Nobody wants to end up in the hospital when they’re overseas, but sometimes it just happens. And although you can’t control fate, there are a few things you can do to make sure that a foreign hospital stay won’t also devastate your finances.
First and foremost, do a little research and find out if the country you plan to visit has a national healthcare plan. You’ll also need to find out if visitors are covered under that plan. If so, then you’re in good shape. Be diligent in your research though, and don’t just rely on word of mouth.
For example, I always thought that since the Republic of Ireland had national healthcare, that tourists were also covered. Turns out they have a tiered plan, and only visitors from EU countries are eligible for coverage. And I only found that out after a friend ended up in the hospital in Ireland. On the other hand, another friend who broke her arm in New Zealand was fully covered by their universal accident insurance.
It’s also a good idea to check your medical insurance policy to see if you are covered outside the US. If not, then consider purchasing a travel medical insurance policy. These are usually quite affordable. My medical insurance covers nothing overseas, so I purchased a travel medical policy for just $75 per year. It covers everything that my primary carrier won’t — up to $100,000.
It’s also important to note that in most cases Medicare is not good outside the US, so when you’re shopping for a Medicare supplement make sure and get one that covers foreign travel. I just purchased one for Charles, and although it added about $15 to his monthly premium, it’s nice to know he has the extra coverage.
Additionally, once you have the coverage be sure to carry the insurance cards with you, and know who to contact in an emergency. Some plans require that you contact them when you are hospitalized overseas, while others require relatively little paperwork. And if all this is too overwhelming for you, then reach out to the US Embassy for help. They can help cut through some of the red tape, so you get the care that you need.
Most important, everyone should have medical evacuation insurance. Depending on where you travel, an air ambulance trip back to the US can cost $50,000 to $100,000. Air ambulance companies also expect an insurance assignment or payment up front for their services. I’ve known several people who had to mortgage their homes in order to pay for air ambulance transport home. Don’t let that happen to you!
Last but not least, check your wallet for existing travel coverage. For example, I recently discovered that I have $25,000 medical evacuation coverage through my AAA Premier membership. The extra coverage is great, but it’s totally useless if you don’t know about it. So start digging and see what hidden benefits you can discover. You may have more coverage than you think.