Does Your Current Health Insurance Cover You Overseas
Before you hit the road for your big travel adventure, it’s important to find out whether or not you’ll be covered if something goes wrong.
Hopefully, nothing happens on your trip, but you’ll want to understand how your insurance works before you get ill or injured. With a clear understanding, you’ll be able to deal with the unpleasant situation in the best way possible.
So, here are some important things you should know about your current health insurance and how it applies overseas:
Most Situations, You Won’t Be Covered
The likelihood is that when you are traveling abroad, your health insurance from your home country will not cover you. For example, Medicare does not cover US citizens when they are outside of the US, but some Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans will offer worldwide emergency care.
Even if you are from a country with free healthcare, such as Canada or the UK, you can’t expect your home country to pick up the tab. If you’re from a country with universal health care, your country might assist with minor needs but there’s no obligation for it to do so.
So, this usually means that if you need to visit a hospital on your travels you’ll have to pay upfront, then get the cost reimbursed by some other type of insurance.
But, You Should Always Read the Details of Your Specific Plan
There are some very specific details in certain insurance plans that could cover you, depending on the circumstances. For example, Medicare does provide coverage in Canada and Mexico if an emergency occurs on US soil but the nearest hospital is over the border. Also in some cases, you can be covered if you are hurt while in Canada but you were on direct route to Alaska. However, these special cases are quite specific and in general, you won’t be covered.
Your healthcare coverage will vary depending on your insurer and your individual plan, so make sure you contact your carrier to get the details of your policy. Before you head out on your next trip, do some research to determine whether you will be covered while you are on the road. If not, take the necessary steps to make sure you get the coverage you need.
Some Providers Cover Emergencies
It may be helpful to know that the standard policies of many insurance providers, including Humana, Cigna, and Aetna, cover overseas emergencies.
How do they define an emergency? The “prudent layperson standard” says that if a reasonable person would believe that the situation could lead to death or permanent damage, it is considered an emergency and would, therefore, be covered.
For example, if you experience chest pains and think you might be having a heart attack, an emergency room visit will be covered - even if it turns out you weren’t in mortal danger. Some other examples of emergencies that have been covered under this standard include broken bones, heat stroke and cuts requiring stitches.
However, if you have an illness that doesn’t put your life in serious danger, such as pinkeye, bedbug bites or the mild flu, you won’t likely be covered.
Also, while the initial treatment for the emergency may be covered - the follow-up treatment likely will not. So, this type of emergency coverage should not be relied upon as your only form of health insurance.
Should You Consider Getting Travel Health Insurance?
Absolutely. Here are some of the reasons why it’s advantageous to have international health insurance:
- If you become ill or get injured while abroad, you can be liable for some pretty expensive hospital bills. Travel medical insurance will reimburse you.
- You’ll usually be provided with the contact details for an English speaking doctor, which reduces the chances of miscommunication.
- If you need to cancel your trip due to illness, you may be covered for the expense by your travel insurance.
- If you are injured due to a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, you’ll also be covered for your medical treatment.
- You’ll usually have access to a 24/7 support line, where you can call and ask questions if you need to seek medical help.
It’s important to determine whether you need travel insurance or international health insurance. The main difference is that travel insurance is designed to cover you for a short trip of limited duration and international health insurance is for those who are living or working overseas for a prolonged period of time.
Also, travel insurance usually only covers emergency medical treatment, while international health insurance covers both emergency and routine healthcare.
Important Things To Know About Your Travel Medical Insurance
Are Pre-Existing Conditions Covered?
It’s essential to understand whether your international health insurance covers you for any pre-existing conditions. If it doesn’t and you suffer from complications of a pre-existing condition while abroad, you can end up not being covered.
However, many plans will offer a waiver that removes the pre-existing condition exclusion. You’ll often need to buy your plan after your first trip payment and be medically cleared for travel when you purchase the plan.
What are the Exclusions?
Check carefully with your insurer about whether or not your policy has exclusions for injuries related to acts of war, terrorist attacks, natural disasters or adventure activities such as mountain climbing and scuba diving.
Is Pre-Authorization Required?
If you find yourself ill or injured abroad, you may need to “pre-authorize” your treatment before it happens. This means the doctor needs to contact your insurance provider and get approval for your treatment.
Without this, there is no guarantee that your health insurance provider will provide coverage for that treatment. So, if your provider requires pre-authorization to make sure you know this in advance. If you find out after the procedure, it’s too late.
Does the Policy Include Medical Evacuation Insurance?
Not every country in the world has medical facilities that are up to Western standards. If you are traveling in remote areas of developing countries and you have a serious illness or injury, you may need to be evacuated to a hospital in a different location.
The CDC recommends purchasing a policy that includes medical evacuation cover, which will cover the transportation to the nearest major city with quality medical care.
Be a Smart and Informed Traveler
Always make sure you understand your insurance and what you’re covered for so that you can relax and enjoy your getaway.