately, as many travelers have discovered in recent months, most policies do not provide coverage for pandemics, and many insurers have now determined that COVID-19 is a known risk that is not covered, ”she says.
Seniors benefit from travel insurance “cancel for any reason”
Warren’s situation highlights a broader problem for seniors: the inability to know what needs to be treated right now.
She is still in the process of getting refunds from various companies involved in her trip to New Zealand. A company refused to refund her money. Even after appealing to the executives, the tour operator refused to give her money back. Finally she started shouting it out on social media. Only then did it promise to return her money.
But Warren was lucky: she had a “cancel for any reason ”travel insurance policy. It allowed her to interrupt her trip to New Zealand and receive a 75% refund.
“It covers most of the deposit I lose, plus the flight I had to cancel,” she says.
Her experience underlines the importance of travel insurance that covers you for every possibility. She says she will also purchase “cancellation for any reason” cover for future trips.
Medical travel coverage for seniors
Travel medical coverage is especially important for seniors, who may experience health problems while traveling. Medicare does not provide coverage if you travel outside of the United States.
“There are medical problems [when you travel], ”Notes Scott Adamski, head of US field sales at AIG Travel.
Pay attention to what is covered and don’t forget about dental benefits and limits on coverage. Adamski also recommends checking out the insurance company’s support:
- Are doctors and nurses on duty to consult with you and handle your transfer of medical records?
- Does it have a team that can provide translation services?
Coverage for pre-existing conditions
Most travel insurance excludes pre-existing conditions. And since many seniors have pre-existing conditions, it means their travel medical insurance can be useless.
“A travel insurance plan that covers pre-existing conditions is critical for seniors with underlying health conditions,” said Christine Buggy, vice president of marketing at Travelex Insurance Services.
Expert Tip: Ask for a pre-existing medical condition exemption, which will cover your existing condition. However, keep in mind that there are time and other restrictions on such exemptions and they also add to the cost of your policy.
Cover for medical evacuation
If you get sick or injured, medical evacuation coverage will take you to the nearest hospital. Some policies also arrange for transportation home with the help of a medical escort.
“Medical evacuation insurance is critical, especially if you are traveling abroad to a location with a less-than-ideal health care system,” said David Tuzzolino, CEO of PathBridge Financial, a financial advisory company that helps travelers.
Expert tip: Before purchasing expensive travel insurance, Tuzzolino recommends that you check your credit cards. They can cover a medical evacuation.
According to Damian Tysdal, host of the Safe Travels podcast, you need at least $ 500,000 in medical evacuation coverage. Getting home safely, especially from a cruise or a remote location, can be expensive.
Tips for Buying the Best Travel Insurance for Older Travelers
Experts say seniors should be aware of a few other factors when purchasing travel insurance.
Don’t forget the forms. Travel health insurance can be more complicated when you’re older, notes IAMAT’s Westmacott. For example, travelers over the age of 50 may be asked to complete a medical questionnaire regardless of whether they have a pre-existing condition or not.
“It is important that all information in this form is accurate and correct,” she says. “Otherwise, your insurer may use any inaccuracies as a reason to retroactively decline or reduce your coverage.”
The medical questionnaires can be vague or confusing to fill out, so you can ask your doctor to complete them or revise your answers. Include supporting documentation or explanations to complement your answers, Westmacott says.
Look at the numbers carefully. It’s not just cover, but the amount of coverage that matters. And that’s especially true for older travelers, says Jonathan Breeze, CEO of Aardy, a travel insurance marketplace.
“At least $ 100,000 in medical insurance is a reasonable level of coverage,” he says. Not all policies provide that level. Most policies sold by cruise lines have minimal medical coverage, leaving cruise travelers woefully underinsured, he adds.
Consider an annual plan. This is especially true for retired seniors who may be making multiple trips per year.
“If you are retired and are a frequent traveler, it’s a good idea to consider an annual plan,” said Daniel Durazo, an Allianz Travel spokesperson. “An annual subscription provides significant cost savings compared to buying multiple policies for a single journey. It’s easy and affordable: you buy it once and have coverage for all the travel and travel emergencies you might face in a year. “
Related: Who needs annual travel insurance?
One more thing: travel insurance can be expensive for seniors. Warren plans two more trips to Australia and Japan in 2022. She will pay between $ 14,000 and $ 30,000 per trip. Her cost of buying “cancellation insurance for any reason” for two people: between $ 2,000 and $ 4,500. But it is worth it, she says. “That’s peace of mind to me.”
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