By Molly Jensen
If you’ve been to our blog before, you know the basic reasons why you should get travel insurance. Benefits like medical coverage, medical evacuation, trip cancellation, and the likes are always a great idea, no matter your age.
But for senior citizens, these benefits can be especially important.
Getting older means more health risks. Older travelers are definitely young at heart, but sometimes their bodies just aren’t.
That’s not a reason not to travel; we just want you to be smart and safe while you’re at Shibuya Crossing.
Travel insurance is especially important for people on Medicare. If you’re on Medicare, you’re only covered in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas. But what if you want to visit the other 93 percent of the world?
Say it with me: travel insurance.
There are three big factors to consider when you’re buying travel insurance: your general health, the activities you’ll be participating in, and the length of your trip. If you catch a cold any time you shake someone’s hand and you’re going to be in Brazil for a month zip-lining through the Amazon rainforest, you’re going to want a larger travel policy. If you’re healthy as a horse (a healthy horse, preferably) and you’re visiting Paris with the sole mission of poking around the Louvre’s dusty corners, you’d probably be okay having a smaller policy.
Whatever you do, make sure your policy covers what you need it to. A cheaper policy might save money, but if it doesn’t cover everything you need, and you get in a situation and you aren’t covered, say goodbye to the money you thought you’d be saving.
Some important parts of travel insurance that are especially appealing for senior travelers:
- Pre-existing medical coverage – The No. 1 reason most seniors buy travel insurance is so they’re protected if they have to cancel or interrupt their trip because of a pre-existing medical condition. You’re not going to let your arthritis stop you from climbing the Great Fire Monument, but if something flares up while you’re traveling, you need to be able to go to a doctor and be covered. Just realize that not all pre-existing-condition provisions are created equal. You’ll want to find one that doesn’t exclude certain categories of conditions, put unusual time parameters on coverage, or require an extreme amount of substantiation. In general with pre-existing-condition waivers, simpler is way better.
- Medical emergency and evacuation – How far is it from the zip-line camp to a professional doctor and hospital? A bit of a hike? And how would you pay for that helicopter ride if you didn’t have travel insurance? What goes for pre-existing conditions applies to medical evacuations: The simpler the better. If a policy has a laundry list of exclusions for where you’ll be evacuated to and under what circumstances, you’re justified in asking whether any situations at all qualify you for evacuation. The one exception to simpler-is-better: If you really like a specific medical facility, choose a policy that lets you be evacuated to a “hospital of choice.” You’ll generally pay more for hospital-of-choice coverage, but it it’s important to you it’s worth it.
- Trip cancellation – You’ve booked a cruise that’s going to take you along the coast of Central America, then a few weeks later you hear the company has gone into financial default. Your cruise is cancelled, but that’s what trip cancellation is for. Most seniors are committed to their travels and wouldn’t miss their bus tour of Tuscany for anything, but if you’re the least bit uncertain about a grandchild’s arrival or a friend’s illness, you may want to opt for cancel-for-any-reason coverage. You’ll pay quite a bit more for this coverage — about 40 percent more on average — and you’ll usually only get back half of your trip cost, so use it judiciously.
- Lost baggage – You’re waiting at baggage claim for your luggage, and even though you’ve heard the advice of keeping your medication in your carry-on, you stuck it in your checked luggage. Getting reimbursed for your lost baggage would help out having to pay for new medication, wouldn’t it? If you plan on checking your minks and jewels, just be aware: Most baggage coverage has a per-item limit — usually $500, but occasionally $1,000. With really valuable valuables, your best option is to take out a rider through your homeowner’s policy before you travel to make sure they’re adequately covered.
- Travel assistance – The hotel concierge said to take a right at the large street art mural, except there’s murals on every other building. Hellooo, travel assistance. Call them up, tell them what street corner you’re on, and they’ll give you directions to your destination.
If you’re wondering when to purchase your travel insurance, do it as soon as you know all your trip details, since some parts of your policy might have deadlines in order for you to receive those benefits. With BHTP’s ExactCare, pre-existing medical conditions are covered as long as the policy is purchased within 15 days after your initial trip deposit.
Spending your retirement traveling is a risk worth taking, but not being covered isn’t.
Molly Jensen is part of the marketing team at Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.