Health insurance plans are designed to protect you on the medical costs that occur everyday or in cases of emergency or illness. They are wonderful in all senses except your coverage is limited when you travel. Once out of your network area, things can become costly if you need medical attention. There is an answer, travel insurance.
Travel insurance is designed to pay for certain unexpected costs that may arise when you are traveling. These can include emergency hospital medical costs, trip cancellation, lost baggage and accidental death insurance. Not all plans cover all of these components. For instance, the trip cancellation insurance you buy when you book your holiday may not include health insurance. Be sure you understand what type of protection you are buying and whether it meets your needs. Make sure to pick up a policy that has some medical coverage.
When traveling out of the country, you will need to purchase an over-seas plan that can be use in all the places you will be going to. For out-of-country expenditures, coverage varies. Health ministries strongly recommend that you consider other sources of coverage if you are leaving the country because health coverage, in itself, may not be adequate.
Other sources include group insurance through your employment, credit card companies, and individual travel insurers. If traveling in Europe, you can get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to be able to receive medical treatment while visiting a European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. So make sure you find out if the country in which you are traveling even accepts your insurance and if not what you will need, such as an EHIC card or something else similar.
Questions you should ask your current insurance carrier are:
- Will your policies cover you for the entire length of your absence if you decide to extend the length of your stay, can your policy be renewed? How would this be done?
What restrictions and limitations does your policy have? Does your policy pay for services provided in outpatient clinics or doctors’ offices?
Does the insurance company have a toll-free or collect telephone number for emergency assistance that you can reach from anywhere you travel?
Does your policy require that you use the toll-free number at the time of accident/ illness, in order to be eligible for coverage?
What maximums, deductibles and/or co-insurance would apply in the event of a claim?
What documentation is needed to submit a claim? What are the procedures?
Does the policy pay for emergency return home?
If you are traveling with others, does each individual need a separate policy or can one policy cover all travelers?
Does your policy provide for trip-cancellation, baggage loss and other damages?
Know the Fine Print
Make sure that you know all the details prior to booking a trip. This way you will know what extra insurance you may need to get prior to going. You never know how long it might take to apply and get accepted for a specific type of insurance, especially if you are traveling internationally. When traveling to a foreign country research and find out what types of insurance they accept from foreign travelers.
Many countries have very specific policies they will accept and wont accept. Talk with your insurance agent to see if there are any foreign policies you can add to your existing coverage. You might be able to get them at a reduced rate by already being a member and the agent can give you the specific requirements for a particular country or region.
Once you have worked out all the details for your health coverage, take some time and find out what is covered in an emergency situation. If you had to be flown back to your home at a different scheduled time, is that fare covered or not? You want to find out if you are required to receive full treatment where you are located or could be returned home for treatment and/or hospitalization once you are stable?
Make sure you have coverage for whoever is with you as well. This person might have to rearrange their flight and schedule, too, so make sure that is covered in your plan. All these things are important so you know what to expect and dont add more surprises to your injury.