We are often asked if special medical tourism insurance is needed for travel. In short, yes. But, be careful to review the varying options in the specialized products available and don’t confuse this with leisure and business travel insurance.
Travel agents, insurance brokers, travel websites and other travel organizations offer travel insurance with many reputable travel insurance companies. We too have travel insurance options for standard leisure and business travel. The standard travel policies all have a set of exclusions and the main exclusion that makes the standard policy inadequate for a medical tourist is the exclusion “when travelling for the purpose of receiving medical (to include dental) care”. Business and leisure travel policies don’t anticipate the increased exposures in their rating or coverage forms associated with receiving elective medical care out of your home country.
Further, some of the available specialized medical tourism travel insurance programs include coverage for a complication arising from an elective procedure but the coverage can be limited geographically to the country where treatment is received. In our 10+ years of covering medical and dental travelers and studying claim activity, we have determined that a large portion of the complications are occurring when the traveler returns to their home country. It is important to know that even with Universal Healthcare being available in many home countries, there is growing push back from these national or provincial health systems to treat non-emergency medical complications free of charge or in a timely manner. Furthermore, if the treatment or procedure obtained in the host country was of a highly specialized nature, proper treatment of a complication at home may not be readily available, thus requiring the need to travel back to the original provider.
Look for a benefit package that includes complication coverage as a result of the procedure for a longer period of time after the procedure. A typical complication, such as a post-surgical site infection, can occur when the medical tourist returns home. Your benefits should allow for the expenses resulting from the out of country procedure no matter where the expenses are incurred. Further, the benefits should expand to include additional costs of travel, meals and accommodations, should your prefer to return to your original treating physician and are physically fit to travel back. Robust policies include additional benefits such as residence modification, physiotherapy and rehabilitation, dependent care/family coordination and some even include benefits for unsuccessful or unfavorable outcomes that are a result of a covered medical complication.