Whether you’re traveling outside the U.S. for business or pleasure or you’re planning on wintering abroad in a warmer location, there’s an important topic you should explore before you go: health insurance. If you need medical care in another country, you don’t want to be on the hook for the full expense if you can avoid it.
Travel health insurance can help provide financial protection if you need medical care outside the U.S.
What does travel health insurance cover?
Travel health insurance can provide coverage for expenses, including hospital stays, emergency medical care, and transportation costs when you’re away from home. The specific coverage and benefits of each policy vary depending on the plan and the insurance provider, so it’s important to understand what’s covered and what isn’t before choosing. Of course, you’ll want to keep your costs reasonable, but you’ll also want to be covered for the most likely scenarios.
Do you really need it?
Check with your regular health insurance provider to determine whether your policy provides coverage for medical expenses incurred while abroad. If it’s covered and you feel the coverage is sufficient, you may not need to look any further. Keep in mind that even if your regular policy offers some coverage, it may be limited or may not cover certain types of medical care, so ask about specifics.
And it’s important to note that Medicare isn’t accepted outside the U.S.
Some credit cards offer travel insurance that may cover medical care, so that can be another option to explore. The cost of medical care can be much higher in other countries, especially if you need emergency care, so if your regular policy doesn’t cover that, look into additional coverage.
What factors should you consider when evaluating coverage options?
When making this decision, consider:
- Coverage extent. Look for a policy that provides comprehensive coverage for medical expenses, emergency care, and medical evacuation. If you have preexisting conditions, your policy should cover those (some don’t, in which case having a preexisting condition would exclude you from coverage). Be sure to read the policy carefully so you know what’s covered and what isn’t.
- Length of coverage. Short-term coverage is generally for trips of six months or less. For longer stays, long-term coverage may be more appropriate. You may also want to consider medical evacuation insurance to cover the cost of emergency medical transportation if you’ll be staying in a remote location with limited healthcare facilities.
- Costs. Travel health insurance can vary widely in price, so shop around and compare rates from different providers. The cheapest policy may not provide the best coverage, so consider the cost-benefit analysis when making your choice.
- Provider network. Check to see if the insurance provider has a network of medical providers in the countries you'll be visiting.
- Policy limitations. Some policies may have limitations on coverage for preexisting conditions, adventure sports such as sky diving, or certain types of medical care.
- Customer service. Look for an insurance provider with good customer service and a 24/7 helpline you can contact if you need assistance while traveling (especially if there is a time difference to consider).
Once you’ve purchased insurance, be sure to carry your insurance card and/or a copy of your policy with you during your trip. If you do find yourself in need of medical care while abroad, the U.S. Embassy will be able to provide information about local doctors and hospitals. Even if you don’t expect to run into medical issues, a sudden illness or accident can cause a huge financial loss. It’s best to be prepared.
Dan Flanagan is a financial advisor and Partner located at Canby Financial Advisors, 161 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA 01701. He offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. He can be reached at 508.598.1082 or email@example.com
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