LGBTQ Travel: Stay Safe and Travel Smart

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June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and community members and allies alike are joining together to celebrate equality. In 2015, for the first time in U.S. history, the  Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage on a national level, granting the LGBT community the right to travel domestically without fear of their marital status changing as they crossed state lines. But even with safer domestic and international travel due to a worldwide shift in attitude about gender and sexuality, there are still many risk factors for travelers, regardless of their sexual orientation. Whether it’s traveling across town, out of state or across the world, LGBT travelers — this month and every other month — should still take precautions when leaving home.

With more than 100 million Americans expected to take a family vacation in 2019, and two thirds of those planning a summer vacation, it’s important for travelers to be covered in case of emergency. But how exactly can these travelers protect themselves? Travel insurance can help with a number of unforeseen instances that may occur before or during a trip, including lost or stolen baggage, delayed or cancelled flights, illnesses, injuries, and more.

In the spirit of safe travel, we’ll look at the benefits of having a travel insurance plan while traveling and examine the story of an LBGT couple who found themselves in a scary situation while halfway around the world.

What is travel medical insurance?

Unlike Europe, most American travelers consider travel insurance to be unnecessary. Also, American often don’t know that in most cases, their health insurance coverage ends at the border. When your coverage does follow you overseas, it’s often limited to life-threatening emergencies. To ensure your is health protected when you travel internationally, consider purchasing a travel medical insurance plan.

Travel medical insurance provides high limits of medical coverage to protect international travelers. You can choose your limit of coverage (Some are as high as $5,000,000.) and your deductible (the amount you pay before the insurance company begins to pay on a claim). So, if you broke your leg while traveling in a foreign country, you’d be responsible for only your deductible and coinsurance (the payment you share with the insurance company).

In addition, most travel medical plans provide customers with access to an international network of medical providers and 24/7 travel assistance services. If you need help finding a reputable doctor, you can use the network and contact the travel assistance team for help. The travel services also include other types of assistance such as arranging an emergency medical evacuation if appropriate medical care is not available at your location. It could also include help finding the nearest embassy, translation services, and more.

And it’s not just illnesses and injuries that are covered by a travel medical policy, some plans also provide emergency services such as political evacuation and natural disaster evacuation.

What is trip protection insurance?

The second type of travel insurance to consider is trip protection, which is handy for travelers venturing to both foreign and domestic destinations. With air travel expenses expected to increase by 2.6% in 2019 and hotel expenses expected to rise by more than 3.7%, this type of plan protects the financial investment made in the trip and can help you recuperate non-refundable, prepaid trip costs, such as airline and hotel room expenses, if you need to cancel, interrupt or delay your trip.

There are a number of covered reasons for which your trip protection plan would kick in, including inclement weather, sickness or death, bankruptcy of an operator, strike, and more. Additionally, trip protection plans can assist with flight delays or a missed cruise or tour connection. These plans can also help if your luggage is lost, damaged, or stolen. And finally, there are typically medical insurance benefits for illnesses and injuries that arise during your trip.

Some trip protection plans even offer an optional Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) benefit, which allows travelers to cancel their trip for literally any reason they wish and receive reimbursement for at least 75 percent of their nonrefundable trip expenses. That way if an unusual situation arises that could cause you to cancel your trip or if you simply decide it’s just not the right time to travel, you’re covered.

According to the 2014 – 2016 Travel Protection Market Study by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association (UStiA), plans that include trip cancellation/interruption benefits accounted for more than 87% of the travel protection products purchased in 2016, making this one of the most common types of plans purchased by travelers.

What to do in an emergency situation

Every traveler purchases trip insurance with the hopes of never needing  to file a claim, but if an emergency situation arises — medical or otherwise — it’s nice to know someone is there to help.

Take Daniel and Felipe for example. While traveling on an extended trip to southeast Asia, Felipe fell ill with what he thought was food poisoning. After 24 hours of severe stomach pain, he and his partner paid a visit to a clinic in Yangon, Myanmar for treatment. After a CT scan and some back and forth with doctors who believed Felipe would need emergency surgery, Daniel called their travel insurance provider for assistance.

Just moments after receiving the call, the company’s emergency assist team leapt into action to ensure Felipe’s medical provider in Yangon could provide appropriate medical care. After determining an emergency medical evacuation was medically necessary, the company coordinated a private air ambulance to transport Felipe and his partner to a hospital in Thailand.

Eventually, Felipe was diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis, due to a bacterial infection, and he spent another eight days in the hospital recuperating. Fortunately, the travel medical plan the couple purchased included a benefit that allowed Daniel to stay by his side at no additional cost to the couple. Once Felipe was cleared to travel, the 24/7 travel assistance services provided by the plan coordinated return flights home to allow Felipe to continue recovering before the couple returned to their travels.

The moral of the story? Expect the unexpected and make sure you’re covered no matter where your travels take you.

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