During the economic recession of the last decade, business travel dropped significantly as corporate budgets tightened and frequent business travelers were effectively grounded. According to several recent reports, however, business travel spending is finally on the rise and companies will send their employees out on the road a lot more this year – to conventions, to meetings, and to visit clients on revenue-generating trips.
When a business traveler hits the road – particularly if they’re traveling overseas or into politically unstable regions of the world – they need specific protection. In some cases, corporations have begun covering their critical employees with insurance plans. In other cases, the business travelers themselves are relying on their corporate credit card travel plans. Still, if you are a business traveler you’ll want to know ahead of time what kind of protection you have, how much coverage you can count on for overseas medical treatment, and more. The following are expert tips for business travelers who may need to buy travel insurance.
1. Review your corporate security program
Some corporations – especially those with employees who frequently travel to other countries – have security programs in place, but many do not. While business travel is on the rise again, it’s a good time to implement a corporate security program to protect not only the company’s assets, but also their employees in case they become ill overseas, get kidnapped or robbed, lose their passport, or encounter some other travel emergency. If you have a corporate travel department, that group may be responsible for coordinating those efforts, but can you get in touch with them on a weekend or at night from a far away time zone?
Many business travel insurance plans have enhanced travel assistance services that will help travelers book alternative flights, track lost luggage, find local medical care and even locate translators, qualified drivers, business equipment, and more.
2. Double-check your existing health benefits
Many companies who know their staff travels often extend their health insurance benefits outside the U.S., but it takes some research to understand how much coverage you’ll have if you need it. A call to your benefits department or your health insurance company can help point you to the section in your health insurance guide that describes your benefit range.
3. Know how you’ll get home if you’re injured
Consider this scenario: You’re on a business trip in India and while riding in a taxi to your meeting, the taxi crashes into another vehicle. You’re unconscious, seriously injured, and the local hospitals in the area cannot adequately treat your injuries. Do you have a way to be transported to a U.S. hospital?
If you’re injured and need a medical evacuation, it’s important to know ahead of time whether you can charge that on the corporate credit card or not. If not, then a business travel insurance plan with coverage for emergency medical evacuations is your next best bet to get you home if you need medical care.
4. Consider whether you’re a kidnapping target
No joke, kidnapping is big business in some countries and foreign tourists and business travelers are likely targets because they’re carrying money (or the cards that lend access to money). In some countries, armed carjacking and kidnapping is a highly popular way to obtain money either from calling in a ransom or by visiting cash machines. The kidnappings outside the U.S. are very rarely prosecuted solved.
As a business traveler, you have to take precautions to prevent kidnapping but there are some travel insurance plans that provide some protection for business travelers too.
See Kidnap, Extortion, and Ransom Protection for Corporate Employees for more details.
5. Check that corporate credit card travel plan
Corporate credit card companies often compete pretty hard for the largest share of the business traveler market and they offer a range of useful enticements like airport club privileges, bonus miles, and Global Entry, the federal government’s customs-bypass program. In most cases, the travel protection offered with a credit card travel protection plan is about managing the inconveniences of travel. The medical assistance with a credit card’s travel protection plan, for example, is focused on helping you locate a nearby medical facility and allowing you to charge the costs on your credit card. Still, a business traveler should understand the benefits they get with their corporate credit card because they may come in handy.
6. Buy your own annual business travel plan – it’s cheap!
Can you convince your company to fund annual travel insurance plans for those who travel often for the business? Perhaps, they’re certainly cheap enough but if you’re not concerned about trip cancellations because the money isn’t coming out of your own pocket, then buying your own annual travel medical plan is a very good idea. It will cover not only your business travel, but your leisure travel as well and you’ll have one plan – one team to call – all year long.
The following image shows some quotes for annual plans for a healthy (no pre-existing medical conditions) 47-year-old traveler from the U.S. who wanted a minimum of $50,000 in emergency medical coverage and some coverage for trip interruption:
You’ll notice the IMG plan premium is significantly higher, and that’s likely due to the (perhaps overly) high limit on emergency medical.
7. Understand the differences with annual travel medical plans
When you purchase an annual travel plan, there are a few things to know:
You won’t have a lot of cancellation coverage (if any) – if you’re a business traveler, however, the costs of your trip aren’t coming out of your pocket so the cancellation of a trip is not affecting your personal wallet.
Instead of trip cancellation coverage, annual plans usually offer at least some (return only) trip interruption coverage so if you are called home to handle an emergency, you’ll have the coverage you need to get home quickly.
Your travel medical coverage will likely be secondary – which is fine because when your health insurance coverage back home does not have coverage for where you are traveling, your secondary coverage automatically becomes primary.