How Travel Insurance Works and Why Wheelchair Users Need It

Flight reservations? Check. Accessible hotel reservations? Check. Travel insurance??? If you’re feeling like a deer in the headlights when it comes to the need for travel insurance, you’re not alone. Many times we get caught up in the excitement of planning a trip and never stop to think how we would handle certain situations if something goes wrong. For wheelchair users, these odds can be considerable higher if you have a pre-existing medical condition, and we’re more likely to get delayed at airports. Read below to learn more about how travel insurance works, the different types of policies you can purchase, and why wheelchair users should never travel without it.

What is travel insurance?

Allianz Global Assistance explains that travel insurance is designed to cover those who elect coverage with financial safeguards in the case of events ranging from inconveniences to calamities. Coverage may include both costs incurred before your trip, such as nonrefundable event tickets or hotel stays, and during your trip, including travel interruptions and medical expenses. Another element of travel insurance is global assistance. For example, a travel insurance company may offer aid to subscribing travelers ranging from sharing helpful information to arranging for medical evacuations. Some travel insurance providers even have a phone app where you can file a claim on the spot.

What does travel insurance cover?

barbados airport ambuliftThis depends on the type of plan you purchase, but most plans will offer reimbursements for things like delayed or cancelled flights, lost or damaged baggage, trip interruption (you have to go home early due to illness or injury), visits to a doctor or emergency room while abroad, and emergency medical evacuation if things get really bad. Levels of reimbursement vary depending on the plan you choose.

When can I use travel insurance?

Generally speaking, most policies won’t approve a claim unless it falls under a “covered reason.” These often include illness/injury, jury duty, and the death of a family member. They do NOT cover weather events that began before you purchased the policy, job-related reasons, and changes of heart. It’s extremely important that you read any policies terms and conditions completely so you know what will and won’t be covered.

Why should I purchase travel insurance?

Simply put? Because stuff happens. Many times we have to book trips well in advance, and particularly with cruises. Do you know what your health situation will be a year from now? If you have an existing medical condition, you can still obtain travel insurance. What if that, or something else, acts up while you’re traveling? Odds are your domestic medical insurance policy will NOT cover you in foreign countries.

A fellow travel agent recently posted on social media the stories of two travelers – her client with travel insurance in Jamaica and a gentleman in Mexico without it. Her client got food poisoning and incurred thousands of dollars’ worth of medical bills in Jamaica during her recovery. This is all being covered by her travel insurance policy. The second traveler had a heart condition that acted up in Mexico, and he had to be hospitalized and air evac’d to Miami. His family had to start a GoFundMe campaign to raise $30,000 to pay for his hospital bills because he had no policy.

Also be ready for the small bumps, cuts, and scratches when you travel and are low on space: First Aid Kit – 66 Pieces – Small and Light Soft Shell Case – Packed with hospital grade medical supplies for emergency and survival situations. 

What kinds of travel insurance policies are there?

allure of the seas central parkGenerally speaking, there are two main kinds – annual and per-trip. Frequent travelers are well served by an annual policy, which has lower reimbursement rates but covers all their trips for a full year. Infrequent travelers can purchase trip-specific policies, either through an airline to insure flight, cruise lines to insure cruise fares and associated travel booked through the company, or a policy through a travel insurance company just based on the overall cost of a trip. You should discuss your plans and needs with an accessible travel agent to make sure you get the policy that best fits in with your plans.

How do I ensure my medical condition is covered?

Not all travel insurance plans cover existing medical conditions, so it’s important to discuss your options with an accessible travel agent to make sure you find a policy that does. For travel insurance to cover your pre-existing condition, you must be medically able to travel on the day you purchase your policy. With an existing medical condition, the safest course of action is to get your physician’s certification that you’re fine to travel before you book your trip. For an existing medical condition to be covered, you must insure your full nonrefundable trip costs. Certain existing medical conditions are excluded from some companies’ travel insurance coverage, such as mental and nervous health conditions, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease.

When should I purchase travel insurance?

It’s best to purchase your policy in conjunction with your trip deposit or payment. Third-party companies have a time limit within which you must purchase a policy after you make the first deposit to make sure you’re covered for pre-existing medical conditions. Cruise lines let you purchase insurance up to a specific date prior to sailing.

How much does travel insurance cost?

This will depend on how much coverage you want. You can expect premiums to cost somewhere between 5% to 10% of your overall trip cost. You should discuss your plans and needs with an accessible travel agent to receive the most accurate policy premium quote.

I hope this article helps you understand why purchasing travel insurance is so important for wheelchair users and travelers with other mobility issues. If you have more questions or would like to purchase a policy (US residents only), contact me at Spin the Globe/Travel for assistance!




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  1. […] fears is that I will get sick or hurt abroad, especially when traveling alone, which I do often. Having travel insurance gives me peace of mind that I won’t become penniless if I have to be hospitalized or otherwise cared for in another […]

  2. […] worth of medical bills and no way to get home because they didn’t purchase travel insurance. Please read my article here about why travel insurance is so important, and the different ways you can obtain […]

  3. […] tour operator to get problems resolved. We can provide guidance with regards to purchasing travel insurance policies and how to file a claim if you get sick or injured while […]

  4. […] 14. Should I purchase a trip protection plan? Absolutely, without a doubt. If you are cruising to another country, your medical insurance in your home country will not cover you if you get sick or injured while traveling. If you have to go to an emergency room or get medically evacuated, those bills can start tallying into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, and depending on the country, you may have to either pay in cash upfront before receiving medical care or show proof that you can afford to pay for your medical care. If you have a travel insurance policy, you will get reimbursed for eligible expenses up to the limit of your policy. Especially if you have a disability or pre-existing medical conditions, purchasing a trip protection plan is essential. […]

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