You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Travel insurance or international health plan? Which is better in coronavirus times?

Gulf News logo Gulf News 02/07/2020 Sharmila Dhal, Assistant Editor
a person sitting at a table: travel from june 23 © Provided by Gulf News travel from june 23 a group of people sitting at a desk: 1.1710851-4286478286 © Provided by Gulf News 1.1710851-4286478286

Dubai: With air travel reopening, the need for travel insurance is more critical than ever. While the UAE has made it mandatory for anyone coming into the UAE to obtain a travel insurance before they arrive, not all countries have such stipulations. However, given the global pandemic climate, experts advise that it is prudent to get travel insurance, or even an international medical cover, before heading anywhere.

To begin with, what is the difference between a regular travel insurance and an international health insurance plan?

Catherine Darroue, Senior Director of Customer Proposition and Global Head of Corporate Communications at Aetna International, said, “The fundamental difference between international health insurance plans and emergency travel insurance plans is the extent of coverage. International health insurance plans are designed to provide comprehensive healthcare to individuals that plan on being away from their home country for an extended period of time — for example, any expat that takes a job in Dubai should have an international health insurance plan. As a consequence, these plans cover treatment for both emergency and non-emergency situations as well as pre-existing conditions. They are also accepted worldwide, so the individual has peace of mind whenever he/she travels.”

Catherine Darroue

Emergency travel insurance plans, on the other hand, are typically short-term coverage plans designed to cover only emergency treatment for a specific country or region of travel. It is important to note that, unless specifically purchased, pre-existing conditions are not covered, which can pose significant challenges for several travellers, said Darroue.

But given that travel insurance plans come cheaper – from as little as Dh60, most travellers prefer to go for it, as against a full-fledged global health insurance plan, where premiums would be dependent on the person’s age and pre-existing conditions.

Risk of exposure

Dilsha Paul, authorised consultant, Nexus, said, “During these COVID-19 times, there is the risk of exposure to the virus while flying for many hours. Certain age groups and people with underlying medical conditions fall into high risk categories. It’s extremely important to make sure that everyone travels with travel and medical insurance which is bought from the home country itself.

Dilsha Paul

She said, “God forbid, if there is a need for medical treatment due to an illness or accident during the travel, the cost could be huge. In addition to medical expenses, if there is any cancellation of flights etc, hotel stay, air ambulance and repatriation costs could be prohibitively high. If there is no insurance or it is inadequate, one has to depend on relatives or charity to meet these expenses.

“Anyone without UAE residence visa cannot obtain medical insurance in the UAE. Many of the travel agencies in foreign countries offer adequate medical and travel insurance suitable for the UAE,” she added.

Mandatory requirement

In the UAE, Ministerial Decision No. 322/ 2008 has made visitor health insurance mandatory. The onus of obtaining one lies on the traveller, not the sponsor. If the home-country health insurance covers an individual while travelling abroad, that is well and good. But if that’s not the case, the traveller must buy a travel insurance plan before departure from the home country. It is difficult to get a travel insurance after arrival in the UAE.

Points to consider

Dr Sanjay Tolani, Managing Director & CEO, Goodwill World, said, the main points to consider when buying travel insurance are as under:

• Ensure the travel dates for the travel insurance are clear. Always better to have a few days more than less. Buy it early so that you are covered from the time you have purchased your itinerary.

• Ensure you disclose all medical conditions to your insurer before you buy it, most travel insurance cover pre-existing illness if disclosed at the time of buying (Better to pay a little extra and have peace of mind during your journey). This is NOT a health insurance policy, because it only ensures you are covered for emergency medical DURING your travel and usually only outside your resident country. Certain countries even have guidelines on HOW MUCH coverage you should have as a minimum.

• Make sure the country you are travelling too is covered. Some countries are excluded from travels, due to sanctions or high risk.

• If you are planning any adventurous activities, ensure your policy covers you for it, these benefits are usually optional and might not be covered if you don’t include them.

• Accidents happen, having a travel insurance ensures you have the right coverage when you travel.

More from Gulf News

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon