Eye on Travel Insurance by Wayne Wirtanen

The following are brief descriptions of ALL of the articles about travel insurance that have been written by Wayne Wirtanen and printed in International Travel News. As an ITN Contributing Editor, Wayne writes the column "Eye on Travel Insurance," and most of these articles appeared in that column. Each listing includes the date of the issue of ITN in which it appeared followed by the article's title and a summary.


[May 1991]Selecting travel health insurance – sorting out your options” — Advice regarding the purchase of insurance for travel overseas plus a comparison chart of several companies' offerings. (Note: Numbers may be out of date, but the advice is still valid.)

[February 1992]Benefits Curtailed” — The outstanding, no-extra-cost, overseas medical benefits provided with a Gold MasterCard, as described in the May 1991 issue, have been canceled as of January 1992. The fact that these benefits were offered at all indicated that they were not a major expense for the card companies.

[April 1994]Overseas travel insurance – magnifying the fine print” — What are the most important factors to consider when choosing a travel insurance policy or considering not to buy one? Includes a comparison chart of several companies’ offerings.

[July 1994]Overseas Health Assistance” — This information supplements the article “Overseas Travel Insurance” in the April 1994 issue, page 34.

[August 1994]Consider the odds when buying travel insurance” — Detailed discussion of the possibility of an overseas traveler canceling a trip or needing medical assistance.

[October 1994]Tour/cruise operator default” — How common a problem is this? How can you minimize your risk?

[May 1995]Look for the preexisting-condition clause when buying travel insurance” — EVERY travel-health or trip-cancellation policy has this preexisting-condition disclaimer of coverage in one form or another. Most will waive this clause under certain conditions. Make sure that you understand the clause and know how to get it waived.

[July 1995]Latest on preexisting-condition clause” — More details of the importance of this clause and which companies offer more or less tolerant language in their policies.

[December 1995]Travel insurance – latest developments” — Which travel insurance policies have made changes to make it easier to get the preexisting-condition clause waived, plus some new offerings for overseas travelers.

[August 1996]What is baggage-delay coverage? Another look at travel insurance” — A discussion of baggage-delay-coverage fine print and how to make sure that you present an appropriate claim.

[November 1997] Overseas health/accident insurance – what seniors need to know” — A special for seniors, a discussion of Medicare and Medicare supplementary policies, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and how to be prepared for the expenses of an overseas medical emergency.

[December 1999]The ins and outs of emergency-medical-evacuation coverage” — A discussion of the details of overseas medical evacuations, how to be sure that you have coverage, who provides it and what to do if you happen to need those services.

[February 2000] The “preexisting-medical-condition clause" — A discussion of the preexisting-condition clause. These are perhaps the most important segments of a travel insurance policy, especially for senior travelers, as seniors are reasonably likely to have some medical “condition.”

[April 2000] Travel insurance trend: dumping the over-age-75 traveler?” — A discussion of new, age-related limits for over-age-75 travelers.

[July 2000]The following information comprises expansion and correction of the article 'Travel insurance trend: dumping the over-age-75 traveler?' (April 2000, page 68)" — More information on age-related costs and conditions for senior travelers.

[June 2001]Travel Insurance, travel safety and State Department advisories” — How to evaluate a trip for safety issues. (See June 2003 article for information on “Cancel anytime, for any reason.)

[January 2002]Travel insurance complications due to the September 11, 2001, attack” — How did the travel industry respond to the terrorist attack and how did this affect travel insurance coverage for this period and for subsequent travel?

[February 2002]Caution for freighter passengers” — Ed Kirk of the newsletter TravLtips warns, “Freighter travelers, take note: the rerouting of a freighter is not a covered event” (of a travel insurance policy).

[March 2002]Seniors and the preexisting-condition clause” — Stresses the need to carefully read that part of a policy before purchase.

[April 2003]Free travel insurance (limited time only)! Cancel for any reason and get a 100% refund” — A description of Uniworld’s one-time-only offer for April and May of 2003.

[June 2003]Cancel anytime, for any reason” — Travel insurance changes all the time. This article outlines the terms and conditions of many tour companies that offer this option.

[July 2003]SARS and travel insurance, plus websites and more” — SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and terrorism issues caused the travel insurance industry to reconsider coverage for these new travel concerns. Lots of sources for up-to-date information here.

[November 2003]Little-known sources of emergency-medical-evacuation coverage” — Your AAA auto insurance policy might be offering no-extra-cost evacuation coverage. Other little-known sources are listed and explained.

[July 2004] In a letter in ITN titled “Travel insurance inquiry,” a reader's question is followed by Wayne’s answer: “There is no ‘stand alone’ trip-cancellation insurance available.” — The last company to offer it was Travel Guard, and they canceled that back in 1992. A discussion of your options.

[September 2004] ON THE SUBJECT OF TRAVEL INSURANCE” — A compilation of ITN readers' letters, with responses and recommendations.

[November 2005]Long-term travel insurance coverage” — Answers to a reader’s question: “Is it possible to buy travel insurance covering trip cancellation/medical evacuation, etc., on an ANNUAL basis for us travelers who take several trips throughout the year? (See February 2006 issue, page 46, regarding a new, long-term travel insurance policy, "Travel Protect International," offered by World Travel Center; phone 402/343-3621 and ask for Dan Drennen.) 

[February 2006]Rejected claims” — What to do if your travel insurance claim is denied.

[April 2006]STA Travel, an alternative travel insurance source” — Insurance companies generally charge according to the cost of the trip (typically 4% to 8%). For example, at 6%, coverage for a 3-week trip costing $4,000 would cost $240. STA's charges are based on the length of the trip; for any trip lasting 16 to 22 days, coverage would cost only $100. (See June 2009, page 58, for changes for the over-35 traveler.)

[August 2006]Consider the odds when deciding whether or not to purchase travel insurance” — A further discussion of the topic first published in the August 1994 issue, page 37.

[April 2007]1. Why are there no travel insurance companies? and 2. When is travel insurance not travel insurance?” — 1. A discussion of the structure of the travel insurance business. The companies which we commonly refer to as travel insurance companies are only suppliers/providers (and administrators of travel insurance policies). They are backed up by underwriters, who are the actual insurance companies.  2. A Tennessee “travel insurance company” was selling not travel insurance but “travel protection plans” without a license. According to the Tennessee Insurance Commissioner, “this leaves policy holders in danger.” Advice on how to avoid this type of problem.

[August 2007] Answers to questions received from readers regarding travel insurance. Read about ITN readers’ travel insurance experiences.

[May 2009] Emergency Medical Evacuation 101 – what overseas travelers need to know” — A discussion of “Medivac,” who supplies it and what to do if you should need it.

[June 2009]Travel insurance update” — Notification of change in travel insurance cost by STA Travel (see April 2006, page 52). Also, a tip on purchasing a little-known, zero-trip-cost policy, aka post-departure policy, which came to be known in ITN as The Betty James Travel Insurance Strategy (Sept. 2010, page 54). Also, “layoff” coverage and help in choosing a travel insurance policy.

[November 2009]Travel insurance can’t protect you everywhere” — How to avoid travel to dangerous destinations not covered by travel insurance, plus recommendations on four good books on the topic of dangerous places.

[June 2010]When is it a good idea to buy a full-feature travel insurance package?(first of two parts) — To buy or not to buy: that is the question. Plus a quote from the former Consumer Reports Travel Newsletter, and how to deal with travel insurance sales techniques.

[July 2010]Alternatives to full-feature travel insurance policies(second of two parts) — A discussion of alternative coverage.

[September 2010]The Betty James Travel Insurance Strategy” (also known as post-departure coverage or zero-trip-cost coverage) — A discussion of a strategy to get economical high-limits overseas medical coverage plus medical-evacuation coverage.

[January 2011]Travel insurance refunds” — Answers the question “Am I likely to get a refund of a travel insurance premium if I cannot take the trip?” — The short answer is 'Probably not.' A discussion of this issue and some situations in which you might get a refund of the premium from a travel insurance company.

[April 2011]Unsatisfactory trip-itinerary changes” — A discussion of travel insurance with regard to changes in a trip’s itinerary. Travel insurance without a “Cancel for any reason” clause will cover trip interruption only for specific causes (generally, a death in the family or a medical emergency affecting you, your spouse or a traveling companion or a close relative back home or one of the nonmedical reasons listed by the policy). (See June 2003, page 50, for information on “Cancel anytime, for any reason" coverage.)

[August 2011]Statistics – will I have a medical emergency overseas?” — The short answer is 'Probably not.' A discussion of the possibilities of having a medical emergency on your trip abroad. Statistics that Wayne developed indicate that only on approximately one trip in 1,000 trips will an overseas traveler have any kind of medical emergency that requires an outpatient visit to a hospital or other medical clinic, etc., that is, a medical problem that needs more than first-aid type of treatment. (This article claims that a disadvantage of a zero-trip-cost policy is the lack of a waiver of the preexisting-condition clause. Subsequent research indicated that three travel insurance policies will waive the preexisting-condition clause [see July 2012, pg 58].)

[March 2012]Travel insurance competition” — Two more travel insurance providers have switched their medical benefits to primary-payer coverage. (See June 2013, page 58, which explains the advantage of primary-payer policies.)

[July 2012]The preexisting-condition clause(first of two parts) — This article describes what a traveler needs to know about the preexisting-condition clause when deciding whether or not to purchase a policy that covers only overseas medical expenses and emergency-medical evacuation.

[September 2012]The preexisting-condition clause(second of two parts) — This article is for travelers who want the preexisting-condition clause waived when buying a full-feature travel insurance policy.

[June 2013]Primary- and secondary-payer policies” — This article explains the differences between these types of policies and reveals the great advantage of a primary-payer policy.

[May 2014]Medigap and subrogation” — Discussion of a complex area of travel insurance. Your travel insurance policy may tap into your “Medigap” coverage, plus how Wayne deals with that issue on overseas trips.