Travelers should choose a plan based on their medical history and travel needs.
By Chiranth Nataraj
It is not your national health insurance because the latter only protects you in your country of origin and does not cover abroad.
Visitor insurance is of two types: full and fixed benefits. Therefore, travelers should choose a plan based on their medical history and travel needs. Fixed benefits offer less protection, benefits with sub-limits and are less expensive than full benefits.
Are you confused between the two? This blog will point out the difference between the two and clear up your confusion.
Read: What does visitor insurance cover? (8 November 2021)
These plans provide limited, basic protection and leave the insured with higher liability than a comprehensive plan. With such plans, each service is predefined, which means that if the invoices exceed the predefined limits for each service, you must pay the difference between these predefined amounts and the actual amount to be paid. Once the deductible is reached, the insurance company will pay these predefined amounts.
Some plans may cover the acute onset of pre-existing conditions, and some may not. Although the plan does not require going with an in-network provider, it is still recommended to go with an in-network provider if available.
These defined benefit plans do not have contractual rates. Members are charged their regular rates. They can visit any doctor or hospital of their choice and will receive an ID card containing all the necessary information the provider may need to bill the insurance company. If a provider refuses to contact the company, insured persons can pay upfront and seek reimbursement from the insurance company later.
The plans do not provide travel-related benefits like trip interruptions, baggage delay, emergency union, return of minor children, etc. Many cover the acute onset of pre-existing conditions, but they come with some sub-limits. You may have to pay according to the benefits provided. Some of the more popular limited plans are Visitors Care, Safe Travels Elite, Inbound USA, and Visitor Secure.
Read: Why is visitor health insurance recommended for travel to the United States? (October 7, 2021)
The premium for these plans is a little higher than for fixed benefit plans, but offers extensive coverage and better protection than limited plans. There is a wide range of plans available depending on travel and medical needs. For a covered illness/injury, these policies can provide coverage up to the maximum of the chosen policy once the deductible and coinsurance have been satisfied.
Most of these plans follow a PPO network and network discounts are available if you choose to go with a network provider. However, these plans cover outside the network as well, so you can rush to your provider of choice. Inside the network, you will receive a discounted rate, while outside the network, the plan may pay a slightly lower percentage and will not benefit from the network’s negotiated rates.
Optional endorsements for sports, evacuation and other additional coverages can be purchased for an additional fee. Most comprehensive plans have the option of renewal. Travel-related benefits are also available, such as lost or stolen baggage and personal effects, trip interruption, emergency reunion, return of minor children, terrorism, etc.
Be sure to read the brochure for all the details. Full plan premiums are based on several factors such as age, policy maximum and deductible chosen and the number of days of coverage needed. The higher the age, the policy maximum and the number of days of coverage required, the higher the premium will be. Generally, if you choose a higher deductible, the premium will decrease.
Many plans cover the acute onset of pre-existing conditions, but this will come with a deductible and coinsurance, like any other new medical illness. Some of the popular comprehensive plans are Safe Travel USA Comprehensive, Patriot America Plus, Atlas Travel, Patriot Travel, and Liaison Travel.
Read: Indian travelers to US must purchase visitor’s insurance with Covid-19 coverage (August 13, 2021)
Which plan to choose?
Choosing a plan is entirely your personal choice. If you are prepared to take a higher financial and medical risk abroad, you can choose a policy with fixed or limited benefits. But if you want to be financially secure and are looking for medical and travel benefits, comprehensive plans may be your choice. Talk to your insurer, read the policy wording, understand your travel needs, then make a final decision.
(Chiranth Nataraj is the founder of Visitor Guard. He has over two decades of experience developing insurance and technology solutions.)