By Mark Sneed
When traveling overseas on either a short-term mission trip, or on a long-term basis, traditional U.S. health insurance plans will most likely not meet your needs. Geographical exclusions and provider limitations common to these policies will restrict or even eliminate the health insurance coverage available to you while you are outside the United States. At the same time, you may not be eligible for participation in a foreign government run health care system.
When Emergencies Hit
In the event of a dire emergency, where you need to be air evacuated from one country to another for proper treatment, who pays for this tremendous expense?
A missionary serving in Sierra Leone recently had to be air evacuated to Senegal and then re-routed back to the U.S. Fortunately, her international health insurance paid every dime of the $28,000 bill!
In the event you die overseas, who pays for the return of remains back to America for burial? A short-term volunteer died in his sleep and once again the travel insurance was there, so his family did not have to cope with the $50,000 + expense of returning the remains.
What about the question of legal liability? More and more organizations now require anyone (short, medium, or long-term missionaries and expatriates) leaving the U.S. to obtain international health insurance. Rightly so, they don’t want the responsibility or liability of any claim that might occur while their people are traveling or living outside the United States.
The Good News!
The good news is that U.S. style health insurance plans are now available at very reasonable rates for individuals or groups who are going overseas.
These plans can be written to cover a trip of just a few days or extended stays for those serving on a long-term basis. These plans can cover up to $5,000,000 of major medical expenses, plus emergency medical evacuation, repatriation of mortal remains, accidental death, and they often include other important features.
Group plans are available for short-term groups who travel overseas together. Many times, these plans are provided with a daily rate, so if one person is going for 14 days, they pay only for 14 days, while the next worker may be gone for 38 days – so forth and so on!
These are very popular because they are “tailor made” to fit the organization’s needs. They are made easy too since each traveler doesn’t have to complete any paperwork. If a mission agency makes insurance mandatory for all their short-term participants, the daily rate drops even more.
Now the obvious question as a consumer is – where do I get more information and a quote on international health or travel insurance? The average insurance broker may not be able to help; however, there are certain agencies that specialize in these types of programs and the Internet may be a great place to start. There are also some Christian insurance agencies that specialize in providing international health & travel insurance.
As the Gospel is being spread to “all Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth,” the need for international health & travel insurance is no longer a luxury. It has become just as important as obtaining a passport, so, please don’t leave home without it!
Mark Sneed is the vice president of Insurance Consultants International, AKA MissionTripInsurance.com, which is a Christian organization specializing in international health & travel insurance for missionaries, church groups and mission organizations.