Traveling abroad can be an adventure in and of itself. New climates, cuisines, and languages make even quiet days in another country memorable. And like any good adventure, traveling abroad is not without risk. We’re not talking about a little episode of Montezuma’s Revenge keeping you near a toilet that first day in Mexico. If things go seriously wrong—severe food poisoning, a car accident, or an emergency on the trails or slopes—you may not be able to rely on the same health insurance coverage you enjoy Stateside.
Know Before You Go
Health insurance policies vary in their details and exclusions. Some providers may offer limited or no coverage for care outside of the U.S. Before you travel, check with your health insurance provider to learn the answers to these questions:
- Does my health insurance cover me if I get sick or injured outside of the country?
- Are pre-existing conditions and prescriptions covered while abroad?
- Will I have to pay upfront for medical care and then file for reimbursement?
Be Prepared to Pay Upfront
Pay particular attention to the last question above, “will I have to pay upfront?” Even if your health insurance policy covers care internationally, it may do so only by issuing a reimbursement.
This is because your U.S. insurance company may not have a direct billing and payment relationship with foreign healthcare providers. If they don’t, the foreign health care provider will require full payment before treatment. Then, you may be able to apply for reimbursement from your U.S. provider after receiving care.
Yes, Deductibles Still Apply
No, you can’t run away from your deductible. No matter the country, you're still on the hook for standard out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Just like at home, if you get sick or injured abroad, your policy will require you to meet your deductible, pay copayments or coinsurance, and possibly pay out-of-network care costs.
Before you cancel your international flights, know that you can supplement your insurance. What’s more, you have options.
- Travel Insurance and Travel Medical Insurance You may think of travel insurance as coverage for lost luggage, missed flights, and last minute trip cancellations. These features are typical parts of many travel insurance policies. Some travel insurance policies may also provide coverage for emergency medical care. Just be sure to check the exclusions. Some activities deemed risky by the policy may exclude coverage.
Travel medical insurance covers medical care costs during your trip.
- Accident Insurance
Accident insurance, like Buddy insurance, may be a more flexible option. Two reasons in particular may make Buddy a good fit:
- It is on-demand.
- If you file a claim, you get paid directly.
On-demand insurance means that you only pay for the coverage you need. If your trip is a month, pay for a month. If it’s a week, pay for a week. If it’s two days, you can pay for just two days. Or, if you only want insurance coverage for part of your trip, like the one day you’re skiing, you need only pay for that day. This flexibility can get you the coverage you need while freeing up money for other expenses.
Being paid directly means that when your claim is approved, you receive money in your bank account. This means you can spend the money however you need. You can cover medical care costs, pay for travel plan change fees, or replace lost or damaged gear.
Accident insurance can complement travel insurance. It is a supplement for your standard health insurance policy.
Beyond coverage, information can make the difference in getting the care you need abroad.
To that end, here are few non-insurance resources that can help you plan for medical care outside of the country:
- Non-profit IAMAT provides a roster of “reputable English-speaking doctors” in countries around the world.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides medical guidance for travelers.
- The U.S. State Department provides alerts to keep you safe abroad.
Peace of Mind
Now that you are armed with information, you can better decide whether and what type of insurance is right to cover your travels. Whatever you decide, always review the policy details to understand exclusions before purchasing. Happy (global) adventuring.