Travelers insurance: important for military members and families

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. James Inaldo
  • 39th Medical Group superintendent
One of the advantages of being in the military is the opportunity to travel and see the world. My family and I were stationed in Japan before we came to Turkey. During our stay we enjoyed the rich culture and traditions of the Japanese which included great food, historic sites and of course, shopping. My family and I were able to visit Tokyo, Mt. Fuji and enjoy the Snow Festival in Hokkaido. When friends and family visited, we happily became hosts and tour guides for our host country. Our friends and family came to enjoy their visit to Japan and many hoped to return in the future. When family and friends of military members visit overseas, they not only come to see the sights and sounds the country has to offer but most importantly, spend time with their loved ones.

One experience that I'll never forget was when the parents of one of our Air Force member's came for a visit to see their newly born granddaughter. During the visit, the grandfather became ill with heart problems and required emergency care. Our military clinic didn't have the medical services he needed so he was transported off base to a Japanese hospital. He was admitted, went through several medical diagnostic tests, received treatment and was later discharged from the hospital after 10 days. His medical bills accumulated over $35,000 for that short stay in the hospital. Unfortunately, his medical insurance company didn't cover medical care overseas, so they ended up paying for the entire medical bill.

When planning a vacation, we tend to overlook the most important part of the trip, which is where to get medical care in case of an emergency. As a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, we don't think much about medical care because we know we have medical coverage under TRICARE wherever we go. But it is important to have information where to get medical care in case of an emergency when planning a trip. There are not many travelers, including myself, who would think or consider purchasing travel insurance when going on a trip or a vacation.

The reason for purchasing travel insurance is different for every traveler and every trip. Some people simply buy travel insurance to cover penalties for cancelling plane tickets, travel change or delays, additional life insurance coverage or reimbursement for lost luggage. But travel insurance can also be used for emergency and accident care, medical evacuations, emergency assistance and dental emergencies as well. It can be purchased for both domestic trips and for travels abroad. It can also be purchased to cover a two-day weekend trip, or a longer stay abroad. Most travel insurance companies provide information on medical care availability depending on the trip destination.

There are companies in the travel insurance business who offer a variety of plans and coverage. Some companies specialize in simple, easy-to-use policies for the everyday traveler. I searched the Internet and found different types of insurance plans, designed for specific groups like golfers, students or people simply taking a cruise. Some insurance companies focus on travel medical plans and evacuation plans, providing insurance plans for travelers around the world. The insurance cost depends on the plan type and amount of coverage. You can purchase a basic package as low as $68 and this is cheap considering the out of pocket expense you may have to pay in case of a need of medical care in a foreign country.