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It’s always best to read the fine print

Lately I’ve been getting a pile of mail and email from our credit card companies, insurance companies and travel-related vendors. Now, I love to read. Always have. Fiction, biographies, travelogues . . . you name it, I’ll read it. The one exception is the mind-twisting fine print (often called the “Terms and Conditions”) that defines your relationship with all these companies. The detail can be excruciating, and the companies seem to delight in a literal interpretation of the term “fine print.” Sometimes I need a magnifying glass in addition to my regular “readers”! Should I bother?

In or Out: This week’s mailing from one of my favorite travel-related companies, MedjetAssist (, is a good illustration of why reading is important. I’ve written about MedjetAssist before. Briefly, if you end up needing inpatient care for a serious illness or injury while traveling, they will come and get you and return you to the hospital of your choice. It’s a membership, not an insurance policy – meaning that if you’re a member and meet all their terms and conditions, they will provide service to you. No filing claims and getting denied. No surprises. Well, as the mailing explained . . . as long as you are under the age of 75, are more than 150 miles from home, have paid your membership fee in full, are a resident of the United States, Canada or Mexico, aren’t an expat (i.e. actually living in a foreign country) and more. Hmmm. Bud and I have had memberships since 2004 – and I typically save money by buying a multiyear membership. Now, though, I’ll make sure we don’t bump against the age limit. While I’m thinking about it, I’ll also review the basic definitions in our credit cards, cruise contracts, the travel-related sections of our health insurance, upcoming car rental contracts, and so on. We ran into a fellow in Prague once who was shocked to discover that at 73 he was too old for several car rental companies.

Benefits & exclusions: The MedjetAssist mailing went further to explain what they will do – and what they won’t. They won’t come and get you if you’re in an area with a war, invasion or civil war going on – or if the State Department has issued travel restrictions where you’re traveling. Or if your medical issue is the result of your own criminal activity, your own psychiatric disorder or if your use of alcohol or drugs has contributed to your medical problem – and those exclusions were just the first page! The list went on. Not that I blame them . . . or any company that provides services to traveling Americans. They need to remain solvent and – face it – getting really sick in a foreign country can be horribly expensive. It’s incumbent upon each of us to know exactly what’s covered and when . . . and also how to contact the company from abroad. Keep copies of contact and card/member numbers in a safe spot, separate from your wallet.

Follow the Money: Once you know who is covered and how, find out how payments are made. MedjetAssist will not reimburse for expenses you incur. They arrange everything themselves. Some health insurances have participating medical facilities all over the globe – simply use your card. Others work on reimbursement, after (and depending upon) their review.

Many credit cards provide some insurance for car rentals as well as coverage for several types of travel problems, but you pay first – they reimburse. As for travel insurance, everything here applies in triplicate. Read, read, read – then call and ask questions. MedjetAssist, for example, offers memberships for special circumstances (including travelers 75 and older) that might indeed work for you.

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