Whether traveling for business or pleasure, it is worth taking a few minutes to consider your health insurance coverage, especially if you will be traveling for an extended time. Look at both sides – does your insurance cover you at your destination, and do providers there accept your insurance?
The first step is to check with your insurance provider to check your coverage terms. Most insurers will cover anywhere within the U.S. and your standard terms will apply, but the major issue for domestic travel is whether any health care providers are nearby that are within your network. Your provider should be able to give you a list of in-network providers, or where the nearest one to your destination is located.
Overseas travel is a little more complex. However, you still need to contact your current provider to find out if you are covered overseas, and if so, to what extent. If Medicare/Medicaid covers you, your coverage is only valid within the U.S.
Check your current provider and policy for the following points:
- Basic Acceptance – Will providers accept your insurance at all? Just like verifying your network in the U.S., your insurance provider should be able to tell you if there are health care facilities at your destination that will accept your insurance, where they are located, and how to use them.
- Level of Coverage – Most policies will only handle emergency medical coverage. However, make sure you know how your policy defines an emergency.
- Transport and Evacuation – Does your policy cover transport to medical facilities, and evacuation to different facilities if your condition cannot be treated properly where you are?
- Payment – Are your co-pays and deductibles valid at your destination, or will you have to pay upfront and get reimbursed later by the insurance company? When you file your claim, are co-pays and deductibles applied as if you were in the U.S.?
- Exclusions – Are there issues with any pre-existing conditions you have, or any activities (such as high-risk vacation activities like skydiving or mountain climbing)?
If you have no coverage or decide your coverage is inadequate, consider one of these supplemental travel insurance paths.
- Add-on Policy – Your current provider may offer international coverage as an add-on policy. Check your options while you go over your existing coverage. Most add-ons are oriented to travel instead of health, but options may be available.
- Travel Insurance – This insurance usually covers both travel issues (lost luggage, cancellations, etc.) and enhanced medical coverage – however, the emphasis may be on the travel side.
- Temporary Health Insurance – This is provided through specialty insurers that focus only on the medical aspect of travel. Without the other travel-related coverage, temporary health insurance is generally cheaper than standard travel insurance. This may also be called worldwide, international, or travel medical.
Depending on the policy you choose, you may be able to get advance payment, transport and evacuation, and Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D), among other options. Policies may be sold as single trip up to six months, multiple trips up to twelve months, or long term.
Lists of travel medical insurance vendors are available online, as well as from the State Department. A few websites offer comparison tools for you to compare prices and coverage of various plans.
With homework and diligence, you can find the best policy for you – or find out you already have it – and travel with confidence. Make sure you take copies of your necessary information like insurance identification cards with you and keep any bills and receipts for reimbursements.