According to a recent study, half of U.S. travelers have no idea whether their health insurance would cover emergency medical visits while traveling internationally. The fact is that most plans cover nothing abroad, and unfortunate occurrences such as a medical evacuation can cost around $100,000. I've had clients tell me that they have coverage from their credit cards, but again have no idea what kind of coverage that provides. To keep you from making costly insurance mistakes, here is some insight.
Travelers who are leaving the country should always contact their health insurance company to see if emergency medical coverage will extend outside the United States. Depending on your specific plan, you may discover that you only have "in-network" coverage, limited coverage, or no coverage at all. Original Medicare does not cover emergency medical care for travelers outside the U.S., but there are supplemental plans such as Medicare Advantage and Medigap that can provide limited additional coverage.
Do you have a credit card that provides travel insurance? There are a lot of them out there; however, they may not provide the comprehensive coverage you think. Travelers should always review their credit card travel insurance policy to understand exactly what it covers and what it doesn’t. Some do offer basic travel insurance perks; however, few cards offer emergency medical coverage or adequate trip cancellation protection. Also, credit card coverage may only cover what was booked using that card. Even if your credit card offers some protection, it probably will not provide the same amount of coverage you’ll get from traditional travel insurance. A good travel insurance policy should cover the entire trip cost, in addition to important benefits such as emergency medical coverage, emergency medical evacuation, trip interruption, trip delay, and baggage coverage.
Many travelers have major misconceptions about travel insurance. One big misconception is that people don’t really know all that a policy can cover. A comprehensive travel insurance plan may offer coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage, medical, emergency evacuation, 24-hour traveler assistance, and accidental death benefits. You may also find coverage for rental car damage or financial default. An optional add-on is Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) insurance. CFAR can give you the flexibility to cancel a trip, at least two days prior to departure, for something other than a covered reason, such as fear of travel. Reimbursement can be up to 50-75% of your prepaid, non-refundable trip cost. However, to qualify for this coverage, you usually have to purchase this coverage within two to three weeks after making the first payment toward your trip, and you must insure the full prepaid, non-refundable trip cost for all travelers.
There can be very expensive consequences for not understanding how your health insurance works abroad. Medical bills can add up. If you’re injured or become ill in a foreign country, you may need to get treatment at a local hospital. If your domestic health insurance provides no or limited coverage internationally, you will have to pay for those medical bills out of pocket. As an example, if you need to be medically evacuated back to the U.S., it can easily cost $100,000 or more, depending on your condition and your location at the time of injury.
Your travel advisor has a lot of great resources for understanding the travel insurance benefits available so you can compare the options. Don't make a costly mistake- always travel with the best plan for your trip.