Will health insurance cover you overseas?
When you’re planning your next getaway, you’re probably not thinking about what will happen if you get injured or sick. However, up to 65 percent of travelers experience a health problem while traveling. Depending on where you’re traveling to, your local health insurance may not suffice. In this Pacific Prime Singapore article, we’ll answer one of the most frequently asked questions in insurance: will health insurance cover you overseas?
What you need to know about health insurance cover while traveling
Luckily, adding to your own health plan to ensure medical emergencies are covered doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are the things you need to consider.
Check your current health plan
Coverage varies between health plans and insurers, so you need to contact your provider or broker to find out what your specific policy covers. For example, Medicare doesn’t provide coverage outside the US, though some Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans offer international emergency care.
If your insurance provider does offer coverage for medical care outside your home country, the care is usually reimbursed at an out-of-network cost, which means a higher out-of-pocket amount.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s advisable for you to ask your insurance provider about exclusions for the injuries related to:
- Natural disasters
- Acts of war
- Terrorist attacks
- Adventure activities (e.g. scuba diving, mountain climbing)
- Exacerbations of pre-existing conditions
Additionally, you should find out if preauthorization is required for hospital admission, treatment, and other services, as well as to inquire about limits, copays, deductibles, and other policies regarding out-of-network services.
Consider international health insurance
If your current healthcare policy doesn’t offer adequate coverage for your travels, you can look into supplemental international health insurance to help fill the gaps. These plans offer secondary coverage to cover costs that your primary health insurance doesn’t. Likewise, some offer primary coverage.
Watch out for pre-existing condition exclusions
International health insurance plans usually don’t cover pre-existing conditions. However, you can purchase a waiver of the exclusion if your health or medicines have changed in the last six months. A pre-existing condition insurance plan offers coverage to those who cannot obtain coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
Shop around for international health insurance
You have to compare insurance plans and premiums before making your selection. An international health insurance broker can make comparisons for you to ensure you’re getting the best plan for your needs and budget. Factors that affect the cost of policies include age and how comprehensive the plan is.
For example, a plan with zero deductible for a young traveler will cost much less than medical coverage for an elderly person that includes medical evacuation, a pre-existing condition waiver, and trip cancelation/interruption coverage.
Be ready to pay upfront
Even if you’re covered by your current health plan and supplemental international health insurance, you should be prepared to pay upfront for any medical care you receive during your travels. Following treatment, the majority of healthcare providers ask for payment by either cash or credit card. Only some insurers have direct billing options with healthcare providers across the globe.
What’s more, some international insurance plans require you to pay first and get reimbursed later, while others pay healthcare providers a set amount right away so you can be treated and admitted.
With that said, you don’t know when or where you’ll get sick or injured, so you need to have money available. Even if you have international coverage, you should still carry a spare credit card with a large limit in case unexpected medical expenses occur. To get reimbursed by your insurers properly and promptly, you should have clear copies of all medical records, bills, and discharge notes following treatment.
Consider an emergency evacuation plan
The standards of doctors and hospitals vary from country to country. In fact, some travel destinations don’t have any. If you’re visiting a remote location or a developing country, you should really consider purchasing an emergency evacuation plan. This type of protection covers medical transportation costs when you need to fly to a place with quality medical care.
Air ambulances are expensive, costing anywhere from USD $20,000 to $250,000, depending on the destination, departure location, and medical complexity. While instances that require medevac are quite rare, over 20,000 medevac cases were handled by On Call International in 2017 alone.
Emergency evacuation helicopters are usually out of network and not completely covered by insurance, so you should find out if your insurance policy covers medevac overseas. Some insurance providers cover local emergency medical transportation to the closest hospital or medical facility if it is deemed necessary. However, it usually doesn’t cover other transportation unless it determines it is necessary to manage the policyholder’s care.
Know who to contact in an emergency
If something unfortunate happens and you require medical attention, there are some resources you can use to find medical care. You can start by contacting your embassy in the country you’re visiting to locate local medical services. They can contact your family if necessary as well. In addition, you can reach out to your insurance provider or insurance broker, who can help you find local medical services, doctors, clinics, and more.
Before traveling to any destination, you should make sure your health insurance offers international coverage or purchase supplemental insurance if it doesn’t. While the worst might not happen, being prepared for it can give you peace of mind and help you save in the long run.
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