A Must-Read On Health Insurance If You’re Traveling Abroad

(Kuster & Wildhaber Photography/flickr)

Many of us — for better or worse — are traveling in the coming weeks or months. And if you’ve ever had to bring a sick child to a health clinic in a country where you don’t speak the language, you know how harrowing getting medical care while on “vacation” can be. (Not to mention the sticker shock when you get the bill.) Here’s a really helpful post on Healthcare Savvy by Sue (Sunni) Patterson that offers everything you’ll need to know about health insurance coverage if you’re out of the U.S. The bottom line: plan ahead as best you can.

You may be closing out 2011 with a holiday trip, domestically or internationally. If you plan to leave the country, you may want to consider the following when it comes to your health:

You may not have health insurance coverage for illnesses or injuries that are treated abroad, even if you have U.S. based medical coverage. Confirm with your benefits administrator.

Generally, Medicare does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs incurred abroad, however, rare circumstances may be covered.

AARP can assist with obtaining foreign medical coverage and offers valuable travel tips.

U.S. consulate personnel will help you locate health care providers and facilities and even contact family members, if necessary.
You can purchase travel insurance that covers health care needs and pays for medical evacuation if you need to be transported back to the US for treatment.

Obtaining medical treatment in another country can be expensive and a medical evacuation can cost over $50,000. Plus, you may encounter challenges with deciphering charges while abroad. Be vigilant, prepared, and follow the same self-advocacy steps you would while receiving medical care in your home state.

If you choose to purchase medical expense coverage while traveling abroad, double check you’ve carefully researched the following:

–Trip cancellation clauses or reasons. You may want to choose an optional ‘cancel for any reason rider’.
–Inclusion of a waiver to a pre-existing condition exclusion.
–Plan coverage exclusions, situations and conditions.
–Save all receipts and document everything from the start of a condition; contact your plan representative immediately.
–Does the policy include medical evacuation coverage? If not, you may want to consider purchasing this optional coverage.
–Purchase travel insurance at the same time you pay for your trip. It’s too late after you’ve had an accident or become sick.

For more information about international travel preparation, visit the U.S. Department of State website.

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