If you're a non-U.S. citizen renting a car in the United States, your rental car company may offer an insurance option called Emergency Sickness Protection. Don't fall for it.
Instead, before you travel to the U.S., it's important that you take out travel insurance in your home country that includes coverage for medical expenses abroad. There are no reciprocal health care agreements in place for visitors to the USA from foreign countries. If you need any medical treatment while you're in the U.S., you will have to pay for it in full. American medical fees can be extremely high compared to other countries, with the final bill for treating a common injury such as a broken ankle running into thousands of dollars.
What is Emergency Sickness Protection in a Rental Car?
ESP is an insurance product offered by some rental car companies that theoretically provides sickness protections for international visitors to the United States. Like other insurance products, it's actually offered by a third party (such as Auto Rentals and Sales Protection or Health Special Risk, Inc.). And stated on ARS's website, the cost of the service to a rental car company is 75 cents per rental day, while the rental car company is recommended to sell the product at $3 or more per day. That's called gouging.
Meanwhile, the rental car company selling the coverage pockets every penny over 75 cents per day. It's a money-spinner that's fantastic for commissions, so the agents at the counter are highly motivated to sell.
It's important to know is that this insurance will duplicate coverage you already have through your travel insurance policy.
Even worse, a scan of the Terms and Conditions shows so many exclusions that almost every possible claim could be denied. Sister companies Dollar and Thrifty reveal the fine print about the Emergency Sickness Protection option in their general rental terms.
5. Emergency Sickness Protection ("ESP"): ESP is available at select locations to renters who are non-U.S. citizens including Canadians who possess valid non-U.S. passports at the time of rental. ESP provides certain medical benefits for some sicknesses that may occur during rental periods of thirty days or less. ESP also covers individuals possessing valid non-U.S. passports at the time of rental traveling with the renter. Benefits include up to $10,000 per person for reasonable and customary cost of necessary medical care for covered sickness, including (A) medical or surgical treatment; (B) hospital services, supplies, x-rays and laboratory fees; (C) local ambulance and (D) visits to a physician’s office, and are subject to a $100 deductible per person per sickness. ESP does not provide coverage for any sickness for which symptoms began or treatment received during the twelve months prior to the beginning of the rental period; expenses incurred outside of the U.S.; expenses for eyeglasses, contact lenses or hearing aids; losses incurred while participating in racing, professional club, intercollegiate or interscholastic sports; losses from an accident, cardiovascular disease, cancers tumors, tuberculosis, organ transplant, congenital conditions, deviated septum, cosmetic surgery, dental care, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, fertility/infertility treatment, pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, and emotional or mental disorders of any kind; and losses while traveling against the advice of a physician or while traveling for the purpose of receiving medical treatment. ESP does not apply in Mexico.
Exclusions include treatment of:
- Any illness that starts before or after the rental
- Any pre-existing condition
- Vision, dental, or hearing coverage
- Any form of accident
- Participation in organized sports
- Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes
- Cancer or tumors
- Congenital conditions
- Anything related to pregnancy
- Travel against physician orders
- Travel to seek medical care
Companies Offering Emergency Sickness Protection
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