The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Travel InsuranceOur clients know the importance of purchasing travel insurance to cover any unexpected expenses that can come up if you have to cancel your vacation after making payments (especially final payments). In addition it provide medical insurance when traveling outside the country. Most U.S. health insurance companies do not provide medical coverage internationally.
Did you know that there is a big difference in how a claim is handled depending on whether your policy is a primary or a secondary policy?
The majority of travel insurance purchased is secondary insurance. What this means is that if something happens medically when you are traveling and you have to go to a hospital or doctor, you have to pay the doctor or hospital out of your pocket, save your receipts, and send them in to your travel insurance company to be reimbursed.
There are policies that are primary policies. With a primary policy, if you get hurt or have to be hospitalized, you call the travel insurance company and they take care of everything, including payment. There is usually no reason that you have to pay out of your own pocket - the insurance company takes care of that right from the start.
A secondary policy, which is frequently called "excess" medical coverage provides coverage in excess of all other valid health insurance. If your U.S. health insurance pays any part of your claim, the travel insurance will reimburse you for anything not covered. Or, if your health insurance totally rejects your claim, the secondary policy picks up the costs.
What is the difference? The main difference is price. A primary policy will always cost you more than a secondary policy. However, some travel insurance companies allow you to upgrade a secondary policy to a primary for a nominal price (we use a company that can do so for as little as $25 pp).
Second difference is convenience. With a secondary policy you must first pay out of your pocket. A foreign hospital will often tell you that you have to give them a credit card with a certain amount of available credit ($2,000 and up) before they will treat you. We knew of a passenger that had his credit card stolen while in Rome and then had a heart event on a ship. He was evacuated off the ship but the hospital he was taken to would not treat him until someone was able to provide a card with $40,000 of credit available.
This can entail having to use multiple cards or calling your credit card company while you are at the hospital asking them to add more credit to your account for the emergency.
With a secondary policy you will also have to submit any medical bills to your own health insurance company, have the payments rejected, then you file the claim with the travel insurance company.
In most cases, you may only need a primary policy if you are traveling outside the U.S. A secondary policy is usually enough for traveling within the U.S. and would cover charges that are over and above what your health insurance covers.
It is important to understand these differences and ask your travel agent or insurance company what type of policy you are purchasing so you don't have any surprises while you are traveling.
Call us to book your travel insurance and make sure you are covered for any unexpected circumstances that can happen before and during your travels. 516-608-0568