Travel Medical Insurance vs. Traditional Health Insurance

The travel insurance market had a global value of $15.9 billion in 2020. Analysts expect that number to grow to $58.9 billion in 2030.

Despite this growth, one survey showed that almost half of American travelers had faced fees or absorbed the cost of losses because they didn’t have travel insurance.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, 36% of Americans now say they’ll likely purchase travel insurance for trips outside the country.

Should you get traditional health or travel medical insurance when planning to travel? Should you still consider getting travel medical insurance if you already have health insurance?

This article explores the benefits and differences between travel medical and traditional health insurance and why you should consider getting travel medical insurance even when you have health insurance. 

The Difference Between Traditional Health Insurance and Travel Medical Insurance

Some of the common differences between travel medical and traditional health insurance are:

  • Coverage: Travel insurance is meant for times when you are traveling away from home. Depending on the plan you buy, some travel medical plans are primary, meaning the insurance company will process your claim(s) as if no other insurance plan exists.

Other plans are secondary or excess. This coverage means the company will process the payment claim only after receiving an explanation of benefits showing how your primary insurance company processed the claim(s).

Travel medical insurance covers numerous potential risks in addition to emergency medical expenses. These risks can include trip cancellations, baggage theft, or personal property damage.

So, if the airline loses your baggage, you may be able to make a claim to obtain reimbursement with travel insurance.

For U.S. citizens and residents traveling from the USA to other countries, Safe Travels insurance plans provide coverage for the following:

  • Accident and sickness medical
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Repatriation
  • Acts of terrorism
  • Treatment location: Traditional, primary health insurance plans typically only apply in your home country. If you travel to a foreign location and encounter a medical emergency, travel insurance can help provide emergency care in that country.

Safe Travels insurance plans offer medical coverage for COVID-19 up to the policy’s maximum amount. These plans cover and treat COVID-19 expenses as any other sickness.

Other travel insurance plans are limited to emergency procedures only. So you need a separate health insurance plan that can help cover further medical procedures.

For instance, when you return home after your trip and need a follow-up consultation and treatment, your health insurance can come in handy.

  • Coverage for preexisting medical conditions: Many travel insurance plans don’t cover preexisting medical conditions.

So if you need such coverage, consider getting a rider (an add-on or optional benefit) with your travel insurance. You can also buy a separate health insurance policy to get the appropriate coverage.

Health insurance plans can cover preexisting and future conditions because the premium you pay includes the price of such risks.

For more information on health or medical insurance, provides options that offer medical expense coverage for conditions like cancer.

  • Coverage tenure: Travel insurance plans provide temporary coverage for the trip’s duration.

If you buy an annual policy, travel medical insurance can cover you throughout multiple trips in a year, but not the whole year.

If you’re traveling to the U.S. from another country, Safe Travels USA provides excess temporary sickness or accident coverage extendable up to 364 days.

Meanwhile, for U.S. citizens or residents traveling from the United States to other countries, Safe Travels Outbound is a temporary travel medical plan that provides coverage for 5 to 180 days.

Safe Travels Outbound offers policyholders medical, emergency medical evacuation, security evacuation, and repatriation. The plan also includes coverage for COVID-19 expenses.

On the other hand, if you need medical expense coverage for one year or longer, consider getting traditional health insurance.

Should You Still Get Travel Medical Insurance if You Have Health Insurance?

If you’re traveling outside of your home country, travel medical insurance is essential.

Your primary health insurance provider may have limited or no coverage in specific countries. So if you travel to those locations and incur medical expenses, your health insurance will not reimburse you.

Consider getting travel medical insurance to cover accident or emergency expenses while traveling or in a different country.


  1. Size of the global travel insurance market in 2020, with forecasts from 2021 to 2030

  1. Travel Insurance: Major Types, Coverages, and Costs