Buying medical travel insurance can save your life

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Travel medical insurance is something 75% of Americans never buy when travelling overseas.

It's something commonly bought around the world, and Americans are finally coming around. It used to be that less than 10% of Americans bought travel insurance, which is a great “bang for your buck.”

Travel medical insurance really paid off for one 18-year-old from the Midwest who took a trip to Africa. She bought a policy for a few dollars a day that saved her thousands of dollars in medical bills.

"I'm a pre-med student working on my degree.  When I was in Ghana I was feeling sick and it kept getting worse. In the hospital, they did a urine sample and a blood sample right away. It turns out I got malaria, and it was very scary," said Alysan Stauffacher.

Medical insurance protects against unexpected medical expenses that a customer’s standard health insurance may not cover outside their home country. If you don't have travel medical insurance, it can quickly drain your bank account if you get sick. One study found it can be up to 12 times more expensive to spend the night in a hospital abroad than at a five-star luxury hotel, making it costly and frightening.

"Not having the proper insurance can cost you a lot of money, and you'll be scared and nervous. People are understandably hesitant about what to do and that's where we come in," said Justin Tysdal, CEO of Seven Corners in Carmel.

Tysdal says, if you get sick in a foreign hospital, some countries demand payment before you can leave. Doctors say you can leave, but unless you cough up the money for the hospital bill, you have to stay in the hospital until you pay for it. Medical insurance is $2 to $10 a day, depending on your age and the amount of coverage.

Back to Alysan who got malaria while studying in Africa. Her mom said she couldn't fly home on a commercial plane because of the virus she contracted. Her mother was beside herself.

"We did have a friend who is from South Africa who was very honest with us and said by the time you get there either Ally will be dead or Ally will be getting better, that's how malaria works," said Susan Motz, Alysan's mother.

But Alysan had medical travel insurance which she purchased from Seven Corners. She got her treatment in a Ghana hospital and when she was well enough to fly, they arranged transportation home. If you or someone you know gets insurance, and sickness happens while overseas, call the insurance company as soon as possible because they can help, and they want to.

"We can help you get in the right hospital, the right facility, check out the doctor, work out a billing arrangement, and get all those things sorted out ahead of time," said Tysdal.

If you travel a lot, you can buy an annual travel insurance policy for about $100 to $150. Alysan said she spent just $35 total for her travel medical insurance policy. She said it she saved thousands of dollars--and possibly her life.

"When I got to the airport in Africa, they automatically had a wheelchair for me," she said. "From there, I went to Amsterdam and then I flew right back home, back to myself."

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.