Travel Medical Insurance – Primary Coverage vs. Secondary Coverage

This post is about the differences between primary and secondary Medical coverage on the policies that we sell here at  I would say that nearly one third of the policies that we sell here are for people who are primarily interested in seeking out medical insurance for their trip.  For many of these client’s, their health insurance in the United States ceases to cover them when they leave the country or coverage changes because they are traveling outside their coverage area. Others don’t have health insurance and want to make sure that they are covered when they travel.  Either Primary or Secondary plans would work for these travelers, but some may save you a hassle in the event of a claim.  I’d like to give an explanation of each type to help you out with your decision.

I’ll start off with Secondary plans because they tend be more involved that Primary plans.  We note these plans on our site by placing the number “2″ right after the medical amount.  Secondary Coverage means that before you can submit the medical claim to the travel insurance company, you are required to submit it first to your primary health insurance company.  This is required even if your primary health insurance back home does not, or will not cover you outside the U.S.A‚  The travel insurance company requires proof that it won’t be covered before they will pay out the claim.  This can cause delays until their primary health insurance company provide a letter stating that they are not covered outside the U.S. because the travel insurance won’t pay the claim until they get that letter.  The end result is your claim gets stuck in limbo until you can get it sorted out.  Now this doesn’t happen to everyone, but it can happen.

For people without health insurance, Secondary Coverage is fine.  You don’t have to worry about submitting the claim to your insurance company (since you don’t have one) and can just submit the claim directly to the travel insurance company.  Travelers that do have a primary health insurance company and who are interested in getting medical insurance for their trip outside the U.S. and don’t want to deal with the potential hassle of having to go through their primary company first should look into medical policies that are primary.  Primary Medical Policies are any plans that are not marked with a number after the medical amount.  With Primary plans you can just submit the claim directly to the insurance company.

One thing that I’d like to add is that Primary Medical Coverage is not necessarily better than Secondary Medical Coverage.  I’d feel fine traveling with either of them and in fact, on my last trip to Europe, my policy had Secondary Medical Coverage.  I just wanted to explain the difference between the two so you would get a better understanding of how it works and make your choice.

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