Best time to buy travel health Insurance

Dear Cautious Traveler,
Today I am going to talk about the timing of getting your travel health insurance. We get many calls from people who are already on their trip (here in the US or abroad) and wonder if they can “now” purchase visitors medical insurance. Of course, we recommend that you purchase your visitors insurance after you have your tickets and travel dates in order so that you are covered from the moment you leave until the time you return (for tricky time zone issues note that all policies begin and end using Eastern Standard Time). However, you can still purchase insurance once you are on your trip.

BUT, we also get a number of calls from people whose loved ones are “already” in the Emergency Room or already not feeling well. In that case, I'm afraid, that your insurance plan (even if you purchase it right away) will NOT cover what is already going on. Remember: you need to buy the visitor medical insurance “before” you need it. To buy a plan and then lie about when symptoms started is not only potentially dangerous to the patient, but would also be constituted as fraud which is a serious crime. Of course, we cannot recommend any such course of action. Better to make your purchase to include all your travel.
However, there are sometime reasonable circumstances for not making your purchase until after you or your loved ones have arrived at your destination. Some people have other coverage that covers them until a certain point, or they change their travel plans and cannot extend a policy they already purchased. People have insurance through school or an employer and now they are changing paths and find themselves without coverage. Or you just forgot. We forgive you, not to worry! In most cases, you can still purchase a policy. The soonest a policy can start coverage is the following day after the purchase, so if you do have a policy that is expiring or you change dates, just be aware of that.

So, while many top rated Visitor insurance companies we work with do not mind that you are already mid-trip when you start your policies, most of their forms are set up with terms like: trip start date, trip end date, date of arrival in US, etc. You must always answer the questions honestly and straightforwardly. Generally, you can put the date you want the policy to start (even if it was not your actual start date) and end (even if you may have other plans afterwards). However, if they specifically ask for a date you entered the US, you will have to give it as best as you can remember (if it was 5 years ago in Aug, just give a good guess... Aug, 15, 2014, since you cannot do less than give a particular date). If the form asks if you are already in your destination country, you will have to answer "Yes". That answer may restrict what you can purchase, but there are other options for you.

Here are some plans that do not care how long you have been at your destination country: Patriot America or Patriot International, Atlas America or Atlas International, Liaison Travel Series, Diplomat America or Diplomat International, and Safe Travels plans (although they prefer to cover your whole trip).
Here are some plans that “do” care how long you have been in the US (these are specifically for travel to the US), if you are over 65 years, you must purchase Visitor's Care or Patriot Go Travel plans within 30 days of arrival (these plans are offered by International Medical Group-IMG). However, if you had prior travel Insurance coverage, you can waive this requirement.

If you have been in the US 180 days or longer, you can no longer purchase Inbound Guest (a Seven Corners plan) or Patriot Go Travel (any ages). If you have been in the US longer than 12 months, you can no longer purchase Inbound USA (a Seven Corners plan). And finally, if you have been in the US longer than 24 months, you cannot purchase Inbound Choice or Inbound Immigrant (both Seven Corners plans).

The limitation on the Inbound Immigrant plan may be an issue since this is an economical plan specifically designed for Green Card holders. People who had prior coverage while awaiting their Green Cards should bear this time frame in mind while planning what plan they will use after they become permanent residents of the US.

Happy trip planning! Most of these limitations are not an issue at all if you are within 30 days of arrival to your destination. If you are beyond that see what plans are available by using our US Immigrant insurance comparison tool.

Can you buy travel insurance the day you leave?

Yes. You can purchase the insurance the day you leave. A better day would be the day BEFORE the day you leave since a policy cannot start until the following day, so you will begin your trip without insurance (which we do not recommend). However, it may make your wait in the airport a bit more productive!

Can I buy travel insurance at the airport?

Yes. Nowadays with airports having internet access, you can certainly purchase your travel insurance from the airport. It is not the most ideal situation (be careful of putting your credit card or personal information while on those open networks). Ideally, you should make your purchase from a more secure location BEFORE you start your travel to get the most out of your policy.

Can I buy travel insurance after final payment?

Yes. You can purchase trip cancellation insurance at any point before the start of the trip. Of course, you get the most out of the policy the sooner you make your purchase. AND, some companies will give you coverage for pre-existing conditions as long as you buy it within 10 or 15 days of your INITIAL trip deposit. So, again, this may not be the most ideal time to make your purchase, but better now than never and safer than sorry!

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