Getting Medical Care Outside the US

Getting sick while on vacation is way up there on the misery scale. Even a minor illness like a head cold can become a major pain. You want to crawl in bed and stay there till you feel human again. Your travel itinerary and travel companions have other plans. If you’re planning a vacation this year, especially one that will take you outside of the United States, spend a little time before hand preparing for the worst.

Read your policy or talk to your insurance provider to understand exactly what your health insurance will or won’t cover. Inside the US, most insurance plans will cover true emergency situations out-of-network. You want to know what they consider a true emergency or you might find yourself saddled with a hefty hospital bill. Outside the US, things are considerably more difficult. Pack your proof of insurance card and a claim form in your suitcase; it will be one less thing to worry about should you find yourself sick while abroad. Many US health insurance policies will pay customary and reasonable costs for emergency services overseas, but not many will cover the hefty price tag of medical evacuation to get you back state-side. Supplemental travelers insurance policies can be purchased to cover that sort of eventuality. Our US State Department suggests that you look for traveler’s policies that guarantee direct payment to foreign hospitals and doctors and maintain a 24-hour support center staffed by English-language speakers.

If you rely on Medicaid or Medical insurance, be aware that these programs DO NOT pay for any kind of health care outside of the US, not even emergencies. Here again, if you’re concerned, look into short-term
medical policies for travelers. If you’re a senior citizen, contact AARP regarding Medicare supplement plans with foreign medical care coverage.

If you have a pre-existing condition, ask your physician for a letter that describes your condition along with any treatment and prescription drugs you’re taking for it. Be sure your doctor includes the generic names for
the drugs, as brand names may not be recognized outside the US. Keep all medications in their original containers with labels intact.

Should you become ill while traveling, check with the US embassy or consulate for a list of local physicians and hospitals.


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