View Full Version : Travel Insurance

09-20-2015, 05:17 PM
High Season here in Costa Rica is in full swing for me right now (mine starts in September), and as usual, I have already fielded several questions about Travel Insurance.

My Definitive answer on this subject is that Travel Insurance is ALWAYS a Bad Deal.

With that said... there are no absolute answers that apply to everyone and every situation. Sometimes, even though it may be the wrong thing to do, financially speaking, Travel Insurance is occasionally (very rarely) appropriate. I have, on 3 or 4 occasions, purchased Travel Insurance for a client. Some factors to consider...

1) Do you have "Travel Paranoia"? Some people are deathly afraid of something happening while they are on vacation or traveling. If $49 is a "small price to pay," and you will be worrying and unable to sleep during your entire trip without it, then by all means, buy it. A good deep-tissue massage while I'm traveling does the same thing for me, and that costs me $100. So, if it really does improve your state of mind and no one can convince you otherwise, it's not an incorrect decision to purchase Travel Insurance in that case.

2) Does Travel Insurance cover things that are already covered? Often, it does. I don't want to write a book here, but Travel Delay, Flight Cancellation, and Lost Baggage are covered by most Airlines already. Airlines, Hotels, and Resorts will often give you a break if you get sick or delayed.

In most cases, all that Travel Insurance does is give you an extra "Cash Payout" for those incidents.

However, even that is not guaranteed, as the fine print of your Travel Insurance Policy might read, "Only if not covered by the airline, hotel, etc."

Medical coverage should be provided by your current Health Insurance. If you're traveling to foreign countries, you should already have Health Insurance that covers you in foreign countries. Many Health Insurance policies already provide this in their standard coverage. It is likely that your own Health Insurance already covers it -- you'll need to dig deep and read the fine print, or just call your Insurance Company. If you don't have a Health Insurance policy with foreign coverage, then get one that does.

3) Medical Evacuation coverage is something about which the companies that issue Travel Insurance Policies make a big deal. It is true that a Medical Evacuation can cost $10,000 or more. But ask yourself, "Do I Really Need coverage for a Medical Evacuation?" You can answer your own question by answering another two questions: ONE... "Do I carry Medical Evacuation coverage back home?" and TWO... "Is Medical Evacuation coverage something that I Need?"

Medical Evacuation is often thought as something that will get you back to the USA. WHY? Some things to consider are the level of care available where you are, how you're going to pay for that care, and why it's so important for you to get back to the USA. If your Health Insurance covers you in Costa Rica, you don't need a Medical Evacuation in Costa Rica any more than you would need Medical Evacuation in the USA. Your Health Insurance may even provide for some level of Medical Evacuation. Personally... If I'm in such bad shape that I need to fly in an Air Ambulance if I choose to travel, then I don't want to be in a Learjet over the Atlantic Ocean. In a situation like this, you want to be near your family, of course, but it's much safer for you if they fly to Costa Rica to be with you. Most hospitals will help you locate some long-term stay options. Keep in mind that this is the same situation you would be facing if you live in Florida and got hurt in Colorado.

The Medical Care in Costa Rica is top-notch. You just need to make sure that you get to one of the Private Hospitals, not one of the State-Run "Freebie" Hospitals, at least once you are in stable condition.

Medical Evacuation for remote areas is a completely different issue. For example, if you go way out in the wilderness to climb mountains, might need a Helicopter Evacuation if you are severely injured. That has nothing to do with Travel Insurance. If you're the kind of person that does this kind of stuff, then you should look at separate insurance coverage for Emergency Medical Evacuation. This applies to Costa Rica, the USA, and any other country.

4) Are you paying for excessive coverage? Many Travel Insurance policies have ridiculous limits, such as "$5000 in Lost Baggage coverage." Who in hell travels around with $5000 worth of stuff? If you're traveling with $5000 worth of stuff, you're doing something wrong. Keep in mind that the Travel Insurance Company is only going to pay for what you can Prove.

5) The fine print in a Travel Insurance policy can be quite hostile. Don't count on them paying for anything without a fight. Of course, some companies are better than others.

09-20-2015, 05:51 PM
Just a bit on using Health Insurance coverage in Costa Rica, from my Personal Experience...

I don't even bother with my "Caja" stuff. I use the doctors that I like, and I go to the private hospitals. The experience is almost exactly the same as in the USA, except that for some doctors and dentists I have to file my own claim. They usually give me 60 days to pay, which is plenty of time. It is best to ask up front if they will file your claim for you. If they won't, then you need to see a sample copy of their receipts and make sure that it complies with the Insurance Company's rules. My Insurance Company provides me with a generic form that a doctor or dentist can fill out, to make sure that you have the required information on the receipt.

For the hospitals and most doctors, it's as easy as handing them my Passport and my Insurance Card. I have to use my Passport because the Health Insurance that I have was issued in the USA by a European company. I have a Blue Cross/Blue Shield policy that was issued by one of the organizations that I belong to, but you can usually get a decent policy from several sources.

As soon as anyone sees that Blue Cross Logo, they just start smiling and nodding their head.

It also helps to have "limit" sheet with you, if you're going to have to file your own claim, so that the doctor/dentist knows how much your Insurance will pay for various services. This is usually not an issue.

Jaco Hank
09-20-2015, 10:35 PM
I dont have health insurance in the USA (no Obamacare for me!) but I do have access to decent VA healthcare (most media reports are grossly exaggerated about the level of care--it is not perfect and waiting times for primary care can be lengthy but once in the system followups for specialty care are reasonable ) when I come to CR i do fork over my $ for a MEDEX policy that gives me $50,000 in benefits if I need it here in CR and $100,000 to get home on the remote chance that CIMA (Or similar couldnt fix me up). I am reminded of the German Tourist that was injured out on the Nicoya Penisula and denied Air Ambulance due to lack of insurance (or lack of sufficient credit card limit to pay the deposit) so by the time he got to San Jose (by road) he had to have a limb (or two--dont know all the details) amputated when he probably could have recovered had he been airlifted. I have had the personal experience of having to wire funds to a family member who needed air evacuation from Cancun so I may be overly paranoid for someone in excellent health (for someone in their 50's). The trip cancellation stuff is fluff but I noticed Turrialba was venting pretty good when viewed from the summit of Irazu this morning so who knows it may pay off..

09-21-2015, 12:14 PM
Lack of health insurance is the primary concern. It's important to make sure that what you have is going to get you the care that you might need at CIMA or one of the other private hospitals.

The guys who lose the Medical Evacuation Lottery always make the news, but there is nothing special about Costa Rica in that regard. The guy could have been on the Nicoya Peninsula or in Yellowstone in the USA. Any remote location, anywhere in the world, always carries a risk of being a long time away from adequate medical care. There is nothing that the USA can offer that Costa Rica cannot offer, except perhaps some kind of exotic, breakthrough procedure -- and those are unique to various countries. USA, Costa Rica, Germany, UAE, Japan, etc. ALL offer cutting-edge Medical Care that the others do not. It's just as likely that Medical Evacuation FROM the USA TO Costa Rica could save your life or limb.

The volcanoes are a threat if you live near them, but not a significant threat in San Josť. San Josť carries one of the lowest risks of natural disaster anywhere in the world. Earthquakes are the primary threat, but you're relatively safe if you're in an earthquake-resistant structure. The quakes here rarely have the power that those in the USA or Chile have. Tornadoes are extremely rare (1 per 3 years in Costa Rica), no frontal or squall-line thunderstorms, no hurricane has hit Costa Rica in recorded history. The deaths and injury here due to natural disaster are due to poor location or inadequate construction. Mudslides and floods take lives because homes and other structures are built where they shouldn't be.

On the other hand getting back to the area of VA and Medicare coverage is a factor in choosing whether to purchase Medical Evacuation Insurance. I am eligible for neither, so in my case, a Medical Evacuation to the USA offers no benefit whatsoever. I am 15 minutes away from state-of-the-art world-class medical care, with full Health Insurance coverage issued and underwritten in the USA/Europe.

02-22-2016, 03:47 AM
On the subject of Earthquakes...

Yes, they are an issue here in Costa Rica, but probably not as much as you think, and not for the reasons that you think.

Due to the terrain of Costa Rica, and the location of the Fault Lines, there is little risk of a major catastrophic earthquake in Costa Rica. However, a lot of the older construction in Costa Rica is substandard, and a lot of the roadways are still vulnerable to effects of earthquakes. Particularly dangerous... earthquakes combined with heavy rains and flooding. That's the perfect recipe for a landslide, which can definitely wipe out a major road or an entire town. It happens... quite often. The reality is that the major threat facing Costa Rica from earthquakes is the effect upon substandard and poorly-planned construction.

I lived in Southern California for about 3 years. The earthquakes in Southern California make the earthquakes in Costa Rica feel like a small truck just drove by. I've been in at least 7 earthquakes in Costa Rica where the Ticos were panicking and running outside, and I was still drinking at the bar, saying, "You call that an earthquake?"