Travel

Tips On Medical Coverage While Traveling Outside The U.S.

Using miles and points to travel to a foreign destination is fun and exciting. And careful planning can ensure your international trip is a success!

But sometimes unexpected illness or accidents happen while abroad. Being prepared for these unlikely events is just as important as planning your flights and accommodations! Health and safety are most important when traveling the world.

Medical coverage can be a complicated subject. And costs for treatment can be significant. Here are some medical coverage options to consider while traveling abroad:

U.S. Medical Benefits While Traveling Abroad

Depending on your age and employment status, you might be covered under a private employer health insurance plan. Or if you are 65 years of age you might use Medicare, a public government health program. Meanwhile, children (under age 26) can be covered on their parent’s benefits.

But how do these plans work while traveling?

Every person’s coverage can be different. For example, private health insurance plans often exclude “non-emergency care when traveling outside the US.”

For folks who have Medicare coverage while traveling outside the US, emergency and non-emergency care are NOT provided (with few very limited exceptions).

So, what is the difference between emergency and non-emergency?

Emergencies are considered medical conditions that require immediate attention to prevent serious health issues. Emergencies might include:

Non-emergencies include routine visits to a doctor for an annual check-up, ear infection, or cold symptoms.

Before traveling you should contact your health insurance company to verify your international medical benefits. Make sure to ask how medical treatment is paid while outside the country. You may be required to pay out of pocket and seek reimbursement later on.

If you receive medical treatment while traveling, make sure to keep:

  • Itemized bill of medical services received
  • Copy of medical records
  • Proof of payment
  • Proof of travel

Good records will make sure you are reimbursed in a timely manner.

Purchase a Supplemental Travel Insurance Policy

Because many US health insurance plans offer limited coverage outside the US, you may consider purchasing a supplemental travel medical insurance policy.

Supplemental policies can be a good idea for:

  • Travelers with a history of medical problems
  • People traveling outside the country for more than 6 months
  • Older travelers insured through Medicare

There are great resources on the web to research supplemental travel insurance policies. I like to use Insure My Trip to check prices and benefits when traveling outside the US.

Supplemental medical travel insurance plans can cost less than $10 for a week-long overseas trip.

Or you can spend more for comprehensive plans that include coverage for trip cancellation and trip delays. But remember you get these benefits when you book your trip with certain credit cards.

Before picking your plan, check with the US Department of State. They maintain a list of private companies that provide travel medical insurance while overseas.

What Is Covered With Supplemental Travel Medical Insurance Plans?

Most supplemental medical policies typically cover the following:

  • Services of a physician or nurse
  • Hospital charges
  • X-ray(s)
  • Local ambulance services to or from a hospital
  • Prosthetic devices such as artificial limbs or artificial teeth
  • Lost or forgotten medication
  • Emergency dental treatment

Certain plans have limits to how much they will cover. You might be able to pay more upfront for a travel policy and increase the limits. It’s important to research how much coverage is provided by your policy.

One item that is NOT included in all supplemental policies is emergency evacuation coverage. Should you need to be evacuated from your destination back to the US or to another country for treatment, this coverage will cover the transportation expenses.

Evacuation coverage could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars. You’ll get evacuation coverage when you purchase comprehensive plans and on certain medical plans.

Or you can purchase it separately for $100 depending on where you’re going. Check the details of the coverage to see if family members are covered as well.

Pre-Existing Conditions

You can get travel insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition. Some medical travel plans cover you regardless of pre-existing conditions, while others may charge more or require additional paperwork.

It’s important to read how the insurance companies define pre-existing conditions. Most consider a pre-existing condition an illness or medical condition you’ve had for a period of time prior to you purchasing travel insurance.

Before purchasing a plan, make sure to read the details of how the company defines pre-existing conditions and if your plan will cover you.

Credit Card Travel Insurance

You’ll get travel insurance when you use certain credit cards to book your trip. Some cards include the following coverage without purchasing separate policies:

  • Trip Interruption and Cancellation
  • Trip Delays
  • Rental Car Coverage

This travel insurance is different from travel medical insurance.

For example, some credit cards include benefits for travel and emergency assistance services. This includes medical referrals while traveling. But all costs are your responsibility and will not be reimbursed. This is why a supplemental travel insurance policy is very important! Call your credit card company before your trip to see if you’ll have any medical coverage.

Bottom Line

When traveling outside the US, be prepared for unexpected illnesses or injuries.

Before traveling you should:

  • Verify your international health benefits with your current health benefit provider
  • Determine your needs while traveling
  • Analyze supplemental medical coverage plans
  • Purchase a plan from an established company by researching reputable companies provided by the US Department of State
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