What I Spent: Travel Insurance and Average Medical Costs

How a low up-front investment can result in major savings down the line

For many travelers, the question of travel insurance comes down to three factors: the cost, the itinerary, and how their travels could be affected by international situations. However, what many travelers do not consider is the cost of getting ill or injured while abroad.

Most travelers are well educated about many common travel insurance benefits, including trip cancellation, trip delay, and baggage loss. Many travelers trust the travel insurance policies already granted through their credit cards. In these situations, what often goes overlooked are the health care benefits that come with a strong travel insurance policy. Under the right plan, a traveler can be covered for falling ill while abroad, becoming injured in an accident, or even requiring an emergency evacuation home.

Before getting stuck with the bill for medical care, make sure to know the cost of travel insurance versus the cost of an international hospital stay. Here's what you may end up spending if your next trip...MORE ends up in the emergency room. 

  • 01 of 06

    Average Cost of Travel Insurance: $263.48

    Did you know your travel insurance can do this for you?
    ••• asbe/Creative RF/Getty Images

    According to the American Express 2016 Spending and Saving Tracker survey, four out of five Americans will take at least one summer vacation this year. Of those, nearly a quarter will be traveling outside the country on one of those vacations. The average price of a trip is $948 per person, bringing up the tab for a family of four to $3,792.

    Although the price of travel insurance can vary based on several factors, insurance broker InsureMyTrip estimates an average travel insurance policy should cost between four and ten percent of the trip cost. At the median price of seven percent, an average travel insurance policy for a family of four should cost around $263.48.

    While this is an average estimate, the actual cost of a travel insurance policy will vary between providers and among certain factors. These can include the age of the travelers, the length of their trip, and their destination countries.

  • 02 of 06

    Cost of Ambulance Transport: $434 or more

    Would you know how to find an ambulance in another country?
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    No matter where we travel in the world, accidents and medical situations can happen. Although some travelers may identify their condition and self-transport themselves to care, many more may be incapacitated and require assistance. In these situations, travelers may need an ambulance to transport them to the hospital.

    While the costs of an ambulance in the United States have been widely documented, ambulance costs vary around the world. In some situations, such as Ireland, travelers who are ultimately transported to an emergency room may not be responsible for the cost of their ambulance. In other parts of the world, such as Singapore, ambulance transportation can cost as much as $434, for a trip from the hospital to the airport tarmac for an emergency evacuation.

    Although some emergency transportation costs are covered in the United States under health insurance, many common insurance providers – including Medicare – will not cover travelers outside the United States. Therefore, without...MORE travel insurance, travelers may be forced to pay for their coverage on their own.

  • 03 of 06

    Cost of Hospitalization: Up to $1,742 per day

    Being unaware of what you're doing while you travel could result in a cancellation of your travel insurance policy. Are you fully covered?
    ••• Keith Brofsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    In 2015, United States State Department data revealed over 900 Americans were killed abroad, with the majority of those deaths coming from traffic accidents, drowning, and other assorted incidents. For those killed, there are many more who required a hospital stay to overcome an illness or injury. Although nobody plans for a detour to a hospital while abroad, an unexpected accident can cost travelers in the long run.

    According to The Washington Post, those without travel insurance can face high fees for every day they are in the hospital. In Australia, hospitalization can cost up to $1,742 per day, while that same room can cost over $700 in France and The Netherlands.

    Without travel insurance coverage, the State Department warns travelers are responsible for covering all of their expenses in a hospital. Although the embassy can help travelers arrange for money transfers from home, they cannot guarantee pay for hospital care, nor can they refer travelers to a doctor or send a doctor to...MORE help travelers in distress

  • 04 of 06

    Cost of MRI or CT Scans: Up to $1,072 per scan

    This man is receiving a CT Scan - which he may have paid for out of pocket without travel insurance.
    ••• Hero Images/Creative RF/Getty Images

    For those who need even more comprehensive scanning due to internal injuries, a doctor may prescribe a MRI scan – short for magnetic resonance imaging. Another common scan is a computerized tomography, or a CT Scan. While these scans can create intricately detailed images of the human body, they can also come at a very high price.

    According to The Washington Post report, a MRI can cost over $1,000 while abroad. The most expensive country for MRI scans is South Africa, followed by Switzerland, New Zealand, Chile, and France. Across Europe, the cheapest MRI was found in Spain, for an average price of $230.

    CT Scans also come at a very high price as well. The newspaper discovered the cheapest cost for an abdomen CT Scan in both South Africa and Switzerland, was over $400, on average. All other places surveyed in Europe, including The Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom, all charged over $150 for a CT Scan.

    Although these scans may be life-saving, they also come at a price. Be sure to...MORE check if your travel insurance policy will cover these exams if warranted medically necessary by a doctor. 

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Cost of Follow-Up Examinations: Over $30 Per Visit

    Does the pre-existing condition waiver matter? If you suffer from any type of condition...then it probably does.
    ••• Adam Berry/Getty Images News

    Of all the situations that a traveler may run into while abroad, seeing a doctor for an office visit may be the most reasonable cost they may come across. In countries surveyed around the world by The Washington Post, the most expensive routine office visit cost residents $38 on average in Chile.

    However, much like in the United States, the availability of doctors may vary around the world. Furthermore, being able to see a doctor at the average price may be difficult, due to language barriers and office policies. The local embassy can often help travelers find a doctor, while a travel insurance policy can help find doctors that will accept their policy as payment, or guarantee of payment. 

  • 06 of 06

    Cost of Air Ambulance: $10,000 and above per evacuation

    This medical evacuation jet could cost travelers upwards of $10,000, without a travel insurance policy.
    ••• Paul Nelhams/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Finally, every traveler dreams of returning home in the forward cabins of their airline's aircraft – not the forward cabin of an air ambulance. Those who encounter serious injuries while overseas may require a return trip in a specially outfitted air ambulance, capable of providing life support from the traveler's hospital to their home country.

    Riding in an air ambulance is not cheap, either domestically or internationally. In an article published by The New York Times, a spokesperson for the Association of Air Medical Services estimated the average price of an air ambulance to be $10,000 or more. Without the right travel insurance plan, a traveler may be forced to pay those costs up front, before returning home aboard the air ambulance.

    When faced with the difficult choice of using an air ambulance, be sure to contact a travel insurance provider first and foremost. Although travel insurance providers may not provide assistance after an incident, purchasing a travel insurance...MORE policy before leaving home can ensure travelers are covered in the event of an emergency. 

Although the cost of medical care around the world may vary, travelers can avoid these costs through the right travel insurance policy. With careful planning and asking key questions, every traveler can see the world with confidence, without worrying about spending their money on medical care expenses.