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Understanding medical care while traveling

Keisha Ellis, FNP-C

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Planning a trip outside the United States in the near future? Determining how medical care works in that country you are visiting and whether your current health insurance coverage is portable is critical. Why? If your domestic health insurance policy doesn’t work in the country you are visiting and you require emergency medical care, you may be on the hook for a very large hospital bill. That’s why many travelers seek proper medical travel insurance to have proper coverage when traveling abroad. The right travel insurance can also help you find the best doctors or hospitals in the area you are visiting and even arrange for a medically approved evacuation back home if you need further care.

It is highly recommended that you see a health care provider six weeks before the trip to allow for fine tuning/optimization of chronic conditions and medication management. The health care provider can also make recommendations on the vaccinations that are needed to travel to that country and provide resources on where to get the vaccines if it is not a routine immunization.

By seeing a healthcare provider, the patient will be able to review any chronic illness, medications travel management, disease prophylaxis, allergies, etc. and thrombolytic disease management. Patient and provider will discuss details of their trip and be given a reminder on how to find resources and learn how to access medical care at their destination and stopovers BEFORE they depart for their trip.

International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (maintains a list of English-speaking physicians in each country) and can be accessed online at iamat.org. Additionally, the consulate, American Express credit card concierge service and local medical school information can be helpful.

Coverage gaps and deficiencies in health insurance coverage can be addressed with the purchase of travel insurance. Medicare typically does not cover the cost of emergency medical services for any travelers while out of the country. There are some Medigap options that offer supplemental coverage but there is a cap of coverage. Emergency evacuations can be very expensive, sometimes costing more than $100,000. It is unlikely that a domestic health insurance provider will foot the bill to transport sick or injured patients back to the United States for further care. Travel insurance does offer coverage for emergency medical evacuation.

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Travel insurance providers often provide two types of travel insurance policies that cover medical care outside the US:

Some comprehensive plans offer a full package that covers all possible scenarios while traveling. Some of these benefits include trip cancellation and interruption, trip cancellation, medical evacuation and baggage protection just to name a few.

Example: For a $5,000 two week vacation to Aruba, a comprehensive travel insurance plan will cost a couple in their 50s around $200. This includes a $50,000 medical limit, $250,000 for medical evacuation in addition to trip cancellation coverage.

Travel Medical Insurance provides emergency medical coverage. It is available 24 hours a day and includes evacuation for medical emergencies. These policies often do not include a trip cancellation feature.

Several websites offer quotes for free and their prices vary based on the person traveling, the region traveling and plan selected. Some of the companies offering this benefit are travelinsurance.com, travelexinsurance.com and worldnomads.com to name a few. There are many companies that provide this, shop around, search online for the best rates then secure your travel.

Travel insurance medical plans are a valuable benefit to consider while traveling, it can offset coverage gaps, cover unexpected expenses and provide peace of mind when you need it most.

Keisha Ellis, C-FNP is a certified family nurse practitioner for Eastern New Mexico Medical Group’s Quick Care. The advice offered in this column is that of the author.