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Buying Medical Insurance When You Travel

Traveling with Just One Child - The Mommy and Me 10 Year Old Birthday Trips luxury travel mom
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I’m headed back to Haiti this summer, it will be my fifth visit – but the first time I’ll be going with travel medical insurance. My husband accuses me of being “irrationally optimistic”.  I’m always certain that bad things will never happen, he’s even reading a book on the subject.


The last time I was in Haiti with my daughter, we learned that she has a serious allergy to jelly fish stings. We learned this the hard way, in the middle of the night, don’t ask why she was in the ocean in the dark. At first we thought it was just a painful sting, then she started convulsing. I had no idea what to do and no one to call, somehow we made it through the night, I’m still not sure how. It was one of the worst experiences of my life and I vowed that I will never ever be in that position again. I’m responsible not only for myself, but for all the teens in my care.




This post is co-created with Med Ex from United HealthCare Global. When they asked me to work with them on a campaign I jumped at the chance. If I didn’t have travel insurance and regretted it, who else doesn’t?  How many other people would like information on what the insurance does, how to get it and how much it costs?


Here is what I learned:


Why You Need Travel Medical Insurance:


Illness and accidents happen. While in Jamaica on a press trip I was attacked (yes, that’s how I describe it) by sea urchins. My heels were full of the poisonous spines and what I didn’t know was that I was in shock. Though I was at a very fancy private beach, the beach attendant had no idea what to do. He poured rum on my foot and tried to dig them out with the pointy end of his name tag pin. My daughter looked on in horror. Needless to say it didn’t work, I went home in severe pain and wasn’t able to get to the doctor to get them removed for days, by then they were so impacted, well, you can imagine where this is going.


As a chaperone for youth mission trips I have cared for stomach bugs, bumps and bruises and the famous jelly fish incident. Thus far I’ve been lucky, I haven’t had a life threatening emergency. I will never leave the country without travel insurance and access to advice ever again. Optimistic or not. Here are a few points I considered when thinking about what I will need in Haiti, and really, on any international trip.


  1. Finding quality care

When you need medical care in another country, you want to make sure you are getting care from a reputable professional. Travel medical insurance links you with an emergency response team to help direct you to a doctor whose credentials have been verified Even though I know doctors in Haiti, I didn’t have their cell phone numbers, I had no one to call and was terrified to just take out in a taxi to the nearest clinic of unknown quality. Just an 800 number that connects you with experts is worth the insurance cost alone in my opinion.


  1. Keeping costs in line

Doctors and hospitals in other countries will typically expect you to pay up front before starting any treatment. In some countries, you even bring your own medical supplies, I am not kidding. In others, you won’t be allowed to leave the hospital until your bill is paid. Everything comes out of your pocket while you are still traveling. What happens if the amount needed is more than you have? Or greater than the limit on your credit card?


You’d also need to keep careful records and submit everything for reimbursement once you get home. And because these doctors are outside of your plan’s network, you have no control over how much they may charge. You can choose your deductible amount when you buy the insurance plan. They cover the costs of treatment abroad.


  1. Getting home in a medical emergency

Maybe it’s a broken arm from a hiking accident or something much more serious like a heart attack, some things they can help with:


  • Evaluating your medical needs
  • Choosing the best method of transport — including emergency medical evacuation to get home or rejoin your trip
  • Making travel arrangements for your family
  • Having appropriate care once you get home


Even the cost of bringing someone from home to be with you may be covered.


  1. Handling non-medical problems

The emergency response team can assist you — from a lost or stolen passport to emergency funds transfer or a referral if you need legal help. This would have been amazing when JJ and I were in Brussels when he was 9 years old. We did a multi day layover on our way back from Rwanda, shortly after we landed his passport was stolen. Navigating the process of getting a new passport in a foreign country is daunting, it’s much worse when it’s for a child and only one parent is with them. It took me days and ruined our trip, I would have loved assistance.


  1. Safeguarding what you have already invested

In addition to helping with medical situations, you can add coverage for lost baggage, trip cancellation or trip interruption to your travel medical policy to help with costs that may arise in those situations.

Why Buy MedEx Assist:


I have bought their insurance before, and never needed it. Left home without it, regretted it. Here is why they really are the top choice for providers.

  • They are the world’s leading, wholly-owned medical, safety, and security solutions company.
  • They are not new to this, they have 34 years of proven experience helping travelers in over 200 countries and across 6 continents
  • Over 20 million people are in their care each year
  • They can communicate in over 38 languages, with access to hundreds more, ensuring effective case management
  • They have an unparalleled network of 59,000 credentialed medical and security resources
  • They boast a 98% customer retention rate, I think that says it all


While doing research for this story I read all the case studies to get a sense for how emergencies are handled. As I mentioned, when I buy the insurance I haven’t needed it, when I needed it, I didn’t have it. You need to listen to this call from a real customer. Her husband used the tiny amount of power left on his satellite phone to call his wife and tell her he had been in a helicopter crash on Mount Everest. There were others who were dead, he was injured, he needed help. What on earth could she do? She called MedEx, what they did next literally gave me chills. Listen HERE.


How to Buy Travel Insurance


It is surprisingly easy to get a policy. Click HERE and enter the country you are traveling to and the dates. You can buy a policy online immediately. Residents of New York and Washington State are not eligible to buy this insurance.


The surprising part is that it’s not expensive, a basic travel medical policy can cost about the same as a nice meal at a restaurant. For a 7 day trip, that’s only a few dollars a day, I would have paid any amount to have had a medical professional on the line when I was navigating how to treat my daughter, who was convulsing with an allergic reaction, alone in the middle of the night in Haiti.


This is part of a sponsored campaign, but I agreed to do it because I think this information is valuable to you and because I really think this is the best provider. I will be insuring our entire church mission group through them, at our own cost. Also, after re-reading all of my near mishaps I might have to agree with my husband’s opinion on my irrational optimism.



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