Travel insurance – decoding the fine print

I did extensive research on travel insurance for my upcoming USA trip and I want to document it here to help other travelers.

Since I am already traveling for past 4 months, I needed a policy that I can purchase outside my home country and can be extended as necessary.

The first policy I looked at was World Nomads which was recommended to me by a friend. She used it on her visit to India. The cost for 4-week insurance was $177.5; that’s quite steep but coverage was comprehensive (plan pays 100% of expenses) and insures most outdoor activities. It seemed perfect until I noticed a fine print that there was $100 deductible for each claim.

Deductible, also known as a copayment, is your contribution before the plan pays anything. Basically, if your expenses are under $100, you pay out of your pocket.

Pro Tip #1 Check if “deductible” or “copayment” is zero or not.

Pro Tip #2 Check if policy pays 100% of expenses. This is called “zero coinsurance”.

Medical care in the USA is extremely expensive and even a simple visit to a doctor can end up costing me $100. So what policy can offer me zero deductible and cover 100% of expenses in the USA?

I looked at about 2 dozen policies by different companies and narrowed it down 2.

  1. HCC: Atlas America
  2. Bupa: Basic

I ruled out policies that:

  • had a deductible (World Nomad, Azimuth)
  • had coinsurance within the USA (IMG, Trawick, Seven Corners, Global)
  • were cost prohibitive (DogTag)
  • were not open to Non-USA citizens (Generali, Travel Guard, STA Travel, MH Ross, HTH, Travelex, ISIC)
  • had no Preferred Provider Organisation or PPO in USA (policies from India)

Doctors and hospitals within the PPO network may use direct billing i.e. they bill the insurance company directly instead of you having to pay up front and get reimbursed later.

Pro Tip #3 Check PPO coverage in your destinations before buying the policy.

HCC Atlas America

This is a customisable policy where the premium depends on your choice of deductible and coverage. A zero deductible, $50000 coverage policy cost $47.32 for 4 weeks. It pays 100% of expenses with direct billing if you use there preferred provider network (PPO).

Atlas America coverage is valid worldwide, not just in the USA. But when I checked their PPO coverage outside the USA, I found it to be poor. I would not recommend this policy if traveling outside the USA. But within the USA it’s good.

Check PPO coverage for Atlas America here: Link

The best part about Atlas America is the included Sports cover. It insures you for trekking and mountaineering up to 7000m, scuba, downhill skiing, rock climbing and more! This is outstanding and no other company offers it at this price.

Bupa Basic

Bupa Basic is a no limit global travel insurance that pays 100% of medical expenses (there is no deductible). Bupa covers an extensive list of sports but not rock climbing and mountaineering which is covered by Atlas America. The cost for 4-week insurance is $162.

The policy is similar to World Nomads Explorer (a Bupa intermediary) but without deductible and non-medical benefits (such as theft and loss of baggage). The non-medical cover is available at an additional premium.

Bupa has really good PPO coverage worldwide. You can check here: Link

Note: For long-term traveling outside the USA, I found another policy which offers solid worldwide PPO coverage: Liason by Seven Corners

Seven Corners Liason

Liason is a customisable policy, like Atlas, where the premium depends on your choice of deductible and max coverage. Within the USA it pays only 80% of the expenses but outside the USA it pays 100%. Unlike Atlas, IMG, and Trawick, Seven Corners has a solid global PPO coverage which is why I want to mention it here. You can check PPO coverage for Seven Corners here: link.

Liason comes in 3 variants: International (up to 45 days), Continental (up to 6 months) and Majestic (up to 3 years). All have optional Sports cover which insures even motorbike accidents.

The cost for 4-weeks Liason Majestic (with USA cover) with zero deductible, optional sports coverage and max cover for $60000 comes to $97.74. If not traveling to the USA, the cost is just $49.8.

In comparison to the up to 3 years extendable plan by Liason Majestic, Bupa offers up to 1-year extendable plan only. This makes Liason Majestic a better option for long-term travelers not planning on visiting the USA.

Why is extendable policy important? Any new medical condition you have during the policy will be covered if you extend the policy but not if you repurchase it.

Pro Tip #4 Checking if policy is extendable is important if your travel plans are flexible.

Conclusion

If I wanted a solid world-wide policy (including the USA) for up to 1 year with no limit coverage, I would get Bupa Basic.

If I wanted a solid world-wide policy (but not traveling to the USA) for longer then 1 year, I would get Seven Corners Liason Majestic.

But since I want insurance only for the USA, better sports coverage and cheaper price, I am getting HCC Atlas America.

I am interested to hear if this was helpful to you. If there is some policy I have missed, please share in the comments below.

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