Do you really need family travel insurance? Do you? We’re into being young, alive, free, and carpe diem. So, let’s just flow with it, right? But, my friend Nancy (familyonbikes.org) shared that her husband needed to be evacuated at $100,000. One incident like that and the life we live, the dreams we have, are all gone in one spiraling SWOOP! Too many really close friends around us are being hospitalized, with no coverage. Andrew is in a hospital in Phnom Phen with 8 broken bones, and he won’t be able to walk for 6 months to a year. He doesn’t have insurance and the hospital bill is over $300 a night. Our dearest Aumery spent a week in the hospital here in Siem Reap with dengue fever and had a very “healthy” hospital bill. No insurance.
Our health insurance expires this March, and though it seems a long time away; we’re getting a bit concerned. Our insurance won’t cover us if we don’t all step onto Israeli soil again. We’ve calculated that the flights for the five of us to Israel, and the spending money we’d put out, minimum would cost us $10,000. Because we are asking for coverage for the third year in a row, for they’re starting to consider us ‘high risk’. Go figure! We’re not sure what’s best for us, so we’ve asked some travel friends what they do and got a dozen unreal answers from both sides of the pendulum. Hear these amazing stories, and then, give us your two cents. Would you get traveler’s health insurance?
Broken Collarbone and Internal Bleeding in Canada
We always travel with health insurance because we love doing adventurous activities. Plus we have both had to use it on separate occasions. In 2009, when working at a ski field in Canada, we both got injured snowboarding. Adela broke her collarbone and Cole had internal bleeding after landing a jump wrong. Both required hospital stays and while Adela’s was only $3,000, Cole’s medical bills came to $25,000! Pretty lucky we had insurance.
I had a mild stroke at the Rome Airport six years ago when the strap of my camera and computer bag pressed against an artery in my neck, reducing blood flow to my brain. I ended up spending 18 days in a Rome hospital while the doctors treated me and decided whether it was safe to let me fly home. The good news (besides the fact that the stroke didn’t do too much lasting damage): I was treated free of charge, probably because the hospital didn’t want to go through the hassle of getting compensation from my U.S. insurance company. (I had U.S. medical insurance, not travel insurance, that would have reimbursed my hospital costs in Italy.) Still, my wife and I now have MedjetAssist evacuation coverage in case anything like that–or worse–happens to either of us in the future. (See entire my hospital in Rome article here.)
We have not had insurance in over 6 years now. We have had some minor things happen but simply paid out of pocket for it. Even birthed a baby in a Costa Rican hospital but the prices are so reasonable that we have paid ourselves. Since we started our Asia trip, we haven’t needed a thing.
I do travel with health insurance. Fortunately, I have never had to use it. I did some research the first time I headed out for long term travel and decided on World Nomads. While health care overseas can be very inexpensive, I think it is always a good idea to have some sort of health insurance. You never know what can happen. I fell off a cliff when I tried paragliding, so it is always better to be safe than sorry (and out of heaps of money).
When we were out for a Sunday afternoon bike ride in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, my husband’s heart went into arrhythmia. It was beating very, very erratically and doctors feared it would stop altogether. After spending a few days in ICU in Ethiopia, the determination was made that he would need to leave the country for further treatment but, because it was a heart condition, he was not allowed to fly a commercial airline. Our medivac company arranged for an air ambulance to fly 7.5 hours from Israel, pick us up, then 7.5 hours back – to the tune of nearly $100K. After that, we will never be without insurance again. You just never know. I seriously think my husband would have died if we hadn’t had the insurance. (You can read the Arrhythmia in Ethiopia story here.)
I do have travel insurance, it was a condition of entry to Canada, but I have never used it. Because I am a ski bum I should really have winter sports cover but the price is way too expensive… no cliff jumps this season for me.
I’m a big believer in insurance of all kinds. While mostly we don’t need it, if we hit one of those times when we do and decided to cheap out, the consequences would be catastrophic. If I ever need an emergency flight home, I want to know it will be paid for.
I have never traveled with insurance, but will have to on my next big trip. I found out I suffer of carpal tunnel and will definitely need some coverage. I’m not sure whether or not travel insurance covers pre-existing conditions such as RSI and carpal tunnel, though. It would be great to know!
I always travel with health insurance-ever since I lived and traveled in the United States, where I broke two toes, had a stress fracture in my shin, and strep throat twice, all in one year! When I looked at those astronomical healthcare bills I was very relieved that my health insurance would be covering the cost.
Kobi got his second round of dengue fever when we lived in the indigenous village in Ecuador. He suffered from 40 degree fever for four days straight, had terrifying nightmares caused by the high fever, convulsions, heat/cold flashes, and total exhaustion. We had insurance coverage, but had no need to use it. The hospital in Ecuador took amazing care of him, for nothing. For a week of hospital stay, our greatest expenses were $30 to an independent lab for blood tests, and $80 in gas money to visit the hospital in Tena, Ecuador every day. Therefore, when we crossed the border to Peru, and Kobi needed more medical care; we were shocked at how expensive every little procedure and medication was. Though we didn’t need to activate our insurance, it was good to know we had it, in case he needed more hospitalization.
The Nomadic Family
Head Trauma By Bouncer in New Zealand
I have a hard time forcing myself to buy any sort of health insurance. In Boston, where I’m from, it’s a legal requirement, so I buy it because it’s the law (and definitely not because I get really good medication for really cheap). Last year, I ended up in the hospital in NZ with head trauma because I got jumped by a very large man. I don’t have travel health insurance and I didn’t have to pay a dime. I actually ended up receiving reparations from the offender! (I’m telling you–HE started that fight!). I think a lot would depend on your current health and where you’re going traveling, but frankly, I’m not sure there’s any point! Want to read more about how I got my ass handed to me? You can Jeremy’s completely different take on travel health insurance: Getting Beaten Up by a Bouncer.
While we had travel insurance, while in Scotland, we didn’t need to use it! My husband tore his plantar fasciitis tendon, and walking (and being) was extremely painful. The injury impacted the rest of our trip – walking was painful, so we drove more places. And, hillwalking was out of the question. The doctor, located west of Inverness, saw us the same day we called. There was no wait, and the doctor was very thorough in his exam and diagnosis. The prescription healing cream was three pounds. The visit? Free. We didn’t even submit a claim to our insurance company. Note to self: If injury must occur, do so in a place with such excellent medical care. And, always make sure to HAVE travel insurance. You never know what will happen. Even though we didn’t need it, I’m so glad we always have it.
Woah! I know. How many adventures in one post, right? Gotta take a seat and sip some water. I know.
So, we’re looking into different insurance options that may serve us better than having to go back to Israel in order to get coverage. In our research, we found travel health insurance, which covers people with pre-existing conditions too. Though we don’t have any (that we’re aware of), I know several friends who do and are grateful for that coverage. So, we’ll keep thinking until March what we need to do to keep our family safe, and safe-guard us for whatever life may bring our way.
So, The Travel Tribe has spoken. Twelve world travelers have spoken their mind. Many have left us links to their ‘dying on the road’ adventures. What do you vote: get insurance or not? Got any unreal stories of your own. You know we’d love to hear it!