Travel Medical Insurance Fast Facts
Many international travelers do not have
appropriate insurance protection. Government sponsored
health programs such as Medicare almost never cover care
received in a foreign country. Employer-sponsored health
plans often limit overseas coverage to emergency care only
(and the burden will be on you to prove it's an emergency).
Emergency medical evacuation is almost never covered. Even
if you're traveling on business, you may have significant gaps
in your coverage.
Why is Travel Health insurance so critical for international travel?
Obtaining healthcare in some parts of the world can be tricky.
Some hospitals won't provide any treatment—or won't allow a
patient to be discharged—until the hospital has received a
guarantee of payment. Such guarantees are commonly provided by travel
insurers, in conjunction with assistance providers, but rarely by other
insurers or managed care plans. This means you'll have to pay in advance,
perhaps as much as tens of thousands of dollars, with your credit card. Of
course, for this to work the hospital must accept foreign credit cards and
your card must have a sufficient credit limit.
In addition, remember that leaving your destination—for a place with higher
quality medical care or to return home where your regular insurance is accepted—can
be difficult. Medical evacuations are tricky to arrange and there are some air ambulance
providers who should be avoided. Worse, local authorities may have financial ties to certain
evacuation companies. The solution? Most travel insurance includes a medical assistance benefit,
which is critical. It gives you 24/7/365 access to a company that will arrange an evacuation for
you with a creditable evacuation company--or, through their medical personnel, can help assure that
you're getting appropriate treatment locally. The assistance company will also be available to help
with other travel related problems such as legal troubles, lost passports or credit cards, etc.
Emergencies are rare but everyone should have a contingency plan.
Assess Your Personal Health Plan
If you have health insurance in the U.S.,
the first step is to check with your insurance
company and establish what kind of coverage you have.
If you have difficulty getting a straight answer, that
alone should be a warning. If you don't have insurance
in the U.S., consider that you might need it more than
ever when traveling—and recognize that the coverage
can be cheap—as little as $1.50 to $9.00 per day.
Main Types of Coverage to Consider
Health/accident insurance. Typically referred
to as travel health insurance, these policies pay
for doctor and hospital bills, and sometimes dental
care and medications. These plans can be written for
short trips (1 day - 6 months) and will supplement
Medicare or a managed care plan. International health
insurance can also be purchased as primary insurance
for expats or someone relocating to another country for
an extended period of time (6 months or longer). These plans
are comprehensive and include added features such as
preventative services, acupuncture, chiropractic, maternity
benefits and more.
Medical Evacuation. Evacuations can be expensive (as much as
$100,000 or more from a remote location). In addition to the
coverage, you'll want assistance arranging an evacuation. All
of GeoBlue’s products offer coverage for medical evacuation.