When you’re planning your vacation overseas you look forward to sunny skies, romantic nights, and spectacular sights. What you don’t look forward to is the possibility of becoming ill or injured during your trip, but it happens.
If your regular group health policy doesn’t cover your medical expenses overseas, they won’t be much help if you have a medical emergency on your trip. Fortunately, many travelers’ insurance companies now offer medical coverage during your trip anywhere in the world, at an affordable price.
Before searching for a new policy, check with your current health insurance company. Many large carriers, such as the BlueCross BlueShield association members, offer coverage for foreign claims, and also have customer service departments that are trained to help you navigate through a foreign health care system in case of emergency.
However, this benefit may not be available to you if your group insurance requires you to seek treatment from a specific provider network. Most HMO and managed care plans restrict their coverage to a specific service area.
If you’re covered by a smaller group insurance company they may accept claims from doctors or hospitals in other countries, but you may want to give them a call to see if their customer service staff is familiar with foreign health care systems, and if the company has developed long-term relationships with hospital systems outside the US. If not, they may not be able to help you find care in an emergency.
Many Medicare supplements also exclude claims from foreign countries, as does Medicare itself.
For peace of mind, you will want a temporary travelers health insurance policy if your own group plan does not cover medical costs overseas. When searching for your new policy, make sure you read the contract to find out if the policy covers pre-existing conditions, medical evacuation, and emergency travel services.
Your travelers’ medical insurance carrier’s customer service representatives will be your first resource in case of emergency overseas. Some companies go far beyond paying medical claims and help you to:
- Find a new flight in case your scheduled flight was cancelled.
- Help you fill an emergency prescription if your medication is lost or stolen.
- Get you emergency cash if your wallet is stolen, and help you replace a stolen passport.
- Arrange and pay for emergency evacuation to the nearest hospital in case of accident or illness.
- Reimburse you for non-refundable costs if your trip is cancelled due to illness.
- Help you find lost luggage.
- Schedule an appointment with a qualified English-speaking physician in the city you’re visiting.
The services offered, and the premiums charged will vary greatly between insurance companies and between policies. The premiums will go up as the benefits increase and the deductible goes down, so careful shopping is important. For instance, you will want to be careful to choose a policy that covers pre-existing conditions if you have a chronic illness, such as diabetes, that may cause you to seek medical attention on your trip.
Before leaving home, be sure to find out if your group policy will cover your medical expenses overseas. If not, a good travelers’ health insurance policy will give you peace of mind on your next vacation.