Aside from the fact that all Schengen countries* require you to have a Schengen approved travel insurance policy before these countries issue you with a visa, the reason you need travel insurance is simple: when you travel, you deal with much more uncertainty and your existing insurances won’t normally cover the risks associated with traveling overseas.
In this article, we outline the important reasons why you need travel insurance. It is particularly timely to do this amidst today’s uncertain times.
Once upon a time, selling travel insurance by a travel agent was identified as a negative, even to the extent that it could affect the sale of the travel package. Nowadays, insurance has become an essential part of travel – whether protection for your health or your belongings. Indeed, the offer of travel insurance by your travel agent should be mandatory and an integral part of an agent’s duty of care.
Are you going to Europe? You need Emergency Medical and Health Care.
Many European countries have reciprocal arrangements for medical emergencies and hospitalization. These arrangements also apply between some European countries and other developed economies around the world. These travelers don’t need extra medical insurance if they are covered under their national health scheme. For example, Australia has reciprocal arrangements with selected European countries. For everyone else, however, the existence of international medical insurance containing emergency medical coverage is required as part of the visa requirements for Schengen countries. Without it, a visa will not be issued, making travel insurance absolutely necessary if you want to reach countries like France or Italy.
The reason for this is obvious. Medical emergencies must be paid for. Many visitors to Europe just don’t have the money to pay for the cost of emergency medical treatment. In the past, the government of that country would pay the bills. Not anymore.
You might say, “But I already have medical insurance.” However, does your medical plan cover you overseas? If so, for how much? If basic medical emergency cover is provided, does it cover medical evacuation and repatriation to your home country or to another country for treatment? Many medical plans do not.
Further, while in many countries hospitals will provide emergency treatment, many will not release you from the hospital until payment is received or guaranteed by an insurer – just like here in the Philippines – although this is not enforceable. You might say, “That’s okay. I have the cash to self-insure.” But what if it’s a major medical emergency? It’s not just the cost of medical care, it’s all the consequences of being hospitalized.
You need Emergency Assistance.
Allied to emergency medical treatment is a whole range of related emergency assistance needs that travelers have. They could relate to emergency medical services such as evacuation, supervised repatriation to the Philippines, compassionate visits by a loved one to join you, return of mortal remains, and so on. You should plan not just for their costs, but also for the arrangement of these services and the provision of information.
Of course, emergencies aren’t always medical in nature. Think of all the circumstances that you would regard as an emergency. What if you lost your travel documents? What if you got into some trouble and you need legal referral or information about your nearest consulate or embassy. What if you don’t speak the local language? You will need to call someone who can help you during times like these, and having good travel insurance will ensure you have the assistance you need.
You need to be protected against Trip Cancellation and Interruption.
This is very important. If you bought an international fare or packaged tour, these can be costly. You may not be able to make your flight for one reason or the other – you or your family member may get sick, or unexpected civil unrest may break out at your destination. You will have to cancel your trip and forfeit all or part of the money that you have pre-paid for your trip. The increased level of political uncertainty and unrest outbreaks suggest that insurance should be a part of everyone’s travel preparation. Travel insurance will pay for the non-refundable portions of trip cancellations and interruptions.
You need to protect your belongings.
The loss of baggage, let alone delays of delivery once found are major and potentially costly inconveniences to all travelers. All frequent travelers have experienced this at one time or the other. While not life threatening, it is worth having some additional security over your possessions.
Are pandemic diseases insurable? It’s best to check how your insurance provider treats these cases.
Normally, most travel policies will not insure pandemics (e.g. flu outbreaks). However, some providers may provide coverage, and they will advise clients to submit a claim for evaluation. If you have separate medical insurance, you should also check what the policy says in relation to epidemics and pandemics as this will dictate if a particular condition is covered.
There are other benefits included in most travel insurance policies and we have deliberately mentioned what we believe are the most important items we need to consider for insurance purposes when traveling. For the relatively low cost of this insurance, it is worthwhile to address the added uncertainty of travel. Yes, there is fine print in all insurance policies so it is important that you look at the details. You should also ask your travel advisor about what type of policy can match your travel requirements and once this is done, ask your travel agent to explain it to you.
Your insurance provider will usually give you handy documents that you should take with you when you travel. Normally, you will receive a document showing proof of coverage, a policy outlining the terms and conditions of your coverage, and additional materials showing emergency assistance contact information and claims requirements or procedures.
Travel safely and wisely. Get travel insurance for every journey.
*Schengen countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
John Casey is the President and CEO of Blue Cross Insurance, Inc., a market specialist in medical and travel insurance. For more information, please call (632) 899-8001 or e-mail [email protected]. You can also purchase Blue Cross Travelsafe insurance online by visiting www.bluecross.com.ph.
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