Some companies provide insurance that will cover your health insurance expenses when you travel outside of the United States. If included, travel insurance is already a part of your existing health insurance coverage, and you do not need to pay additional costs.
However, it is important that you confirm with your health insurer before traveling overseas. Some health insurances do not provide coverage when you travel abroad. Many countries require travelers to purchase emergency health insurance whether they are vacationing or staying for an extended period.
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If your health insurance will not cover you during travel, then the safe thing to do is purchase travelers’ insurance for your trip. This insurance is offered by some insurance companies to cover health related expenses when outside of the United States.
What will my health insurance cover?
While all health coverage varies, most companies will provide some coverage if you get ill, have an accident or need to be hospitalized outside of the United States. The Insurance Information Institute states that most insurance companies will cover claims that are “usual, customary, and reasonable.”
However, if you are in a country that has less-than-desirable health care and you want to travel back to the United States for treatment, most health insurances will not cover the cost of the flight home. The cost of emergency transportation from a foreign country can be very expensive as some airlines require the very ill to have special arrangements such as travelling with a physician.
Some companies offer an emergency medical assistance and evacuation policy to supplement your existing health insurance. The cost of this policy will vary depending on your insurance provider and the areas you are traveling to.
What are “usual, customary, and reasonable” rates?
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners states that insurance companies define “usual, customary, and reasonable” rates as those that are average for a service or procedure in a particular geographic area.
Health insurers use this average amount to determine the total they will pay for a medical service or procedure. Providers also use the terms “allowed amount” or “payment allowance” when referring to the maximum amount they will pay out for a particular service or procedure.
Essentially, that means you will cover any costs beyond what your insurance provider determines to be the maximum amount payable for an illness, injury or hospitalization while abroad.
What does traveler’s insurance cover?
Another option if you cannot get coverage through your company is to purchase traveler’s insurance.
Travelers’ insurance can be purchased to cover a host of unforeseeable events. It can cover your deposits and costs of tickets if you or the travel provider has to cancel your trip; it can cover losses of baggage, money and even your life.
Travelers’ insurance also offers an emergency medical assistance package. Generally, this will cover medical expenses if you are hurt or become ill. It will pay for doctor’s visits, hospital stays, and prescriptions. More importantly, it will cover the cost of travelling back to the United States or to another country that has adequate medical care.
How much does it cost?
Travelers’ insurance rates will vary depending on the options you choose:
- Term length of the coverage
- Your age
- Current health
- What countries you are traveling to
Typical insurance cost such as copays and deductibles could also affect the cost of travelers’ insurance.
Some companies base their rates on the total cost of the trip, and it can be up to 10% of the trip’s cost. Generally, emergency medical assistance insurance is very inexpensive for those who are in reasonably good health.
The cost of travelers’ health insurance is negligible next to the cost of paying for health care in a foreign country or covering emergency transportation.
What are some countries that require travelers’ insurance?
Some foreign countries, mainly those in Europe, require travelers to obtain minimum levels of health insurance before being issued a visa to travel in that country. Twenty-five countries in Europe require proof of adequate insurance during the visa application process. Major countries include:
These countries, called the Schengen countries, require proof of coverage for medical emergency evacuation and the return of remains to a home country. A visa letter is required as proof from the insurance company providing the coverage. Cuba also has similar requirements.
Many tour companies that promote trips to remote or extreme environments also require participants to carry adequate medical insurance that includes emergency transportation to a country with a sufficient level of medical care.
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