Understanding Travel Insurance

Buying travel insurance can be a confusing part of planning your international travel adventure. But for people with cystic fibrosis, it's a must.

6 min read
In this article
  • Travel insurance protects you from unexpected costs during, and sometimes before, your trip. 
  • Depending on the policy or policies you purchase, travel insurance can protect you from incurring hefty fees should you need to cancel your trip or incur loss or damage to your luggage, including your equipment.
  • Travel insurance also can protect you from medical expenses.

What Is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance protects you from unexpected costs during, and sometimes before, your trip. Depending on the policy or policies you purchase, travel insurance can protect you from incurring hefty fees should you need to cancel your trip or incur loss or damage to your luggage, including your equipment. But most important, it can protect you from medical expenses; for example, if you do not have travel insurance and need to see a doctor in a country that has high medical costs, or if you need to be flown back home in an emergency, the potential cost to you could be huge. Even if you don't need it, knowing you will be protected if anything goes wrong affords you a peace of mind that is priceless. 

What Kinds of Travel Insurance Do I Need?

  • Health Insurance: Health insurance covers medical expenses — costs related to accidents, injuries and hospital visits, for example — while you are away from home. Several insurance companies now sell travel health insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions, including CF. However, it is not always easy to find insurance, so make sure you give yourself several weeks or months to find a plan. Also, plan to purchase the policy when you book your trip or very soon thereafter. For a pre-existing condition and some other exclusion, the window is usually 15 to 21 days after you make your first deposit on the trip. If you buy the insurance after that, any future claim could be automatically denied. 

    Before buying a special medical insurance policy for your trip, check with your medical insurer — you might already be covered by your existing health plan. Medicare does not provide coverage outside the United States, but other insurers offer limited coverage overseas. Even if your health plan does cover you internationally, you may want to consider buying a special medical travel policy. Much of the additional coverage available is supplemental (or “secondary”), so it covers whatever expenses your health plan doesn't, such as deductibles. 
  • Medical Evacuation Insurance: Evacuation insurance covers the cost of getting you to a place where you can receive appropriate medical treatment in the event of an emergency. This is usually not covered by your regular medical insurance plan. Sometimes this coverage can get you home after an accident, but more often, it'll just get you as far as the nearest major hospital. “Medical repatriation” — that is, getting you all the way home — is likely to be covered only if it's considered medically necessary. Before purchasing a policy, ask your insurer to explain exactly what's covered before and after you get to the hospital.
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance: A standard trip-cancellation or interruption insurance policy covers the nonrefundable financial penalties or losses you incur when you cancel a prepaid flight due to illness or other unexpected events. Before purchasing trip-cancellation or interruption coverage, check with your credit card issuer; yours may offer limited coverage for flights or tours purchased with the card.

Don't confuse a waiver with insurance. Some tour companies and cruise lines offer something called a “cancellation waiver” that may be mistaken as insurance. A “cancellation waiver” allows you to cancel within a certain time frame and not lose any money. However, you don't get your money back — you just get to rebook at a later date without a penalty.

  • Baggage/Property Insurance: CF equipment is expensive and, for most people, invaluable. If you require a medical device, such as an airway clearing device, nebulizers or compressors, make sure it is insured when you travel. It may already be covered under your homeowner policy or apartment rental policy. If not, you may be able to purchase extra coverage called a “rider” through a homeowner policy or apartment rental policy. 

Travel Insurance Tips

  • Decide what kind of coverage you need.
  • Familiarize yourself with what's out there.
  • Find out what is already covered by your regular health insurance or your homeowners' and renters' insurance — if anything.
  • Know what coverage a policy includes, because it may not include everything.
  • Ask a lot of questions and always read the fine print before purchasing a policy.
  • Buy your insurance at the time when you book your trip.
  • Write down your policy numbers and insurance contact information in case you need to file a claim.
  • Keep notes and receipts, especially when it comes to medical expenses. If you end up filing a claim, good record keeping will help make the process much easier.
  • If your equipment is lost or stolen, file a police report immediately.

Coverage for International Travelers in the U.S.

Although most international students can get access to student health insurance through a college or university, it can be difficult for travelers who are not students to get health care coverage in the U.S. If you receive any care that goes beyond basic emergency treatment, you will be responsible for paying all the related costs unless you have a travel insurance plan that specifically covers this level of care. However, if you are traveling to the U.S. for an extended period of time, it is possible for people with visas to purchase a health insurance plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace that will offer sufficient coverage for their CF care.

To learn more about the coverage options available for international travelers with CF visiting the U.S., call Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Compass at 844-COMPASS (844-266-7277) Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. ET and Friday, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. ET, or email compass@cff.org.

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