Travel health insurance – How to protect yourself for your vacation
Without the right travel health insurance, your dream vacation can quickly turn into a nightmare. Whether swimming in the Mediterranean or hiking in Nepal: In the event of an accident or illness, the medical costs incurred can far exceed your vacation budget, because contrary to popular belief, you are only insured to a limited extent or not at all by the statutory health insurance abroad. Even in countries where the back of your health insurance card (the EHIC – European Health Insurance Card) is valid, many benefits are not covered by the health insurance company. A travel health insurance taken out in time can help here. But even there, there are things to watch out for: Unclearly formulated contracts or inadequate benefits can be your undoing on vacation.
In this article, you will find out how you can save yourself immense medical expenses abroad and who the current test winners are among the travel health insurances abroad. In addition, our vacation checklist offers you an overview of other useful travel insurances and informs you about what you have to pay attention to when taking out or changing a travel health insurance.
Why travel health insurance?
Travel health insurance is particularly necessary if you are traveling to countries outside the scope of the statutory health insurance (GKV). The GKV is only valid in the EU member states and the European Economic Area (EEA), as well as in countries that have a social security agreement with Germany. In concrete terms, this means that many popular travel destinations such as Egypt or the USA are not included in the statutory health insurance. But also in the areas of validity of the EHIC many benefits are not covered. For example, return transport to Germany is generally not paid for. What follows are long hospital stays abroad or the return flight at short notice out of your own pocket.
Either way: If a few things are not observed, it will be expensive for you.
The right travel health insurance, on the other hand, protects you from such experiences and ensures that you enjoy almost the same health insurance coverage for the duration of your vacation as you would in Germany. Even people who are privately insured in the Federal Republic of Germany should inform themselves about their current insurance status, because many private health insurers demand advance payment for the services claimed abroad. Information on the benefits of your PKV abroad can be found in your insurance contract.
With a foreign travel health insurance you are covered for the case of emergency as a legally insured person. Instead of burdening your travel budget for medical expenses abroad, you can seek immediate medical help without fear of being stuck with these costs. Individuals can insure themselves for their vacation for as little as 10 EUR per month. Also families get away with 20 EUR per month favorably.
This is not how you imagined your vacation: A case study
Without travel health insurance, even a simple flu virus in the USA can cost you over EUR 100 per week. The situation is even more different in the case of more serious illnesses or accidents. The USA does not have a social security agreement with Germany in the area of health insurance – you are therefore not insured during your stay there. In addition, the medical costs in the U.S. are on average significantly higher than in our country.
Just imagine the following situation: While on a trip to Red Rocks (Nevada), you accidentally slip and break your leg. The costs you now have to bear are made up of:
- transport to the nearest hospital (up to 1.800 EUR)
- the actual treatment costs (approx. 2.000 EUR)
- possibly surgery costs (up to 28.000 EUR)
In case of an additional return transport to Germany (up to 55.000 EUR), the total cost you will have to pay will be more than 85.000 EUR. Many travel health insurance policies protect you from such indebtedness. Before you start your trip, you should make the right choice, because these costs can be ruinously high very quickly. If you have already taken out a foreign health insurance, you should read through your contract again before your trip. A change can be useful.
Flat-rate case costs of the statutory health insurers: A tip has Martin Schmitt, blog operator of "Uruguay experience" there is still. He experienced something similar in Uruguay, when he was the victim of a serious traffic accident and did not have travel health insurance. There were costs in the amount of approx. 40.000 EUR due to operations and nursing costs. In addition, he had to leave the hospital after one week, because he was financially bankrupt. The statutory health insurance has a flat rate for case costs in the amount of 5.000 EUR paid. His tip is therefore: Always insure yourself when traveling, even if you have to pay the costs in advance!
Which travel health insurance is the best?
Stiftung Warentest identified the best insurance policies for individuals and families in its major comparison of travel health insurance policies abroad. The DKV offers were the best for both individuals and families. DKV's ReiseMed Tarif RD costs EUR 19.80 per year for families, EUR 9.99 for individuals – and thus costs less than your bathing suit. The tariff is valid for 56 travel days per trip (for comparison: the average travel health insurance is valid for 42 travel days per trip). For longer stays abroad a fair foreign health insurance is necessary especially for long term stays.
How were the travel health insurances tested?
Stiftung Warentest tested worldwide travel health insurance for individuals and families for any number of trips per year. Overall, better results were achieved than in the last test (6/2015), as many insurance companies have adjusted their tariff conditions. Among other things, the general terms and conditions of the contract and the medical benefits were tested (e.g. B. whether treatments for mental illnesses are also reimbursed by the travel health insurance). The comprehensibility of the contracts was also included in the assessment.
These benefits are included in the travel insurance abroad
Caution is advised when taking out or changing travel health insurance: The offers of the insurers differ sometimes drastically from each other. As a rule, all benefits that are part of basic medical care are included. Depending on the additional benefits of the respective travel insurance abroad, medically useful repatriation or dental fillings can also be covered. You can find out about the exact benefits of the respective insurance policies in the relevant contracts. Additional benefits include, for example, an interpreter service or child care (in case of illness of the parents). Long-term therapies or prostheses are often not included in the scope of benefits. In addition, interventions that were already planned before the start of the trip are not covered by the insurance. The same applies to illnesses that are already present at the start of the trip. If the contract is not clearly formulated, you should exercise caution and contact the insurer before signing the contract to clarify the situation.
Can anyone take out travel health insurance?
Unfortunately not. Many foreign travel insurances have a maximum age for the conclusion of a contract (mostly 70 years). But already from the age of 65 older people have to expect a surcharge for travel insurance. Therefore, it makes sense to inform yourself about a travel health insurance for foreign countries even before retirement age. Even chronically ill people often have a hard time: Few foreign travel insurances pay for illnesses that already occurred before the insured person started his trip.
TIP: Before starting your trip, we advise you to get a certificate of fitness to travel from your doctor. In addition, you should clarify with the insurance company whether illness setbacks are paid abroad.
Note: For professionals who are often on business trips, international travel insurance will only cover you to a limited extent. Not every insurance policy provides coverage for business travel. This should be clarified before signing a contract.
How is the return transport regulated?
In the case of repatriation, the distinction between medically necessary and medically reasonable is important. A necessary return transport is only guaranteed if medical care cannot be provided abroad. Even if the treatment there lasts longer than 14 days, it is considered a medically necessary return transport. These disadvantages don't exist if the insurer provides medically appropriate repatriation.
The right way to deal with travel health insurance
Before travel medical insurance will pay for your medical care, there are some arrangements that need to be made. All relevant documents (medical bills, possibly travel receipts) must be submitted to the travel insurance company at the latest three months after the trip.
Our tip is therefore: Keep all travel documents and receipts carefully. The airline or train ticket can also be important for the insurance company to prove that you were actually on a vacation trip or that the duration of the trip does not exceed the maximum limit of your insurance policy.
In addition, travel health insurance often requires that the insured makes an advance payment of the services used. The costs will only be reimbursed after the necessary documents have been submitted. If you are unsure whether you have to pay the medical costs yourself first, you can get information from the emergency center of your travel health insurance abroad. It is best to make a note of the number for this before the start of the trip.
If you want to take out travel insurance before a trip, you should find out about the insurance deadlines beforehand. Otherwise, it can happen that the upcoming trip is not yet covered by the insurance and you go uninsured on vacation. In most cases, however, travel health insurance can also be taken out at short notice.
What else you need to know for your trip
In addition to travel health insurance, there are other supplementary insurances that promise you a relaxed and carefree vacation. Travel cancellation insurance, baggage insurance, trip interruption insurance – there are many ways to further extend your protection. At the same time, there are numerous financial traps in the comprehensive offer.
Conclusion – Our tips
Before taking out travel insurance, you should always look out for warning signs such as ambiguous wording or inadequate benefits. Travel health insurances with limited benefits can usually be recognized by their vaguely formulated contracts. On the positive side, you can include the provision of interpreters or childcare providers, as well as all services that are not included in ordinary travel health insurance policies.
The wording regarding repatriation is particularly important. At best, choose a travel health insurance there, which guarantees a medically reasonable return transport. Insurance policies offered with travel bookings often contain 1-click policies or inadequate benefits. More stumbling blocks and more information can be found in our travel checklist in the article "Travel planning – protection against illness while traveling".