I tried calling two of the companies on my short list of three that met the requirements for medical coverage, repatriation, and return of mortal remains for a long-stay visa to France, Travelex and FrontierMedEx.
The first time that I called MedEx, the phone rang through with no pickup and no recorded message after the machinery said that it was sending me to an agent. I hung up, tried Travelex, and was put on hold while waiting for an available agent. When the recorded voice informed me that I would be called back if I left my phone number, I did. And Travelex did call back the next day...during a business meeting. It wasn't their fault but I couldn't talk.
I was disappointed that my first two calls went unanswered until I realized that I was calling during the Christmas travel season and a winter storm was rolling through the Midwest to the East Coast, disrupting flights from Chicago to New York. That's probably a good test of the systems at their worst. But OK. I'll give them a mulligan. (For any uninitiated non-golfers, a mulligan is a free do-over.)
A few days later, I called MedEx and Seven Corners.
I'm not going to go into the details of any of the plans that we
investigated from any of the companies. I'm not their agent and the
details might change by the time that you read this. Check out the
websites. Do your due diligence.
I was on hold for five minutes at MedEx. The gentleman that eventually took my call was polite and knowledgeable. And the MedEx plan that seemed to make the most sense for us was basic, met the requirements for a long-stay visa, a coverage letter was available for visa applications, and the price was competitive.
A human being answered the phone immediately at Seven Corners. Wow. And when I was transferred to Customer Service, another human picked up right away, a pleasant and knowledgeable woman this time. She steered me to a particular plan that I hadn't considered and emailed me a link to the brochure while we spoke. Basic. Met the requirements. A coverage letter was available. Priced competitively. So Seven Corners noses ahead solely on the basis of customer service - as limited as my experience had been. But there's a catch.
By this time, I had spent a good deal of time trolling the travel insurance review sites.Those sites led me to other insurance companies. I dabbled but wasn't seduced by any of the new entries. Check out every site that can. Do your due diligence. I liked the tone of the Travelex reviews the best. They had sold the most policies, had the most reviews, and the reviews were generally positive. And they had called me back.
I finally found the time to call Travelex. I was on hold for four minutes waiting for an available agent. Not too bad considering the season. Again, the agent was pleasant and knowledgeable. (Maybe they all share the same phone room?) Need I say it. Basic. Met the requirements. Yada, yada.
Here are my conclusions after several weeks of internet investigation and several phone calls. These are insurance companies. They pay batteries of actuaries good money to determine profit points. Any plan varying significantly in price from plans with similar coverage would have to be viewed with suspicion. In the end, the choice comes down to comparing the nuanced differences of each plan, the look of the plan's website, your telephone experience, and your opinion of the opinions of internet reviews both from 'professionals' and from policy holders. (Who's to say how professionally disinterested the aggregated review sites are?)
I chose Travelex Travel Plus. I liked the tone of the reviews. The website was simple and utilitarian. Customer service, at least when a sale was on the line, was available and responsive to my questions. Travelex Travel Plus is a primary insurance, meaning that there's no waiting to determine if Travelex is first or second in line to pay the claim. No deductible for covered losses. And rental car insurance.
Keep in mind, this is bare-bones insurance. Full coverage, American style health insurance for expat Americans living in Europe costs three to five times what we'll be paying for Travelex Travel Plus. But we're in good health and we plan to begin checking out the French insurance climate both public and private from inside France as soon as we arrive. We can only hope that we'll be covered sufficiently for that first year while we sort things out.
I'll post again on the topic when there's something newsworthy to report.