Do you Need Travel Insurance if Medical Care is Cheap?

June 6, 2012

developing world hospital care

Depending on where you are traveling, you may have access to highly affordable medical care. In fact, medical care may be so cheap that you may consider foregoing insurance. In this post, I will talk about a personal experience with cheap medical care and why I continue to buy travel insurance.

While traveling in West Africa in 2010, I dealt with ongoing intestinal ailments. I mostly had bacterial forms of traveler’s diarrhea, but I also had amoebic dysentery. At a separate point, I also got an enormous gash on my leg after falling into an open sewer (yeah, I know..).

Treatment for all of these incidents and illnesses cost me less than $100. The reason that number is important is because that is a standard deductible offered by many travel insurance policies. Anything under $100 and you need to cover it out of your own pocket. Above that amount and the policy will provide coverage. In other words, my travel insurance didn’t help me out on this trip and I wasn’t reimbursed for any of my expenses.

In many developing world countries, the cost of medical care is cheap. Drugs can be purchased without prescription and they often cost far less than they would in first world countries. Lab tests, basic doctor visits, and simple treatments are also extraordinarily affordable as well. So why do you need to buy travel insurance if the medical care is so cheap in these countries?

The reason I continue to buy travel insurance is that you don’t know to what extent you may need medical care. If it is a simple visit to the doctor followed by a prescription for cipro, that’s one thing. It’s entirely another if you are involved in a car accident and you need serious, high level care. In some cases, you may need to go to more expensive clinics in the city you are in, and in others, you may actually need to be flown out of the country. If that is the case, your medical costs will skyrocket in a matter of no time.

When you consider that travel insurance is not a prohibitive expense then the decision should be even easier. While it can be tempting to forego travel insurance in light of cheap medical care costs in some parts of the world. You should always be prepared for the worst.

Photo credit: flickr user chelseastirlen

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