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If you have a disability and are planning your next great adventure, there are a few things to consider when buying a travel insurance policy to ensure you have enough coverage.
You’ll want a travel insurance plan that packages together valuable benefits to protect your trip investment and cover medical expenses and medical equipment while traveling.
Here we’ll highlight how the following types of travel insurance coverage can provide a financial safety net and peace of mind when you embark on your next trip:
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Travel Medical Insurance and Disabilities
Travel medical insurance is vital for anyone taking a trip outside of the U.S. That’s because domestic health plans may have limited or no coverage outside of the country. Medicare coverage is also extremely limited abroad.
If you get sick or injured during your trip, travel medical insurance provides reimbursement for care. It pays for medicine, X-rays, lab work, doctor visits and hospital bills, up to the limits in your policy.
Disabilities and pre-existing conditions for travel medical insurance
Travel medical insurance typically doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions without a pre-existing condition exclusion waiver.
But impairments that are congenital, such as vision and hearing impairments, are usually not considered pre-existing conditions, and neither are physical and mobility disabilities like muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy.
“As long as the traveler is medically able to travel when they buy their plan and meets the travel plan’s other requirements for pre-existing medical condition coverage, the traveler’s disability should not be excluded,” says Mark Taber, a spokesman for Generali Global Assistance.
Still, it’s recommended that any traveler get a pre-existing medical condition waiver when buying travel insurance to ensure the most comprehensive coverage.
Travel insurance companies generally consider a pre-existing condition to be an injury, illness or medical condition that caused you to experience symptoms, seek treatment or take medication before buying the travel insurance policy.
What qualifies as a pre-existing condition and the timeframe for consideration varies among travel insurance companies. For example, one company may look back 60 days while another might look back 180, to see if you were treated for a condition in that time.
Some companies may not define conditions that are controlled by medication as pre-existing as long as there’s been no change in your prescriptions and you haven’t received treatment for it during the lookback period.
To get a pre-existing condition exclusion waiver, you usually must:
- Buy your travel insurance plan when you make your first trip deposits, within 15 to 21 days after booking.
- Insure the entire non-refundable cost of your trip.
- Be medically able to travel when you purchase the travel insurance.
Related: Advantages to buying a travel insurance plan when you book your trip
24/7 assistance services
Travel insurance companies have a 24/7 travel support hotline to assist you in a variety of ways, including making medical referrals.
“Having a medical team to contact, 24/7, who can assist in locating the appropriate hospitals/clinics/physicians is critical. It is even more important to work with an experienced medical team to address any incumbent disabilities that may create additional challenges in getting the appropriate care,” says Scott Adamski, a spokesperson with AIG Travel.
Emergency Medical Evacuation Travel Insurance and Disability
Medical evacuation travel insurance is worth considering even if you are taking a domestic vacation where your health insurance plan can help cover your medical costs.
If you’re away from home, there’s a chance medevac service would be out of your network, which means you may be stuck paying a lot of the bill for air transportation. Even if the evacuation company is in your health plans network, you may still have to pay a high deductible.
If you are injured or become ill during your trip, evacuation travel insurance can compensate you for the cost to be transported to the nearest adequate treatment center when local hospital care falls short of your needs.
The most generous travel insurance plans provide $1 million in emergency medical evacuation benefits per person, but you can find lower limits if you don’t need that much.
Chris Carnicelli, a spokesperson for Generali Global Assistance, says evacuations can be very costly—tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the location and your medical condition—so he always recommends that travelers of any ability level secure sufficient coverage for these types of emergencies.
Travel Insurance for Medical Equipment and Belongings
Baggage insurance is usually part of a comprehensive travel insurance plan, and it also covers your personal possessions. If your luggage or belongings are lost or stolen, your baggage and personal effects travel insurance benefits compensate you for the depreciated value, up to the limits in your policy.
Wheelchairs and personal effects travel insurance
Baggage and personal items loss insurance typically have very low per item benefits, which means you probably would not recoup much of the cost to replace expensive medical devices and equipment if lost or damaged during your trip.
“A good example of this is a wheelchair, which can be a vitally important—but expensive—investment. Most travel insurance plans will have a per item limit ranging from $250 to $500, which would be unlikely to fully cover a wheelchair if it were lost or irreparably damaged,” says Adamski.
Also important to note, baggage and possessions travel insurance is often secondary in travel insurance plans. That means you first must file a claim with the airline or with your home or renters insurance before filing a travel insurance claim.
Wheelchairs are usually covered under the personal property portion of your homeowners or renters insurance, even if damaged or stolen while you’re away from home. If you have an expensive motorized wheelchair, it’s wise to list it with other valuable possessions on your homeowners or renters insurance policy as scheduled personal property to ensure adequate coverage.
Prosthetic devices and travel insurance
Many travel insurance plans exclude coverage for the loss of artificial prosthetic devices, any type of eyeglasses and hearing aids, or there may be a cap on the limit covered, says Carol Mueller, a spokesperson with Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.
“A traveler who is concerned about baggage and personal effects coverage should contact the travel insurance provider to first fully understand what is or isn’t covered while traveling,” she says.
Like wheelchairs, prosthetics are typically covered by homeowners and renters insurance.
Prescription medications and travel insurance
Prescription medicine is also covered under your baggage and personal effects travel insurance, to a degree.
Your benefits will only reimburse you for the cost to replace the amount of your prescription medicine that was lost, damaged or stolen, up to your policy limits.
Trip Cancellation Travel Insurance Considerations for Disability
Trip cancellation insurance reimburses you 100% of pre-paid, non-refundable deposits you lose if you decide not to go on a trip, as long as you cancel for a reason listed in the policy. Acceptable reasons vary by travel insurance company, but generally include a death in the immediate family, an illness or injury to you, a travel companion or relative, severe weather and other problems.
But what happens if you change your mind because of an issue not listed in your travel insurance plan? Say for instance you learn that one of the major tours you booked doesn’t have adequate accommodations for your disability and you want to cancel your trip. You would not be eligible for a cancellation claim under standard trip cancellation benefits.
“Cancel for any reason” coverage
To have the freedom to cancel your trip no matter the reason, consider buying “cancel for any reason” travel insurance (CFAR). This optional upgrade generally reimburses 75% of your pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs, as long as you cancel at least 48 hours prior to your scheduled departure.
Note that CFAR travel insurance adds an average of 50% to your travel insurance costs. You also must usually buy CFAR coverage within 14 to 21 days of making your first trip deposits.
Trip Interruption Travel Insurance
Trip interruption travel insurance benefits cover associated expenses if a covered emergency causes you to end your vacation early.
Trip interruption benefits can pay for a last-minute flight home. This coverage can also reimburse you for unused non-refundable trip expenses—such as pre-booked hotel stays and tours—if your trip is cut short due to unforeseen circumstances.
“Interruption for any reason” coverage
For the most flexibility to end a trip early, consider “interruption for any reason” travel insurance (IFAR). This optional upgrade adds an average of 3% to 10% to your travel insurance costs but allows you to back out of a trip early for any reason you want.
IFAR travel insurance reimburses up to 75% of your trip costs, as long as you do so after a certain number of hours into your trip. The number of hours will depend on your plan.
Like CFAR, you usually have to purchase IFAR coverage within 15 to 21 days of making your initial trip deposit.
How Travel Delay Insurance Benefits Can Help
Travel delay insurance provides financial reimbursement for associated expenses during a delay from unanticipated events, such as inclement weather or aircraft mechanical issues. Reimbursable expenses can include meals, a hotel room and transportation costs, up to the limits in your policy.
If your suitcases don’t arrive on time, baggage delay insurance can help pay for necessities to tide you over until your gear arrives, again, up to the amount in your policy.
Both travel delay insurance and baggage delay insurance have waiting periods before coverage kicks in, so be sure to check your policy for the specified amount of time.
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Travel Insurance for Those with Disabilities FAQ
Are there special travel insurance plans for disabled travelers?
In general, travel insurance policies are not specifically tailored or customized for people with disabilities, says Adamski.
For example, AIG provides travel insurance plans to eligible U.S. residents and does not offer unique policies for any class. “But because travelers can customize insurance policies to an extent, taking time to review the product benefits, limitations and exclusions will provide the best guidance as to what plan can best meet their needs,” he says.
However, you can take advantage of travel insurance plans with concierge services. If you need help finding accessible events, tours, activities and lodging, your travel insurance company’s concierge staff can assist you.
Will my travel insurance cover a health aide or caregiver joining me?
If you are traveling with an aide or caretaker, Adamski at AIG Travel recommends that a separate travel insurance policy be purchased for your traveling companion.
Under certain circumstances, Adamksi says there can be scenarios that would allow for a policy that covers more than one traveler, but these are generally for larger groups, and there are numerous variables that might come into play, particularly depending on the insurance provider.
“The simplest and surest approach is to purchase a separate policy for each traveler,” he says.
Are there disabilities travel insurance companies won’t cover?
While travel insurance plans generally do not specifically address coverage for disabilities, travelers should note that claims resulting from mental and psychological disorders are excluded from coverage, says Taber of Generali Global Assistance.
“Outside of this exclusion, if a traveler is concerned that their disability would be considered a pre-existing medical condition according to their medical history, they would need to be medically able to travel when they purchase coverage,” Taber says.
As long as you are medically able to travel when you purchase your travel insurance policy and meet the other requirements for pre-existing medical condition coverage, your disability should not be excluded, he says.
But it’s wise to get a pre-existing medical condition waiver when buying travel insurance to make sure you have the most comprehensive coverage.