This year for winter break, you’re hitting the open road with your friends to catch some sweet waves off the coast of Mexico. As you catch your first wave, you get big air and wind up with more than you bargained for – a broken arm and a pricey hospital stay to boot. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of your problems.
Before you’re allowed to leave the Mexican hospital, you’re told that you’ll have to pay your bill out of your own pocket. Despite your objection that you’ve got health insurance, the doctors in Puerto Escondido inform you that your U.S.-based health insurance is not going to pay for your extensive Mexican medical bill. You’ve just learned a very important lesson about travel medical insurance that thousands of other American travelers learn every year. Here’s how to avoid this painful scenario.
Health Insurance Does Not Travel Well
Many people have the impression that the health insurance they have in the United States should automatically follow them wherever they go. Public health insurance options such a Medicaid and Medicare cannot be used outside of the country, but you’ll also find this to be the case with a lot of private plans, too.
Prior to leaving on your trip, contact your health insurance provider to see if your coverage will extend to your international trip. Some insurance companies will provide you with a letter that extends some of your coverage to other countries, but even that coverage may be very limited and will not cover all of your medical costs.
Considerations to Make Before Leaving
If your holiday is going to include dangerous activities such as catching gnarly waves, then your insurance company might not cover any injuries that you get from that activity. As you inquire about whether your coverage extends out of the country or not, you should also ask about specific limitations on coverage, such as extreme sports.
Are you traveling to a country that could irritate your allergies severely? Are you going to a country with a reputation for having unhealthy drinking water? Before you head out to a foreign country, you need to consider all of the possible health hazards you could be facing that would put a strain on your body and your health insurance. The last thing you want to worry about when you’re holed up in a foreign hospital is how you’re going to pay for the treatments you’re receiving.
Get Travel Health Insurance
In most cases, travelers heading to other countries will have to get supplemental travel health insurance to cover any medical emergencies while abroad. The U.S. State Department offers a list of reputable insurance carriers that offer travel insurance that you can use to find the right company, and while the department doesn’t endorse any company specifically, it can be a good jumping off point for finding reputable coverage. Before you pay for travel medical insurance, conduct your own research to make sure you’re getting good coverage from a quality company. Travel health insurance can help you with:
- Emergency medical and/or dental services
- Accidental death and dismemberment costs
- Term life insurance (varies by policy)
- The costs of evacuating via airlift to a U.S. facility for continuing treatment
- Emergency medical transportation to take you and your family to a medical facility that offers high-quality medical services
Not only does supplementary medical insurance make good sense if you’re going to be traveling, but it also tends to be inexpensive. Most travel insurance companies charge based on your age, how long you will be out of the country and where you’ll be traveling.
Who Needs Supplemental Travel Medical Insurance?
The idea of getting injured on vacation is the last thing on your mind as you pack your swimsuit and life preserver. But anyone can get injured while traveling, which is why travel medical insurance is perfect for:
- Families on vacation
- Missionaries and peace workers working in foreign countries
- Business professionals who do a lot of international travel
- Travelers who want to get out and see the world
Without proper insurance in place, you’ll likely feel the full brunt of medical bills accrued overseas. To avoid this pitfall, look into your options for getting covered before you board your flight. Different types of medical travel insurance include one-time use policies that cover holidays lasting up to six months; single policies that cover multiple trips in the same three-, six- or 12-month period; and continuous, long-term coverage.
Not sure where to start? Ask for advice. It’s important to discuss your trip and your travel medical insurance needs with a qualified agent to make sure you get the right kind of policy and only pay for what you realistically need.
How to Buy Travel Medical Insurance
Your quest to buy travel medical insurance starts with that list of reputable providers from the U.S. State Department. Call as many companies as you can to get quotes to compare. Every company charges different rates for travel medical insurance, and you will also find that each company has different amenities that can be added into their policies. For example, you may find a travel medical insurance company that also offers insurance to cover lost luggage. This can be extremely helpful if you will be bringing a lot of prescription medications on vacation with you. Just keep in mind that most major credit card issuers also offer lost baggage protection, so don’t pay for pricey add-ons that you won’t actually use.
If you’re not an expert in travel medical insurance or health insurance in general, then prepare a list of questions to ask each provider as you get your quotes. The best way to learn is to ask. Once you have your quotes, make sure you’re dealing with companies with strong reputations. Travel insurance is more susceptible to shady dealings than other kinds of insurance. You can protect yourself by asking plenty of questions and doing research before buying a policy.
As you’re planning your next holiday getaway, think about medical insurance protection for you and your loved ones. Buy the right travel insurance policy before your trip and you can have peace of mind while you’re catching air on that beach in Mexico.