I recently dislocated my thumb while traveling in Morocco. I'd like to tell you I was camel herding in the Sahara Desert or climbing the second highest piste in the Atlas Mountains but that's not how it happened. Excited, anxious and wide-eyed with wanderlust, I fell off the bus taking me from the airport in Casablanca to the city of Marrakech while hurriedly dismounting to go to the bathroom before departure. It happened not more than a half hour after I first touched Moroccan soil.
The top knuckle of my thumb was obviously in a bad way -- it was at a right angle -- after I all my own body weight came down on it. Instinctively, I set it myself by pulling it straight only seconds after the tourist bus tumble. Then I iced it, before seeking a pharmacist for Advil to reduce the swelling and some form of a splint to stabilize it. By this time it had swelled to the size of a baseball and colored itself black within an hour. On top of the jet-lag, my head swirled as my hand throbbed. Fortunately, Moroccan pharmacists (in the French tradition) are as well-trained as American medical students, and I received amazing care, all the proper pain creams, and a makeshift splint made from gauze and two pieces of wood.
The question was whether or not to seek an X-ray. The dilemma? I did not have travel insurance and my American HMO health care plan did not cover international incidents unless I was hit by bus, been gravely injured or "near death," as my supplier told me upon plan purchase. This all got me thinking. What if I had travel insurance? Would my X-ray or doctor visit have been covered? What if the injury worsened and the break was severe enough to require ligament surgery or bone-resetting? Would changing my flight my home, or worse, having to pay for a new one be covered? With that in mind, immediately upon my return after the eleven-day trip (or right after I got the thumb X-rayed by an orthopedist in the United States), I started to look into travel insurance options.
Fortunately for global travelers, the travel health insurance options are many and, not surprisingly, widely available on the Internet. Best of all, travel insurance includes many more services than just medical care. A good comprehensive plan also includes trip cancellation, baggage replacement, dental, emergency evacuation, travel assistance, accidental death coverage, collision insurance for rented cars, and sometimes insurance for accompanying children.
Travel Guard International (tel. 800/826-4919; www.travelguardinternational.com) is a subsidiary of insurance giant American Insurance Group (AIG). Like many of the other travel insurance providers, Travel Guard offers insurance for cruises, single trips, honeymoons, just travel medical insurance, a full year, family travel, budget travel, sports travel, study abroad, and car rental. Getting a quote for a price or purchasing a travel insurance program is easier than booking an airline ticket. You simply put in the dates of your travel, the price of your trip, and your birthday before receiving an up to the minute quote on for your insurance program. For an eleven-day trip to Morocco with four-star accommodations costing approximately $6,000 with airfare, travel insurance cost $69 for ten days with medevac insurance included. This is for an individual traveler under the age of 75. Family travel cost $124 for ten days and $160 for 20 days per family for travelers under the age 75. The plan includes up to $25,000 coverage, medevac assistance, transportation to the nearest medical facility for proper care, arrangements for last-minute flights, emergency medical assistance and immediate referrals, passport and visa replacements, emergency cash transfers, and transportation in case of "unfortunate" death. The coverage is good for one year after the injury or sickness that occurred on your trip. It also includes transportation to your location for one relative and transportation home for dependent children. Travel Guard's Essential Plan includes basic coverage. There's a pricing grid based on trip cost and age of traveler.
To compare the costs for travel insurance across some of the more popular travel insurance providers, the travel portal InsureMyTrip.com (tel. 800/487-4722; www.insuremytrip.com) allows you to give a quote before its search engine spits out a price-comparison chart of all the available plans with the option to purchase just a click away. As an example, we used a traveler from Virginia traveling to Latin America from February 12 to March 12, 2007. Travel insurance plans for the month-long trip ranged from $306 for the "Travel Plus" plan from Travelex to $128 for the Travel Guard "Essential" option. The plan available through Travelex (tel. 800/228-9792; www.travelex-insurance.com) is a deluxe plan offering everything from car rental insurance, trip cancellation or interruption insurance, baggage insurance, baggage delay insurance, travel delay, up to $500,000 in medical and dental coverage, 24-hour assistance, accidental death on the ground or flying, and 24-hour emergency assistance. In addition to the price quote engine and general information surrounding the travel insurance market, InsureMyTrip.com provides links to more than twenty travel insurance providers online. It's the perfect place to start your travel insurance purchase experience.
Luckily and miraculously for me, I set the knuckle dislocation on my thumb correctly. There was a small break at the top of the finger and ligament damage at the base of the hand. I gave up my homemade gauze and wood piece splint for a black, high-tech but fashionable, brace that stabilized and protected my thumb and ligaments. My orthopedist told me there was nothing more a doctor overseas or anywhere could have done that the pharmacist in Marrakech did not do. Had it been more serious, however and I had not got an X-ray, the damage could have been arthritic and surgery likely. Not to cry wolf, but Morocco is the last international trip where I won't have some sort of travel insurance coverage. The irony? The orthopedist I saw in the United States, someone I've used for basketball injuries over the years, wasn't covered by my new health care plan. I had to pay out-of-network expenses. He was, however, covered by both of the above-mentioned and most travel insurance plans.
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