Does My Health Insurance Cover International Travel?

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U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

Does Medicare cover international travel?

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 U.S. 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.” Possible scenarios include the following:

  • You are in the U.S. when the emergency occurs, but a foreign hospital is the closest one that can treat you.
  • You are 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 U.S. government also says you may get Medicare coverage overseas “if you live in the U.S. and the foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest U.S. 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 U.S. 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 health insurance for international travel

There are two main options when it comes to acquiring health coverage for international travel: travel insurance or a travel credit card with (limited) health insurance.

Consider an international travel insurance policy

  • Medical coverage: 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 medical 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.

  • Coverage for preexisting conditions: Some travel insurance companies provide coverage for preexisting conditions. In most cases, you must purchase your travel insurance 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 preexisting medical conditions as well, so be sure to read the fine print when comparing options.

  • Medical evacuation coverage: Be aware that, even if your own health insurance plan in the U.S. provides some coverage for emergency care overseas, you will not have emergency coverage for medical evacuation. The U.S. 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. This coverage comes in varying amounts depending on the insurance company and plan you select.

  • Cancel for any reason 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, flight delay or cancellation coverage, baggage insurance, personal liability insurance, and more.

    You can even opt for a plan with “cancel for any reason” or CFAR coverage that lets you cancel your trip and get a percentage of your trip cost back for any reason at all – even if you just decide to stay home. In addition to single-trip plans, you can also find multitrip travel insurance policies and annual travel insurance plans.

Consider a credit card with travel insurance

Some travel credit cards include health insurance, albeit limited and with restrictions. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve covers up to $100,000 in medical evacuation expenses, but only if your trip is booked using the card. This credit card comes with a premium annual fee of $550, however, so you’ll have to weigh the benefits and drawbacks alongside the health coverages.

Why Trust U.S. 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.

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