If you’re traveling abroad for a vacation or extended period, you’re going to visit a place that’s unfamiliar to you. Even if you adapt to your new surroundings, different standards of living exist. That may impact your ability to take care of yourself and influence how you seek medical care.
Everyone wants to stay healthy. If you get sick while in a place you’re not familiar with, it can be a scary experience. In you’re in a foreign destination, this anxiety could be even worse. However, if you have the right insurance, you can stop worrying about international medical bills. The most familiar form of insurance for Americans abroad is international medical insurance.
Think Before Traveling With Your Standard Health Insurance
Foreign countries’ health care networks and standards of care vary from the United States'. Think about it. Medications, hospital procedures, costs and care subsidies may be wholly different in a foreign nation. You can usually receive totally adequate care. However, how you pay for it will likely be very different than you ordinarily would if you were in America.
Many international medical care providers do not accept payment from American insurance companies. Likewise, many American insurers reduce coverage for care someone receives in another country. Some insurers pay only minimal costs for care, and others do not cover it at all. An American abroad may face the possibility of needing medical care, but lacking the money to pay for it without insurance. To accommodate this need, Americans might need to expand their health insurance to cover global health markets.
Health Insurance for Foreign Travel
Before you cross international borders, you have to think ahead. What if you get sick or injured? You will need to seek medical attention. But, your standard U.S. health insurance may not provide coverage.
International health coverage can often help Americans who plan to stay abroad for extensive periods of time—such as expatriates. This coverage can often help the individual seek routine care in a foreign country. For example, it might cover surgeries, outpatient care, maternity care and specialist treatment.
Policyholders often have a choice when setting up an international policy. It often affords them the right to better choose their physician and standard of care. They can also often set up their policy for the amount of time they intend to spend abroad.
One aspect of international medical insurance is that many policies cover both U.S. and foreign medical care. So, you might be able to use the same policy for your medical needs in the U.S. and internationally. If you travel frequently between countries, this might be the best policy for you. International health insurance can often give American expats the pace of mind that they have coverage when they're overseas.
Health Tips for Safe Travel
Even if you have medical insurance, you don’t want to get sick. Before traveling, take precautions to keep your health in good shape while you are abroad.
- When traveling, take all necessary medical paperwork with you. This may include prescription verification, insurance cards, allergy records or other instructions. Keep a close watch on this information at all times.
- If you must receive physician permission to travel, carry the documentation with you. Do not travel if your doctor advises against it.
- Refill your medications or make sure you have enough pills for the duration of travel. At times, your pharmacist might be able to give you a few extra pills for each prescription in case of emergencies. Carefully guard your medication at all times while traveling.
- If you carry any medical equipment with you, like portable oxygen or wheelchairs, label it with your name. Verify that you have proof of ownership and permission to transport it.
- Study the medical resources available to you where you plan to travel. This might include the locations of services covered by your insurance. The U.S. State Department also provides medical research assistance for travelers.
- Keep an emergency contact back home. It might be a doctor, attorney or close relative. That person may be able to assist you in case you have a medical emergency in a foreign country.
Of course, observe the same medical caution that you would at home when you’re abroad. You might need to take dietary precautions, extra sanitation practices or make arrangement with your hosts or travel agencies in order to maintain your health. As always, use scrutiny when seeking medical care in a foreign country. Always clearly communicate your needs to any treating physicians.
If you face a medical crisis abroad, contact your health insurer immediately to verify how your international coverage might help you. With the correct protection, you can seek medical care when you need it abroad. Talk to your insurance agent about how to establish the coverage before your travels.
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