In a perfect world, you’d buy the best visitors insurance plan for you and feel at ease immediately. But hte world isn’t perfect, and visitors insurance has about as many options as a supermarket. Buying a healthcare plan for your trip to the USA is a huge decision, and even the most experienced buyers don’t always know what isn’t and isn’t covered until it’s too late.
But don’t fret.
We’re here to help you sort it all out by getting you key information on how to find the best visitors insurance for your trip. In this article, we’re going to break down the different elements of visitors insurance: what is is, how it works, the different kinds, and how you can find the best plan for you and your loved ones.
That way, when you book a trip, you can look forward to the experience without the stress of wondering if you’ve chosen the right plan for you.
1. What visitors insurance is & how it works
Visitors insurance is a specialized type of health insurance for people coming to the USA to visit family, vacation, take classes, or go to work. Visitors health insurance covers medical treatment for accidental injuries or illnesses while abroad—think the flu, Covid-19, or broken bones.
Some plans, known as travel protection plans, can also include travel benefits for things like cancellations, interruptions, and delays. We’ll get more into these types of plans a bit later.
What visitors health insurance covers
Visitors health insurance is designed to cover new and unexpected illnesses and injuries. If you get Covid-19 while on your trip, that’s something covered by your plan. If you fall and break your hip, that’s something that would be covered by your plan.
The key thing to remember here is that these plans are designed to cover unexpected medical needs.
What visitors health insurance doesn’t cover
If you’ve been diabetic for several years, then routine medications and checkups wouldn’t be covered by your plan. That’s because diabetes is considered a pre-existing medical condition.
But wait! That doesn’t mean you won’t have coverage under any circumstance. As a matter of fact, there is an exception to this rule:
If your pre-existing condition flares up, and you need to seek immediate care. This is known as the acute-onset of a pre-existing medical condition.
So, if your insulin crashes and you need to seek medical treatment fast, then you would be covered for those emergency care services—up to the acute-onset limit noted in your plan.
How visitors health insurance works
Visitors Insurance, like any other kind of health insurance, offsets (or even sometimes absorbs) the cost of care and treatment. You pay a premium to your insurance provider in exchange for healthcare benefits that cover specific events, perils, illnesses, or injuries.
Just remember, preventative care isn’t covered by these plans. They’re designed for the unexpected.
2. Understanding your needs to help you find the best plan
Choosing the best visitors health insurance plan for your trip to the USA has a lot to do with understanding yourself—from your health to your lifestyle and budget. But knowing the right questions to ask isn’t always easy when you don’t know where to start.
In this section, we’re going to provide you with the insight you need to understand your unique healthcare needs as a visitor to the USA.
Ask yourself: what is my current health status?
It’s not uncommon for people to hide their health status from travel insurers. They’re often afraid that they won’t be eligible for a plan if they’re honest about their pre-existing medical conditions.
That simply isn’t true, and it’s downright financially harmful.
What you want is to find a robust plan that gives you the most adequate coverage for your specific needs, so you feel empowered versus uncertain.
Pre-existing conditions require unique coverage, and it’s out there. But you have to be honest about your current health status in order to find the best fit.
Unique coverage for pre-existing medical conditions:
- Acute-onset of a pre-existing medical condition can cover up to $1 million in necessary care.
- Visitors travel protection plans can cover up to $1,000 in emergency care for pre-existing medical conditions.
- International health insurance plans can give you routine & emergency coverage for pre-existing conditions if you’re living in the USA for 6+ or more.
Ask yourself: how much can I afford in premium and in losses?
Part of buying the right visitors insurance plan for you is knowing what you can afford to gain (visitors plan) and lose (medical expenses). You don’t want to save money by buying cheap, inadequate coverage. But you don’t necessarily want to over-insure yourself either.
Let’s talk about how that works in practice…
|Plan Type||Premium||Medical Limit||Deductible||Cost of ICU Care for 14 Days|
|Fixed Benefit||$298||$50,000||$250 (per occurence)||$51,000-$78,000|
|Comprehensive Benefit||$1,391||$500,000||$2,500 (in total)||$51,000-$78,000|
Upfront, the Fixed Benefit plan looks real good. The premium and deductible are both low, but at what cost? Medical coverage is only up to $50,000 for this specific instance, which doesn’t get you far if you need any kind of catastrophic care.
The comprehensive plan might make you cringe at first sight, but the truth is it’s a better option if you are planning to visit the USA for a longer period of time. The longer you are in the US, the greater the risk exposure.
While the premium for the first plan is more attractive at a first glance, it becomes significantly less attractive if you consider the cost of 14 days in the ICU—not to mention the follow up care you’d most likely need.
That doesn’t mean Fixed Benefit plans can’t both save you money and give you great coverage, but you have to determine what you can afford in premium and what you can really, honestly afford to lose in the event of a medical emergency.
3. Choosing the right type of visitors insurance
The visitors insurance market isn’t running short on options anytime soon. There are several plans and companies to choose from, and you may find yourself feeling a bit lost when it’s time to buy. The good news is that we can break it down—easy peasy!
There are 3 main types of visitors insurance, and they are:
- Visitors trip insurance plans
- Visitors travel medical plans
- Visitors international health plans
But what’s the difference between plans? I’m glad you asked!
4. Visitors insurance with trip cancellation coverage
These plans are great for people who view their trip to the USA as an investment. If your trip has prepaid expenses that you cannot afford to lose, then you’ll want to consider a visitors trip cancellation plan.
That’s because these plans are designed to prevent financial loss from medical emergencies, evacuations, and nonrefundable trip cancellations. These plans are truly comprehensive and even cover pre-existing conditions up to a certain amount.
We typically recommend these types of plans for trips that last less than 6 months.
Visitors health insurance
Visitors health insurance is most commonly known as travel medical insurance, but they are designed specifically for travelers coming to the USA. That’s because the healthcare system in this beautiful country is anything but foolproof, and people spending time here need specific coverage that’s built to withstand our system’s imperfections.
Cue visitors health insurance plans…
There are two types of visitors health insurance plans—fixed and comprehensive benefit plans.
Comprehensive plans offer full coverage for visitors, meaning medical services are paid in full after the deductible has been met. They often result in lower out of pocket expenses than fixed benefit plans, because they offer higher benefit limits that really do the job when it comes to catastrophic care.
Fixed benefit plans are known as a budget option when compared to comprehensive plans. And that’s because they are. You pay less up front for coverage, but more out of pocket on a case-by-case basis. And that’s especially true if you find yourself needing treatment for a severe illness or accident. Benefit limits are often lower, and services are itemized.
So when would you choose a fixed benefit plan over a comprehensive plan?
You would usually buy a fixed benefit plan if you’re considered low risk, so young with no prior health conditions. Additionally, these plans fare well for trips that only extend a few weeks, which means less risk exposure while in the USA.
Visitors international health plans
International health plans for visitors are most like your health insurance back home. Not only are you covered for emergency treatment, but you have coverage for routine care as well. This type of plan is great for travelers looking for wellness coverage because they’ll be in the USA for longer than 6 months.
Traveling outside of your home country for 6 months or more is also a requirement to qualify for these plans.
5. Choosing visitors insurance plan benefits
It’s time to start thinking about plan benefits now that you know what questions to ask yourself when buying a plan. Visitors insurance allows for you to customize your deductible amount and medical limit, which gives you a lot of power in the decision making process.
But you want to use that power for good, and you can only do that if you know what you’re up against—lookin’ at your U.S. healthcare.
In this section, we’ll break down plan benefits and how you can use customization to fit your needs.
It’s true, choosing the lowest tier coverage is going to give you a lower premium upfront. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best decision, especially for longer trips. You want to choose a benefit limit, meaning the maximum amount your policy will pay towards medical costs, that meets at the intersection of adequacy and affordably.
You can do that by considering the following:
- Length of your stay in the US
Shorter trips will come with less risk. If you’re only visiting for 1 week, a maximum payout of $100,000 could be a great option for you. But the longer your visit, the more risk you’re exposed to. Which means you’ll need a higher limit—maybe $250,000 or $500,000.Average cost of medical care
- Average cost of medical care
You want to think about the average cost of medical care in the United States. Remember, it’s pretty high, especially for hospital stays, emergency procedures, and ongoing treatment.
Make sure you’re aware of how easily the healthcare system has bankrupted Americans, and avoid putting yourself in this position.
- Deductible amount you can afford to pay out of pocket
The deductible is the amount of money you’ll pay out of pocket for care. The trick here is to choose a higher deductible. This lowers the insurance premium, and gives you the ability to choose a higher medical limit. This has lesser risk exposure in the end.
Plans offer up to $2 million in coverage.
Evacuation & repatriation
Emergency medical evacuations are extremely expensive. As a matter of fact, the cost of a medevac flight has risen 60% in the USA.3 Amerians on Medicare don’t have enough coverage for an air ambulance as they cost 10 times more than the benefit limit provided by Medicare plans.
But you don’t have to be in that same position. Visitors insurance offers medevac coverage up to $1 million, which will prevent you from needing to worry about the costs should you require an emergency helicopter ride with specialized nurses, equipment, and care.
Repatriation covers two things: medical transport home & the preparation and transport of your remains should you die in the USA. This can help ease the burden to your family, and ensure that you get home to receive proper medical treatment or a proper burial. The cost for this benefit matches emergency medical evacuation coverage.
Plans offer coverage up to $2 million.
Travel benefits include coverage for trip interruptions and delays. You’ll want to consider these coverages, because they help ensure you don’t foot the bill if you need to end your trip early because of illness or injury. Last minute flights are costly, so having a few travel benefits to ensure your safe arrival home can make a huge impact.
Plans cover trip interruptions up to $10,000.
Benefits for your things
Visitors insurance plans can also offer coverage for your baggage if it’s lost or damaged during your travels. This benefit is often a favorite, especially when taking multiple flights until your arrival. If the airline loses your luggage, you’ll be able to get reimbursed so you can replace your things.
Plans cover up to $2,000.
6. Where to compare & buy plans
You can buy visitors insurance almost anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you should. Not every plan is created equally and not every company is offering the best insurance there is. Here at G1G, we recommend buying from a US-based company because these companies know how our healthcare system works.
There are a few ways you can do this:
- Directly from the insurance company
- From a travel advisor or insurance broker
- From a comparison website like G1G
We always vote for a comparison site. That’s because you can get several unbiased quotes in one place, which gives the buyer a lot more power and awareness around what’s really out there.
Additionally, we offer free claims advocacy with every plan. When it’s time to file a claim, you’ll have someone in your corner to help you every step of the way.