Health Insurance When Traveling: Do I Need Health Insurance When Traveling to Europe?
Just the Essentials…
- With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Americans now have better access to health insurance plans that meet certain minimum standards.
- Not all health insurance plans cover medical expenses incurred while traveling to Europe.
- You can purchase supplemental or additional insurance that will cover any medical expenses that you incur while abroad.
How Does Health Insurance Work When Traveling Abroad?
“What if I encounter a medical emergency while traveling abroad? Do I need health insurance when traveling to Europe?” It may not be a necessity, but having some type of health insurance coverage that will help you cover medical expenses incurred while traveling abroad is an excellent idea.
If you’re a frequent traveler to places outside of the country, you probably have a similar mindset when it comes to taking care of medical issues that arise elsewhere. Many travelers do not believe that health insurance that covers medical issues that arise abroad is necessary, as they feel that the probability of incurring medical expenses while out of the country is low. Life can be surprising, though, and you should take all the steps you can to ensure that you and your family have health insurance when traveling.
Let’s take a look at how having a health insurance policy that covers medical expenses while traveling abroad can be a big help to you.
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What Type of Insurance Do Americans Need?
If you’re choosing a health insurance plan through the ACA, then you’ll be obtaining a policy that already meets minimum ACA standards. If you’re purchasing a health insurance plan through a private provider, it’s a good idea to compare those private plans with ACA plans to find something that meets minimum standards.
If you’re eligible, you may also be insured through Medicaid or Medicare. Medicaid is government-provided health insurance for those who meet certain income requirements. Medicare is government-provided health insurance for most Americans age 65 and above.
When you’re looking for health insurance plans, it’s important to find one that offers these ten basic benefits:
- Outpatient care
- ER services
- Hospital fees
- Maternal and newborn care
- Mental health services
- The cost of prescription drugs
- Rehabilitative care
- Lab fees
- Preventive services
- Pediatric care
Will My Health Insurance Cover Medical Expenses While I’m in Europe?
Most health insurance plans that are available for purchase through either the ACA Marketplace or a private provider only cover medical expenses incurred in the United States. The majority of plans available do not cover medical expenses incurred when traveling abroad, and finding one that does isn’t always easy.
If you already have a health insurance policy, the best thing you can do is check your plan to see what it covers. If you have a limited type of Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) or Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan, you will likely be unable to receive coverage for medical expenses incurred outside of the United States.
If you do not have a plan, and medical coverage for expenses incurred overseas is important to you, then comparison shopping is a vital tool to have in your arsenal. Before settling on a health insurance plan, look around to find something that best meets your needs. A frequent traveler will likely be more interested in such a comprehensive health insurance plan than the occasional tourist.
Speak With Your Insurance Provider to Learn More about Health Insurance When Traveling Abroad
Before you set out on a trip, call your insurance company and ask if your health insurance plan offers coverage for any level of care received while traveling. Be aware that the coverage provided may be limited in scope and come with a high deductible. When in doubt about anything in your policy, remember that it’s always best to contact your provider with questions as soon as you can.
In some cases, you may be allowed to add a supplemental package to your existing plan that could reduce your out-of-pocket expenses should anything happen. Before choosing these supplemental packages, know that they will likely require payment out-of-pocket followed by reimbursement upon your return home.
If you planned your trip ahead of time, it’s always best to be proactive when looking for health insurance that may cover any medical issues that pop up when you’re outside of the country. It will likely be easier to change your health insurance plan to include the coverage you need if a trip to Europe is months away rather than in the next few weeks.
Travel Medical Insurance is an Option
If you’re a frequent traveler and your current health insurance plan does not offer coverage for medical issues that occur outside of the United States, it can be nerve-wracking. We’re happy to tell you, though, that there is an option out there for you. Let’s talk a little bit about travel medical insurance.
Travel medical insurance offers reimbursement for emergency medical expenses that may pop up while you’re out of the country. For instance, if you break a leg or suffer an event that requires hospitalization, you have coverage. It will not, however, cover routine expenses, such as yearly wellness checkups or teeth cleanings.
If you have a pre-existing condition, you may be concerned about your ability to obtain travel medical insurance, but don’t let that concern keep you from exploring your options. Most travel medical insurance plans provide coverage for pre-existing conditions. In order to obtain coverage for pre-existing conditions, you’ll need to fill out a Pre-Existing Condition Waiver.
To qualify for this waiver, you’ll need to meet a few requirements:
- Age: The majority of travel medical insurance plans do not have a limit.
- Cost: There is no additional premium for a Pre-Existing Condition Waiver.
- Health: Pre-existing conditions must be stable – meaning they have not changed or worsened in any way – and you must be medically fit to travel.
- Timing: You must purchase insurance early, usually soon after making your first trip deposit.
- Accuracy: The cost of your trip must be listed accurately.
Travel medical insurance is designed to be a short-term solution for those who only travel a few times per year, or for those who travel multiple times but do not spend the majority of your time outside of the United States. Coverage is available in single-trip and multi-trip tiers, with single-trip coverage requiring purchase for every trip and multi-trip coverage lasting the entire year.
Both types primarily cover three different issues:
- Emergency medical evacuation and repatriation
- 24-hour medical assistance services
- Accidental death and dismemberment
Some travel medical insurance plans also cover medical-related trip interruptions and lost luggage, albeit to a limited degree. To find out if your medical insurance plan covers these issues, check your policy or contact your travel medical insurance plan provider.
Travel Health Insurance
Let’s say you spend more time out of the country than a general traveler would. Maybe you frequently fly overseas for business, or you live outside of the United States for a good portion of the year. Many companies offer a more comprehensive travel health insurance plan if this is the case for you.
Comprehensive travel health insurance policies offer more protections for you if you happen to travel or live abroad for a large portion of the year. The protections covered by travel health insurance include:
- Trip cancellation
- Trip interruption and delay
- Emergency medical evacuation/repatriation
- Lost luggage
- 24-hour assistance
- Accidental death or dismemberment
- Rental car coverage
Coverage limits with a travel health insurance plan are much higher than they are with a travel medical insurance plan. Some plans will cover as much as $2,000,000 in medical expenses for frequent travelers.
Will Medicare Cover Medical Expenses Incurred While Abroad?
If you’re over the age of 65 and you have Medicare, it will not cover medical services received overseas. There are some cases where hospital, doctor, and ambulance services may be covered if you live close to the Canadian or Mexican borders and a foreign hospital is closer to you than the nearest American one.
How Can I Obtain a Travel Medical or Health Insurance Plan?
If your own health insurance plan doesn’t offer any type of travel coverage, you still have a wide variety of options for obtaining a travel medical or health insurance plan. A comprehensive list of companies that provide travel medical and health insurance can be found on the U.S. State Department website. You can also obtain travel medical insurance or a travel health insurance plan by purchasing a comprehensive travel insurance plan.
Remember that these plans vary in terms of coverage. Some cover a complete spectrum of emergency medical issues, while others only cover certain aspects, such as expenses incurred during a doctor’s visit for a minor situation, or catastrophic cases that involve medical evacuation. Regardless of what you choose, it’s always a good idea to purchase travel or medical insurance of any type if you travel fairly regularly.
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