The Best Travel Insurance For Senior Travelers – Forbes Advisor | #vacation | #seniors | #elderly
For seniors like Shari Warren and her husband, the most complicated part of planning a trip may not be making hotel or tour reservations. It’s buying travel insurance.
“We’ve rarely used it, except for a couple of doctor visits while on a ship,” says Warren, a retired librarian from Hoschton, Georgia.
But that changed after the pandemic. The couple happened to be traveling in New Zealand in March just as the country began to shut down.
“We had to scramble to get home fast,” she recalls.
Since then, Warren has been thinking about—and rethinking—travel insurance. She’s in good company.
Before 9/11, only 10% of leisure travelers bought travel insurance, according to the U.S. Travel Insurance Association. Before COVID-19, it had risen to 30%. Now, the number is poised to grow again—and perhaps especially among seniors.
Senior travelers need to pay attention to insurance and to understand precisely what is and isn’t covered, according to experts.
“There’s never been a more important time than now to be paying attention to the fine print,” says Claire Westmacott, a research specialist at the International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT), a nonprofit organization that helps travelers plan a healthy trip.
“Specifically, the inclusions and exclusions of your travel health insurance policy. As many travelers unfortunately discovered in the past few months, most policies do not provide coverage for pandemics, and many insurers have now established COVID-19 to be a known risk for which coverage does not apply,” she says.
Seniors Benefit from “Cancel for Any Reason” Travel Insurance
Warren’s situation illuminates a broader problem for seniors: the inability to know what needs to be covered at a time like this.
She’s still in the process of getting refunds from various companies involved in her New Zealand trip. One company refused to refund her money. Even after she appealed to its executives, the tour operator refused to give her money back. Finally, she started calling it out on social media. Only then did it promise to return her money.
But Warren was lucky: She had a “cancel for any reason” travel insurance policy. It allowed her to cut short her New Zealand trip and receive a 75% refund.
“It will cover most of the deposit I’ll be losing plus the airfare I had to cancel,” she says.
Her experience underscores the importance of travel insurance that will cover you for any possibility. She says she’ll buy “cancel for any reason” coverage for any future trips, too.
Travel Medical Coverage for Seniors
Travel medical coverage is particularly important to seniors, who may experience health-related issues while traveling. Medicare will not cover you when traveling outside the United States.
“Medical issues do arise [when you travel],” notes Scott Adamski, head of U.S. field sales for AIG Travel.
Pay attention to what is covered, and don’t overlook dental benefits and limits on coverage. Adamski also recommends looking at the support provided by the insurance company:
- Does it have doctors and nurses on staff to coordinate with you and handle your transfer of medical records?
- Does it have a team that can provide translation services?
Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions
Most travel insurance excludes pre-existing conditions. And since many seniors have pre-existing conditions, that means their travel medical insurance could be useless.
“A travel insurance plan that offers coverage for pre-existing conditions is critical for seniors with underlying health issues,” says Christine Buggy, vice president of marketing at Travelex Insurance Services.
Expert tip: Ask for a pre-existing medical condition waiver, which allows you to get your existing condition covered. Note, though, that there are time restrictions and other limitations on such waivers and they also add to the cost of your policy.
Medical Evacuation Coverage
If you become ill or injured, medical evacuation coverage will transport you to the nearest hospital. Some policies also arrange transportation back home with the help of a medical escort.
“Medical evacuation insurance is crucial, especially if you’re traveling overseas to a location with a less-than-ideal health care system,” says David Tuzzolino, CEO of PathBridge Financial, a financial advisor firm that helps travelers.
Expert tip: Before buying an expensive travel insurance policy, Tuzzolino suggests that you check your credit cards. They may cover a medical evacuation.
You need at least $500,000 in medical evacuation coverage, according to Damian Tysdal, host of the Safe Travels podcast. Getting you home safely, especially from a cruise or an out-of-the-way location, can be expensive.
Tips for Buying the Best Travel Insurance for Senior Travelers
Experts say seniors should be aware of a few other factors when they buy travel insurance.
Don’t forget the forms. Travel health insurance can be more complicated when you’re older, notes IAMAT’s Westmacott. For example, travelers over age 50 may be asked to fill out a medical questionnaire, whether they have a pre-existing condition or not.
“It’s important that all the information in this form is accurate and correct,” she says. “Otherwise, your insurer can use any inaccuracies as grounds to retroactively deny or reduce your coverage.”
The medical questionnaires can be vague or confusing to fill out, so you might want to ask your doctor to complete it or review your answers. Attach any supporting documentation or explanations to supplement your answers, says Westmacott.
Review the numbers carefully. It’s not just coverage, but the amount of coverage that matters. And that’s particularly true for senior travelers, says Jonathan Breeze, CEO of Aardy, a travel insurance marketplace.
“At least $100,000 of medical insurance is a sensible level of coverage,” he says. Not all policies provide that level. Most policies sold by cruise lines have minimal medical coverage, leaving cruise travelers woefully underinsured, he adds.
Consider an annual plan. That’s especially true for seniors who are retired and may take multiple trips in a year.
“If you’re retired and a frequent traveler, it’s a good idea to consider an annual plan,” says Daniel Durazo, a spokesperson for Allianz Travel. “An annual plan offers considerable cost savings when compared with buying multiple single-trip policies. It’s easy and affordable: You buy it once and have coverage for all the trips and travel emergencies you might face in a year.”
Related: Who Needs Annual Travel Insurance?
One more thing: Travel insurance can be expensive for seniors. Warren is planning two more trips to Australia and Japan in 2022. She’s paying between $14,000 and $30,000 per trip. Her cost to buy “cancel for any reason” insurance for two people: between $2,000 and $4,500. But it’s worth it, she says. “That’s peace of mind for me.”
Looking for Travel Insurance?
Compare Quotes With Over 22 Travel Insurers