Travel Medical Insurance Fast Facts
Many global citizens, leisure travelers and business travelers still do not have robust international health insurance protection while overseas. The choices left to you in the absence of a comprehensive travel medical insurance plan might be 1.) Government-sponsored programs (such as Medicare) which categorically do not cover care received in a foreign country or 2.) Employer-sponsored health plans which are limited in their international travel medical insurance and very rarely cover medical evacuation. Under employer-sponsored health plans, even if a sudden onset of illness or injury is covered, the services are usually rendered on a pay-and-claim basis. This leaves travelers caught in unfortunate situations to absorb what could be prohibitively high costs up front, in order to receive vital medical care.
Why is Travel Health Insurance so critical for international travel?
Accessing 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. This guarantee is essentially what allows direct billing between the healthcare provider and the insurance company. Such guarantees are commonly provided by the travel medical insurance provider (in conjunction with assistance providers) but rarely by other types of insurance Without a travel medical plan, 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 you must have a sufficient credit limit.
In addition, traveling for medical attention—either to a place with higher quality medical care or to return home where your regular insurance is accepted—can be difficult. Medical evacuations are often too complicated to arrange yourself; in addition to finding a receiving facility, you also need to ensure you are working with a trusted transportation provider. The solution? Most travel medical insurance includes a medical assistance benefit, which is critical. It gives you a vital lifeline in the form of 24/7/365 access to a company that will assure that you’re getting appropriate treatment locally, or if necessary arrange an evacuation for you with a creditable evacuation company. 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. Your travel health insurance plan can also come in handy when it comes to paying for a medical evacuation, which are at times accompanied by a six-figure price tag.
Assess Your Personal Health Plan
If you have health insurance in the U.S., the first step is to check with your insurance company to establish what kind of coverage you have. You should make sure your plan includes benefits for medical expenses incurred internationally, if medical evacuations are covered and the extent of that coverage. If you have difficulty getting a straight answer, that alone should be a warning. Travel medical insurance policies are designed to pick up where your primary health plan leaves off. If you do not have health coverage, these plans act as primary insurance while abroad. The best designed plans offer more than emergency benefits. They cover big ticket items such hospitalization and surgeries but will also pick up the tab on physician office visits, ambulance services, prescription medications and more.
Main Types of Coverage to Consider
Health/accident insurance. Typically referred to as travel health insurance, these polices 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 preventive services, acupuncture, chiropractic care, 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.