It’s that time of the year when everybody wants to escape. Be it the heat, daily duties or the drudgeries of life, travel is on the mind.

Travel insurance should also pop up and here are a few thoughts as you pack your bags and call your insurance agent. As it happens, I had a handful of friends calling me up to ask about policies to choose. Many shared good experiences on past claims while abroad, others did not, and are pursuing some articulate response from their insurer. Strangely enough, this fails to happen more often than not. When there is a question, human beings seem to suddenly vanish and you are either talking to a website bot or searching in vain in the app for a button that just does not seem to be there. Voice mail-type complaint numbers, some friends told me, take them in circles and disconnect.

Woes apart, we will come to them later on, here are a few basic, random pieces of advice to buy your medical insurance for travel abroad.

You can buy travel health insurance from insurers in India or at your destination country, things have indeed come a long way in terms of options and flexibility. Yes, rates are higher these days, but so are healthcare costs.

If you have a hospitalisation policy here and you plan a longish stay abroad, you can cash in on a specific benefit. Buy a travel policy from the same insurance company, and you can put your domestic policy on hold for the duration of your stay abroad. For this, your time out of India should be of the minimum duration as per your insurance company rules.

That is, if you are abroad for two months, your domestic policy would be extended by two months. This is because only one of the two will be applicable at any given time and the insured and insurer are the same. Ask in writing and get their concurrence in writing. They will pass an endorsement postponing your renewal date and share it with you.

Here’s a bit of caution, especially for senior citizens. Don’t leave it until the last day to buy your travel insurance. You may be asked for medical tests and you have to factor in the time for it.

Pre-existing conditions

Your pre-existing conditions will have to be declared and will be excluded, as usual. You will be covered for any emergency or accident hospitalisation unrelated to or not aggravated by your pre-existing condition. You can get a policy that covers pre-existing conditions for an extra premium. Bajaj Alliance and ICICI Lombard have policies as do a few other companies. Either way, not declaring, which is tacitly encouraged, will put you in a difficult spot in these days of better documentation. In fact, many countries require medical tests and health policy as part of visa conditions.

(The writer is a business journalist specialising in insurance & corporate history)

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