But I was still suspicious. I offered a hypothetical to the customer service phone line: What if, in an emergency, I ended up at an out-of-network hospital because I couldn’t communicate with paramedics or there was no affiliated hospital nearby?
The representative was stumped, put me on hold and came back. “I checked with a supervisor,” she said. “The claim would come through, we would deny it, then you would have to appeal it,” she said.
Appeals, she added, were made on a “case by case” basis.
In other words: Good luck. On the other hand, many travel insurance policies will reimburse medical expenses no matter what hospital you end up at.
Freelancers wouldn’t speak on the record to clarify further. But since I wouldn’t be engaging in any high-risk activities and I had a fighting chance of being covered should the very unlikely worst-case scenario occur, I decided the medical coverage added minimal benefit. I did, though, arm myself with a printout of all the affiliated facilities in the areas I was visiting.
• Emergency evacuation: This one is simple: Without coverage, if I have to be medically evacuated home from a distant land, I’m out something like $30,000. So it comes down to how likely the scenario is. Headed to a particularly isolated region? Climbing mountains or fording rivers? Then having evacuation coverage as part of a package or separately (the cheapest I found for my trip on insuremytrip.com was $40) is a good idea.
• Travel protection: This kind of insurance offers reimbursement (sometimes partial) for prepaid reservations if your trip is canceled, interrupted or delayed. I rarely spend much on a trip before I leave beyond the plane ticket (always coach) and maybe the first night in a hotel (always cheap). But for others, with expensive seats and long prepaid reservations, it might make sense.
Also worth noting: Some credit cards will provide similar coverage. My United Mileage Plus Explorer card from Chase does. And although it is probably harder to get a claim processed with Chase than with World Nomads, I didn’t see much justification for duplicate coverage.
• Baggage protection: World Nomads will reimburse you for items lost or damaged in transit and cover expenses incurred because luggage is delayed. For me, this was triplicate coverage: My credit card covers this, and airlines are legally required to reimburse you as well, with limitations.
But the Nomads policy also covers damages and loss beyond your flight. I carry around about $3,000 of electronic equipment everywhere I go, and World Nomads would cover up to $500 per item (after depreciation). It’s worth it to determine the value of what’s inside your baggage and do the math.
Of course, whether you get reimbursed is partly up to you. A World Nomads customer service representative gave this example: If you leave your cellphone in your bathing suit and go into the water, it’s not covered. That’s not only the kind of thing I do, it’s exactly what I did on a New Year’s Eve a few years ago in Rio de Janeiro.
• Accidental death and dismemberment: I’ve never understood this one. If you need life insurance, wouldn’t you want it for the whole year, not just when you’re traveling? And if you lose a limb, will a few grand — what World Nomads offers — really help? (Note that life insurance companies will ask about your travel habits; so be sure you’re honest when you apply — and if you already have coverage, be sure it covers the countries you’re visiting.)
So is it worth it?
Although some elements of the World Nomads package might have benefited me, I decided the package as a whole didn’t make sense for my trip. (I did end up buying a yearlong medevac plan I found through insuremytrip.com for $225.)
Although my initial instinct to avoid package insurance had been (coincidentally) right, the process was valuable anyway: I now know a lot more about my medical coverage and credit card perks. Everyone should make similar calculations.
Of course, there’s one more variable: If you’re a worrier and having coverage for every imaginable circumstance will allow you to relax and enjoy your trip, then go ahead and do it. I just won’t be joining you.