Health Insurance

More US travelers are considering international health plans after the Covid-19 pandemic

A GeoBlue survey found growing interest in international health coverage, despite most travelers saying they won’t need such coverage.
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· 3 min read

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Passport? Check. Exchanged currency? Check. International health insurance? Check?

Nearly a quarter of US residents traveling abroad have experienced a medical issue. So buying travel medical insurance—which helps cover unexpected medical bills incurred outside the country—is becoming more common on pre-vacation to-do lists, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A report released in April by GeoBlue, an international health insurer owned and backed by 15 BlueCross BlueShield companies, found that 21% of US residents surveyed in 2022 said they would buy travel insurance to cover medical expenses incurred abroad—that’s up from 15% in 2020.

A majority of respondents further said they consider health concerns when choosing international travel destinations (64%) and are “concerned about getting sick when traveling abroad” (59%).

Lynn Pina, GeoBlue’s chief marketing officer, told Healthcare Brew that the report’s findings suggest “a lot more people [are] thinking about their healthcare before they get on a plane and go abroad.” Online searches for keywords relating to GeoBlue’s products are up 30%–40%, she said. And the company has seen “record” sales—up 50% from 2019 to 2022.

Still, 52% of US residents surveyed said there’s little possibility that they will need or use international travel medical coverage. And 46% said they’d use their existing US health insurance plans to cover medical expenses incurred abroad—even though most plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, provide limited or no international coverage.

“A lot of people assume they can use whatever health insurance they have here in the US abroad,” Pina said. “Typically, what happens is you might have some level of coverage, but [medical care you receive abroad] would be considered out-of-network. Then there are some things that specifically are not covered.”

Among the things not often covered abroad by domestic insurance are medical evacuations, which she said can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on location.

Travel health plans like those offered by GeoBlue and other insurers can be purchased for the duration of a single trip or on an annual basis, by people who travel often or work remotely from international locations.

The cost for such policies—which are not the same as traditional travel insurance, which largely covers trip cancellations—varies based on a trip’s duration, the number of travelers, and their ages, among other things, Pina said. GeoBlue, for example, offers some plans that provide up to $1 million in coverage for less than $2 per day, she noted.

The Harris Poll conducted the online survey on behalf of GeoBlue in November 2022. It surveyed more than 2,000 US adults, and one-third of the survey trended to 2020 data.

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