6 Tips if You Need Healthcare When Traveling Abroad
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Your health insurance probably doesn't cover you outside the U.S.
Many international travelers may be surprised to learn that they have no health insurance coverage for illnesses or injuries that must be treated during their trip abroad. In particular, the U.S. Social Security Medicare program does not provide any coverage for hospital or medical costs incurred outside of the United States. Individual health insurance policies vary in the amount, if any, of the costs they will reimburse for medical services in other countries. While some companies do cover a portion of physician and hospital costs abroad, it is rare for an insurer to pay for medical evacuation back to the United States or to a nearby country with a developed health care system.
The staff at U.S. consulates throughout the world can help traveling Americans locate health care providers and facilities, contact family members in the U.S., and assist with the wire transfer of funds from the U.S. Even if your insurance company will cover part of the charges of your medical care abroad, you will likely need to pay the charges yourself at the time of service and file claims for reimbursement when you return home.
Consider purchasing travel health insurance
For those who do not have medical coverage when traveling abroad, it is possible to purchase travel insurance that not only covers health care needs while abroad, but also pays for medical evacuation should you need to return to the U.S. for treatment. Many travel agencies specializing in international travel can give you information about travel insurance programs. Medical evacuation insurance and travel insurance may also be offered by tour operators at an additional cost. Senior citizens can contact the American Association of Retired Persons for information about foreign medical care coverage with Medicare supplement plans. The U.S. State Department Web site (http://travel.state.gov) also contains a list of companies that offer travel insurance.
6 things to do to ensure healthcare is available to you in a foreign country
It might also be helpful to research the name of the hospitals in the areas you will be traveling (including countries where you have lay overs). Some countries have government run hospitals and private hospitals. Care at facilities may vary, so it may be wise to determine a hospital you would prefer to be taken to in the event of a medical emergency. Some countries may also have hospitals that are more able to care for tourists (the staff may speak English).
For additional information please visit the Travel Medicine Center.
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/10/2017