“You should have read the fine print”
is one of those cliches that is used so often as a punch line or lesson in stories. But the reason any phrase becomes a cliche in the first place is because it’s used so often, and it’s used often because it’s the truth. And these days, most everything comes with fine print and you ignore it at your peril; and that includes insurance policies.
The trick to buying insurance is that you need to be aware of the fine print; the exclusions, conditions, terms, and whatever else they come up with. Let’s turn a spotlight on a particular form of insurance that many credit card companies offer these days: travel health insurance.
Fine Print Can Be Hazardous To Your Financial Health
Okay, this seems pretty straightforward; you want to take a trip, but realizing that anything can happen at anytime, anywhere, you buy health insurance coverage to deal with any incident that arises during your trip. But you need to be careful.
There are a ton of credit cards out there, and each one has its own unique set of rules for coverage. For instance, there’s differences in what age ranges are covered (especially true for seniors), and the duration of the coverage.
Seniors looking for travel medical insurance face the most fine print hassles
The big bugaboo is pre-existing conditions. Again this is a big one for seniors, since, by existing longer, they are more likely to have conditions. Makes sense, right? For instance, some carriers won’t pay benefits for expenses that stem directly or indirectly from a pre-existing condition. And different carriers have different ideas of the time frame used to define a pre-existing condition!
And the real tricky part, the thing that’s really a nasty unexpected turn, is when you buy a policy where no questions are asked when you first set up the insurance, and the carrier has an underwriting process that doesn’t take place when the policy is issued. Instead, the policy kicks in when a claim is actually filed. So in other words, you could purchase travel health insurance in March, then develop asthma in April. So you go off on vacation in May, have an asthma-related incident that needs treatment, but you’re out of luck, because it’s defined as a pre-existing condition, even though when you first bought the policy you had no such condition. Claim denied!
The best way to avoid this, incidentally, is to get a policy that does requires either a physical or at the very least a health questionnaire first.
Check Your Own Health Insurance Fine Print
The credit card company-issued policies are just supplemental coverage. Before you commit, it’s wise to read the fine print on your regular health insurance policy. See what they cover when you’re away from home or out of the country. After all, if they end up offering very generous coverage when you’re on a trip, then why bother getting a redundant policy?
Here’s Another Cliche: Buyer Beware
Getting insurance is never a bad idea, but be careful of whom you buy it from and under what conditions. A lot of credit card-issued insurance policies are easy to sign up for, many with a free trial period, then they hit you with the monthly fees and yes, the conditions. Always the conditions. Read the fine print, and become an educated consumer.