5 Health Insurance Tips for Overseas Travelers
Make sure you’re really covered for medical mishaps abroad. No one wants to think about middle of the vacation health scares. But emergencies happen, and your regular insurance may not cover your care overseas. We advise that in order to avoid any expensive surprises, lay the groundwork before you board a plane.
Mind the gaps: Once you go abroad, most policies cover emergencies that jeopardize your health—a heart attack, for instance, or broken hip. But it will be out-of-network care, so you may face high deductibles and coinsurance payments—and you’re on your own for lesser issues. So, if you get a bad cold and decide to get it checked out, expect to pay out of pocket. Details vary, so check your health insurance plan’s non-U.S. rules, co-insurance rates, and out-of-pocket maximums. You’ve seen the ads on TV…the couples are discussing their insurance plans and one says to the other – and it even covers any illness anywhere in the United States…what about coverage overseas? That’s what you want to be sure about if you are traveling out of the country. And what about getting back into the country if you’re hospitalized? Your cruise ship has sailed or your tour group has gone on to the next stop. Better have your passport with you, too.
Medicare is a special case: It rarely covers services outside the U.S. except in certain circumstances—on a cruise ship within six hours of a U.S. port, for instance. You’ve got some coverage built in if you have one of the Medigap plans (C, D, F, G, M, N) that pay 80% of bills for emergency care as long as it’s during the first two months of a trip abroad. (There’s a $250 annual deductible plus a lifetime limit of $50,000 for foreign-travel emergency care.)
Protection: Worried about high out-of-pocket costs? You can get a supplemental travel medical policy to kick in on care your primary insurer won’t cover. We can compare options with the two companies we work with – TravelGuard and RoamRight. You can purchase insurance from the cruise line or the tour company, but those policies are not always all-inclusive of illnesses; which is why we recommend additional health insurance especially if you are susceptible to illness.
Cover preexisting conditions: Travel medical plans usually have exceptions for emergencies related to ongoing conditions. If you have health issues that might require medical care, choose a broad travel policy—covering things like trip cancellations and baggage loss—and tack on a preexisting-condition waiver. We always suggest you purchase your travel insurance in a timely manner; incorporating the preexisting conditions. That way if you have to cancel the trip all together, you won’t be out any money (except for the insurance premium).
Line up local pros: If you run into trouble mid-trip, call your carriers right away. Travel insurers can recommend local care options, and even U.S. plans may be able to identify the most appropriate nearby facility. For extra help, join the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, a nonprofit with a global network of English-speaking doctors and health professionals.
There is no fee to join, Membership is valid for one year and renewable with a donation, your contribution is tax-deductible. IAMAT members get travel health information and exclusive access to our international network of trusted English-speaking doctors.
IAMAT is a non-profit organization linking travelers directly to healthcare providers vetted by us. If you need medical assistance, present your membership card to an IAMAT-affiliated doctor. IAMAT members can expect to pay up to a maximum of US $100 for the first regular office consultation with a private practice doctor. These consultation rates do not apply to hospitals and clinics, which charge IAMAT members their standard consultation fees. Our doctors will help you navigate the local healthcare system and can refer you to a specialist or report back to your own doctor if needed. They are not an insurance company. Members who seek medical care from one of our reputable doctors may choose to file a claim and get reimbursed by their travel insurance provider after their trip.
IAMAT Membership Card: Present your IAMAT Membership Card to our affiliated doctors and mental health practitioners. As a member, you pay a set fee for the first consultation with a private practice doctor. IAMAT’s rates do not apply to hospitals and clinics, which charge their standard consultation fees. Renewing your membership with a donation guarantees uninterrupted access to our Health Network.
Listings of doctors and clinics around the world: Get access to qualified IAMAT-affiliated doctors and clinics in dozens of countries around the world. Participating doctors and mental health practitioners are fluent in English, and can refer you to a specialist in any field of medicine or report back to your own doctor.
Country Health Advice: Up-to-date information about required and recommended vaccinations, local health risks, food and water conditions, climate, and more for all countries. Travel health recommendations are updated daily and we only report confirmed cases.
Information by health risk: Find information on a particular health risk, including its geographic distribution, symptoms, and prevention recommendations.
Travel Health eLibrary: IAMAT members get exclusive access to our comprehensive Guide to Travel Health Insurance and Guide to Healthy Travel. Other eLibrary resources are available to members and non-members alike, including tip sheets and information about travelling with medications, mental health, immunizations, Malaria, and jet lag.
Answer My Travel Health Question: Have a burning travel health question? As a member, your question will be answered as soon as possible by an expert.
Traveler Clinical Record: A handy pamphlet to be completed by your health practitioner before departure. If you need healthcare while travelling, the Traveler Clinical Record provides practitioners with your medical history to facilitate care away from home.
Travel Health Planner: Designed for IAMAT members, the Travel Health Planner is an online tool that provides vaccination and health advice based on your itinerary.
Keep your paperwork: When you get home, you’ll need all of your receipts in order to get reimbursed. And get copies of medical records outlining the care you received. A credit card statement will not be sufficient.