Health insurance for travel abroad a must

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Check health insurance when going abroad

Just because you have health insurance here in the United States doesn’t mean coverage will follow you once you leave American soil. If you become seriously ill or injured during your trip, you could be responsible for your medical expenses.

Here are steps to take before your trip to make sure you are covered when traveling abroad:

  • Call your insurance company. Find out specifically what is — and is not — covered. Some health insurance policies will cover what’s called “usual and customary” emergency hospital costs when you are visiting a foreign country, but many do not. For example, most will not pay for an emergency medical evacuation back to the United States, which can cost up to $10,000. Medicare and Medicaid also exclude emergency medical treatment overseas.
  • Buy a supplemental policy. If your health insurance company offers some coverage but not all, you can purchase a supplemental policy to cover expensive emergency services, such as evacuation by a helicopter or airplane back home. Some policies will not cover accidents from high-risk activities, so if you plan to go parasailing, mountain climbing, scuba diving or take part in similar outdoor sports, first find out if you will be covered.
  • Get a short-term policy. If your health insurance does not provide any coverage at all, you should purchase short-term emergency health insurance, also called travel medical insurance. Note that not all travel insurance covers medical expenses, so ask before you buy.
  • Compare health insurance prices and coverage. The U.S. State Department recommends looking for medical policies that guarantee payment abroad, pay directly to foreign hospitals and foreign doctors, and have a 24-hour support center.
  • Check international laws concerning medical emergencies for foreigners. Each country is different, so know what to expect. For example, in some countries you will be expected to pay in cash when services are rendered. Countries with socialized medicine can refuse care to nonresidents. And some countries require tourists to carry accident or travel medical insurance.