In Case of Emergency

Kyle Szegedi

Written by  November 18, 2015

Ask these questions before buying travel insurance.

Planning a trip abroad is sometimes just as fun as the journey itself. After all, nothing beats that spark of initial excitement when you finally book your flights. However, there’s one purchase that travellers rarely get amped up about—buying travel insurance.

Often, the chore is almost an afterthought, the cost a dreaded one. However, Robin Ingle, founder and CEO of Ingle Insurance, doesn’t think that should be the case. His company specializes in adventure (they were one of the first companies to introduce “yak evacs” to help stranded climbers) and insurance for individuals who are working studying or volunteering abroad. Ingle says that travel insurance shouldn’t be obtained in haste and—as unexciting a purchase as it may be—it should be just as well researched as any other aspect of your trip.

“You shouldn’t just be going online if you’re ‘travelling with purpose,’ because it’s not a regular vacation,” he says. “You want to do your research ahead of time and it applies to everything, including insurance.”

Here are the top questions Ingle suggests asking before you buy travel insurance:

If I’m participating in any special activities, will you provide coverage? 

Before you even start researching policies, Ingle says that you need to have a clear idea of where you’re going and what you’ll be doing.
 
Are you an equestrian who is working or competing with horses? There’s a specialized insurance product for that. A freelance journalist working in war zones? You may want a ransom and kidnap policy. Do you plan on going skydiving in New Zealand? Visiting a country where there is civil unrest? Climbing Kilimanjaro? Volunteering in an HIV/AIDS clinic?
 
Chances are that if you’re travelling “with purpose,” you may be partaking in activities that standard travel insurance won’t cover. Be sure to disclose your plans—including your destination—to your insurance provider and ensure that the product they’re offering will fully cover you.

Does the insurance provide support for pre-existing conditions?

Will my insurance coverage be affected by a pre-existing condition? Whether you’re a diabetic, have high-blood pressure, or are managing another health condition, ask if the plan you are purchasing covers pre-existing conditions—or if there will be any restrictions due to a pre-existing condition. “There shouldn’t be any restriction to travel,” says Ingle. “We know that people are travelling today with chronic illness, but they’re managing it.”

If you do have any conditions that you’re concerned about, don’t rely on online quote generators. They’ll often allow you to purchase an insurance package online—which you may not be eligible for—without ever asking these questions.

What are the eligibility requirements?

When you receive a quote from an insurance provider, read through the policy carefully and ensure that you meet all the eligibility requirements. Along with your age and health condition, confirm that the package will cover your destination, any activities that you will be partaking in, and whether you’ll need to have extended health coverage in your home country. For example, if you are a Canadian leaving your home province for a long period of time, you may need to ensure that your provincial health care plan will stay active in your absence in order to be eligible for some base insurance plans.

What happens in a medical emergency when I’m abroad?

The last thing you want in an emergency situation is to be put on hold—only to speak with an individual who is only concerned with the amount of money you’re spending on medical treatment. An insurance provider should ideally provide assistance to ensure you’re receiving proper care—and that you’ll be fully reimbursed for it. This may include arranging evacuations, having physicians on staff, booking medical appointments for you remotely, or even just helping you find a nearby pharmacy to fill your prescription.

That’s why Ingle suggests you ask the insurance provider the following: “What happens when I get sick or injured; can I connect with an emergency assistance group and how do I do that?”

It also doesn’t hurt if their staff is multilingual; when it comes to consulting with medical professionals cross-culturally, this could be key to your recovery.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Verge.

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Published in Travel Health
Jessica Lockhart

Contributing Editor

Although Jessica has travelled to more than 30 countries, her favorite place to throw down her bag is still her hometown of Cold Lake, Alberta. A freelance journalist, Jess has worked for international development organizations and tour operators. She’s conducted workshops in Vanuatu, perfected the use of a satellite phone in the jungles of Guyana and supervised teenage pool parties in the Dominican Republic. Although she's based in Toronto, Jess works remotely from all around the world.

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