In today's "Dear Abby" column, a reader complains because his wife, as a surprise, booked the two of them on an expensive and non-refundable foreign trip, one which he doesn't feel up to taking due to health problems.
In a postscript to her basic advice, Abby advises the man to make sure and get travel insurance in advance of the trip.
That's excellent advice. I've had some form of travel insurance for all of my foreign mission trips, as required by the group with which I travel. I've never had to use it, but I felt better knowing it was there.
If you call your normal health insurance provider and ask if you're covered during foreign travel, they may tell you that you are -- but ask exactly what they mean by that. It may mean that if you pay for your medical care, and bring the receipts back with you to the U.S., you can file a claim and be reimbursed. Yes, that's coverage, but it does you little good if you're stuck abroad in a situation in which the doctor or hospital wants immediate payment and you don't have it.
Travel insurance, which is available from several different providers, is specifically-designed for foreign travel. For a two-week vacation or mission trip, it's very inexpensive. In case of an emergency, the insurance company will wire you the money needed for treatment. If you're in a remote place, as is the case with some mission trips, the company will even pay to have you airlifted to a good hospital. Not to be morbid, but in a worst-case scenario the insurance will even pay for your remains to be shipped back to the U.S.
You can book a policy online. They'll want to know to what country you're traveling, and how many days you'll be abroad. You can also ask your regular insurance agent. There have even been cases where travel insurance is offered as an add-on or extra benefit to existing coverage, so you might check with whoever handles your company's benefits.
Travel insurance is a wise investment, and as usual Dear Abby has some sound advice.