Planning an international trip can be downright exhilarating, and that’s especially true if you’re traveling to far-flung locations you’ve never visited before. Whether you plan to relax the day away on a tropical beach, visit archeological sites and ruins you’ve read about in school, or splurge on a culinary-themed getaway for foodies, there’s so much to look forward to – and to prepare for.
But there’s more to trip planning than putting together a packing list and an itinerary. You should also make sure you’re adequately covered for a range of emergencies and health issues that could occur, as well as travel mishaps like flight delays and lost bags.
The best way to do that is by lining up a comprehensive travel insurance plan far ahead of your trip and ensuring it includes all the protections you could possibly need. One such protection is travel medical coverage if you don’t have it already, so you’ll want to find out what coverage you have (if any) right away.
Does my health plan cover me overseas?
Whether your individual health insurance plan provides coverage overseas depends on the exact plan you have. With that in mind, the US Department of State says you should contact your health insurance provider to inquire about international coverage before you plan your trip.
That said, you should know that US health insurance plans typically do not cover regular and routine medical care required overseas. This means your health insurance won’t pay for care if you need to visit a doctor for a prescription medicine, or if you need treatment for a condition that is not considered an emergency.
Most individual health insurance policies in the US do not provide coverage for overseas emergency care, either. Without that coverage, if you break a leg or your travel companion has a heart attack during your trip, you will not have financial protection against the medical expenses that accrue. To know for sure what your plan entails, call your individual health insurance company to find out what is and isn’t covered.
Also note that, if you have Medicare coverage, the lack of overseas protection you have is even more cut and dry. Medicare rarely pays for medical care you receive while traveling outside the United States, according to the US Department of State. However, Medicare may pay for some inpatient hospital stays, doctor visits, ambulance services or dialysis care you receive in a foreign country “in rare cases.”
For example, you may get Medicare coverage overseas if you are in the US when an emergency occurs, but a foreign hospital is the closest one that can treat you. Another scenario where Medicare can apply overseas is when you’re traveling through Canada on a direct route to Alaska and a medical emergency takes place in a region that is closest to a hospital in Canada. The US government also says you may get Medicare coverage overseas “if you live in the US and the foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest US hospital that can treat you, regardless of whether you have a medical emergency.”
In any of these scenarios, however, Medicare only pays for medical expenses. Medicare would normally cover if you were in the US. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to know which services are and are not covered before you receive treatment, particularly if you are in an emergency medical situation where timing is critical.
How to get international medical coverage
With all this in mind, it’s much better to arrange travel health insurance before you take a trip abroad. Secure travel insurance takes all the uncertainty out of the situation, and the coverage you buy can provide you with financial protection and the peace of mind you need.
Compare travel medical insurance plans
If you wind up needing medical treatment abroad, you’ll be glad you have a travel medical insurance plan in place. With a medical insurance policy for overseas, you can get emergency medical treatment where and when you need it – and without arriving home from your trip to a mountain of overseas medical debt.
You will want to compare travel health insurance plans to make sure you have adequate coverage limits for everyone on your trip. Either way, some of the best travel health plans come from companies like Allianz Travel Insurance, GeoBlue, Seven Corners, Trawick International and WorldTrips. As an example, a Travel Medical Plus plan from Seven Corners lets you secure international medical coverage in amounts up to $5 million.
Get coverage for preexisting conditions
If you have a preexisting condition and you want travel medical coverage, you do have options. You can start the process by comparing travel insurance providers that offer medical coverage with pre-existing conditions included.
In most cases, you must purchase your travel insurance plan within a specific amount of time after making your initial trip deposit for preexisting conditions coverage to apply. With the Allianz OneTrip Emergency Medical Plan, for example, you must purchase travel coverage within 14 days of making your first trip payment in order for preexisting conditions to be included.
Other conditions can apply when you’re trying to get coverage for pre-existing medical conditions as well, so make sure to compare travel insurance policies and read the fine print.
Make sure you have coverage for medical evacuation
Also be aware that, even if your own health insurance plan in the US provides some coverage for emergency care overseas, you will not have emergency coverage for medical evacuation. Furthermore, the US Department of State points out that medical evacuation can cost $50,000 or more in many countries depending on your location and the care you need.
Fortunately, most travel insurance companies with travel medical insurance also provide coverage for emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. However, this coverage comes in varying amounts depending on the insurance company and plan you choose. Make sure to read over plans and know the policy limits and coverages you receive so you can make an informed decision.
Consider comprehensive travel insurance coverage
Having overseas medical coverage is crucial when you’re planning trips abroad, but you should know that a comprehensive travel insurance plan can give you even more peace of mind. Common coverages in these plans include trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay coverage, baggage insurance, personal liability insurance, and more.
Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the important travel insurance you’ll need if you get sick or injured when you’re traveling far from home. Going without coverage can leave you financially vulnerable if you wind up needing medical care or facing a major travel delay, so buying a policy lets you enjoy your trip with the full knowledge you’re protected.
Why Trust US News Travel
Holly Johnson is a veteran travel writer who has visited more than 50 countries in the world over the last decade. She covers a range of destinations and travel types, as well as travel insurance policies through major providers. Johnson purchases travel insurance for her own family and has successfully filed several travel insurance claims for trip delays and trip cancellations over the years. Johnson also works alongside her husband, Greg – who has been licensed to sell travel insurance in 50 states – in their family media business.