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Comprehensive travel policies typically cover trip cancellation and interruption, letting you cancel or cut your trip short because of a personal emergency, illness, or, in some cases, acts of terrorism in your destination. Such policies also cover evacuation and medical care. Some also cover you for trip delays because of bad weather or mechanical problems as well as for lost or delayed baggage. Another type of coverage to look for is financial default—that is, when your trip is disrupted because a tour operator, airline, or cruise line goes out of business. Generally you must buy this when you book your trip or shortly thereafter, and it's only available to you if your operator isn't on a list of excluded companies.
At the very least, consider buying medical-only coverage. Neither Medicare nor some private insurers cover medical expenses anywhere outside of the United States. Medical-only policies typically reimburse you for medical care (excluding that related to preexisting conditions) and hospitalization abroad and provide for evacuation. You still have to pay the bills and await reimbursement from the insurer.
In the event of medical emergency, Panama offers free insurance for tourists for up to 30 days. For more information call 204-9300 or 800-2312.
Another option is to sign up with a medical-evacuation assistance company. A membership in one of these companies gets you doctor referrals, emergency evacuation or repatriation, 24-hour hotlines for medical consultation, and other assistance. Expect comprehensive travel insurance policies to cost about 4% to 7% or 8% of the total price of your trip (it's more like 8%-12% if you're over age 70). A medical-only policy may or may not be cheaper than a comprehensive policy. Always read the fine print of your policy to make sure that you are covered for the risks that are of most concern to you. Compare several policies to make sure you're getting the best price and range of coverage available.
Allianz Global Assistance (800/284–8300. www.allianztravelinsurance.com.)
CSA Travel Protection (800/711–1197. www.csatravelprotection.com.)
HTH Worldwide (610/254–8700. www.hthworldwide.com.)
Travelex Travel Insurance (888/228–9792. www.travelex-insurance.com.)
Travel Guard (800/826–4919. www.travelguard.com.)
Travel Insured International (800/243–3174. www.travelinsured.com.)
InsureMyTrip.com (800/487–4722. www.insuremytrip.com.)
SquareMouth.com (800/240–0369. www.squaremouth.com.)
AirMed International (800/356–2161. www.airmed.com.)
International SOS (www.internationalsos.com.)
MedjetAssist (800/527–7478. www.medjetassist.com.)
International Medical Group (800/628–4664. www.imglobal.com.)
Wallach & Company (800/237–6615. www.wallach.com.)