Picture this: You’re traveling overseas and you come down with a fever. You don’t speak the native language and you’re uncertain if your health plan covers medical care, like a visit to a doctor or hospital, abroad.
While this is probably the last scenario you want to consider while planning your trip, medical emergencies happen. But here’s the silver lining: You can easily find out what your insurance will cover while traveling abroad by asking your provider a few key questions. To determine what coverage you have, and what you’ll need when traveling overseas, start by asking these five questions.
1. What does my health plan cover overseas?
The level of medical coverage available for international travel can vary widely, depending on your domestic health care provider and plan. The State Department advises contacting your insurance company prior to your trip and inquiring about the specific overseas medical services that are included in your coverage.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also encourages travelers to ask what is excluded from their policy, such as risky activities. And depending on what is available to you, the CDC advises considering a supplemental policy. The State Department also recommends inquiring about specifics such as whether the plan includes coverage for emergency evacuations to the US and pre-existing medical conditions. You should also familiarize yourself with any out-of-pocket costs that you may encounter for overseas medical procedures or services.
2. What if I have Medicare?
Keep in mind that Medicare does not cover emergency medical services for travelers out of the country. There are some Medigap plans that can offer supplemental coverage but remember that there is a lifetime cap of $50,000 for foreign travel emergency coverage.
3. What about emergency medical evacuations?
Few domestic health insurance providers will pay to transport ill patients back to the United States. And emergency evacuations can be expensive, costing more than $100,000, depending on your health condition and where you’re located at the time the emergency takes place. If you’re visiting a place that’s isolated or where the quality of health care is subpar, do a cost-benefit analysis of investing in a supplemental evacuation insurance plan.
4. Should I buy travel medical insurance for my next vacation?
It’s a smart idea to consider investing in travel insurance. But before you make a final decision, you’ll want to evaluate a variety of factors, including the type of trip you’re planning and if you’ll be taking part in risky activities, such as scuba diving or mountain climbing during your trip . According to the CDC, there are three types of insurance travelers should consider while traveling: trip cancellation insurance, travel health insurance and medical evacuation insurance.
And according to a report released by InsureMyTrip, a travel insurance comparison and booking site, 75 percent of the site’s consumers pick comprehensive travel insurance plans, which typically include emergency medical coverage, emergency medical evacuation coverage, trip cancellation coverage, trip interruption coverage and baggage coverage.
Another important reason to consider purchasing travel health insurance is that travel health insurance can help fill any gaps in domestic health insurance coverage. Plus, travel health insurance can provide 24/7 emergency assistance to help you in the event of a medical emergency. A licensed travel insurance agent can provide advice on appropriate coverage limits and how to qualify for coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.
5. What if I have to file a claim?
A claim is typically required in order to request reimbursement for medical bills. Most providers will require all hospital records (usually translated if in a non-English language) and receipts in order to evaluate the validity of the claim.
Travelers are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) prior to international travel. Doing so will notify the nearest US Embassy or Consulate of your travel plans. The local embassy can also help connect American travelers with a local medical facility.
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