June 18, 2012

Insurance? Mishmurance...

People have no idea how much Steph and I have discussed The Trip. We've weighed the risks personally, professionally and financially. This was a very well-calculated decision. The first decision was deciding to take "a trip." Then, we had to decide where to take it. After a lot of research and discussions, we decided on India, SE Asia, etc... And when it has come to buying things for the trip, each purchase has gone through the same process of calculating, researching, and deciding. We discuss what we want/need to take, research it, budget for it and make a decision. This has worked for us. (A full post about our gear list is coming up soon!) But the thing that is giving us the most headaches to purchase isn't gear or even tangible... travel insurance.

Me, less responsible
and uninsured
When I took big trips before (ages 18 and 23), I just took the chance and assumed that nothing would happen and, thankfully, I was right. Travel insurance, like most insurance, is mainly for peace of mind. Protecting yourself from worrying too much about the "What ifs." On my last trips, I was young (and stupid) enough to never consider those "What ifs," but I"m a bit more informed now (read: older) and have heard too many horror stores about the uninsured going bankrupt paying for medical costs. Since we'll be leaving our jobs and giving up our current insurance, we've been heavily researching travelers insurance for a few weeks now - posting questions on Thorn Tree (the Lonely Planet forum) and asking other travel bloggers (Almost Fearless had some good advice and Steph has been emailing on the topic with Emily Sue from We Go RTW. The general consensus is that World Nomads has the best, most comprehensive travel insurance for Americans. They have a Standard option and an Explorer option, with the Explorer option providing more coverage for basic illnesses/injuries, as well as for an extensive list of adventure activities.

We're leaning towards the Explorer option since it's only an extra $200. (...a grand total of $2,400 for both of us for a year...yikes!)

So what does that include?

The insurance covers:

  • 100% coverage of all treatments and medications for sudden or unexpected illness/injury
  • Up to $500,000 towards emergency medical transport and/or repatriation costs

The insurance does NOT cover:
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Cosmetic surgery (damn)
  • Treatment resulting from nuclear reactors or radioactive fallout (bummer - I guess after what happened in Japan last year, you never know...)

Sounds great, right? Well, the problem is that, once you are repatriated to your home country for your illness or injury, your travel insurance ends and your personal insurance kicks in for the rest of the treatment. Seems seamless enough - except we weren't planning on having additional insurance. What this means for us is that we also need to buy a basic plan in the U.S. so that, if we get hurt on the trip, we can come back and receive medical treatment without going broke. (What this also means is cha-ching $$$$ cha-ching $$$$.)

Just to give you an idea of how people deal with this around the world - European travelers can rely on their travel insurance while travelling and, once they get home, their healthcare is covered by the state (most European countries have national healthcare). Would that be nice? But - we're Americans and, for us, because travelers insurance is considered "secondary" coverage, we would be putting ourselves at high financial risk if we didn't have additional "primary" coverage in the States. So, we'll get some basic coverage with a high deductible, just in case we have a major accident and need to continue treatment upon returning home. It would suck to have a broken leg fixed in Cambodia, be sent home after being cleared for travel and then paying out-of-pocket if you need further surgery or treatment in the U.S.

Hyperbaric Chamber - Required Treatment for
Acute Decompression Illness
So we have to get travelers insurance and U.S-based insurance. On top of that, because we are Scuba divers, we're also going to get Divers Alert Network (DAN) insurance. While World Nomads "Explorer" package covers over 100 activities, including scuba diving, the DAN insurance has additional scuba insurance for $30-$75 per person per year, which is a no brainer if you dive at all, because special treatment is often needed for dive-related injuries like decompression illness. Similar, niche insurance is available for people planning on doing a lot of trekking on trips through the American Alpine Club or the British Mountaineering Council. (Though this insurance isn't necessary for us because Steph has an aversion to trekking/hiking which she just calls "walking uphill.")

We haven't brought any of these insurances yet and are still in the researching phase, but we'll make a decision soon. It's not a fun process and we are both tired of analyzing it and talking about the different companies and plans. Not to mention - thinking about all the things that could go wrong and require insurance isn't the most pleasant part of trip-planning. It's crazy to buy something so expensive that you hope you won't have to use. The best case scenario is we drop over $3,000 on insurance we won't need. But, we are protecting ourselves from the worst case scenario and giving ourselves peace of mind.

I hate being responsible.

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