You are in London enjoying a bike trip through the city streets and you come across some uneven pavement and tumble off the bike and suffer a severe injury. No problem, after all Great Britain has universal health care. Wrong! Universal health care only covers citizens — you’re a visitor. Fortunately, this is an easy problem to resolve with just a little forethought.
Most health insurance plans that provide healthcare for you in the United States do not cover illness or injury outside of the country. This does not apply to every insurance plan and even folks on Medicare who also have Medigap coverage may have some coverage while abroad.
The best thing to do is check with your insurance agent or your benefits coordinator if you have employee provided insurance, to find out exactly what your health insurance coverage is when you are away from the country on business or pleasure.
If you decide to go hiking in the wilds of Paraguay and become ill or injured, it is unlikely you will find anyplace nearby that has the medical resources you need. A serious injury or illness may require evacuation by an air ambulance. This can cost anywhere from $50,000-$100,000. Unless you have air evacuation insurance you will be required to pay before you fly.
Health insurance for travelers comes in all varieties. You can purchase a plan that only provides for air evacuation or you can purchase a plan that covers everything such as a cold up to a heart attack. In addition health insurance for travelers comes for both short-term travelers and long-term travelers. As the risk of sickness or injury increases with the length of time you are away long-term health insurance for travelers is more expensive than short-term.
Healthcare in most Western countries is expensive if you are not a citizen of the country. But for a minor injury or illness a visit to a doctor’s office will not break the bank. For most people, a “catastrophic” health insurance policy for travelers is adequate. However these policies are filled with limits, conditions and requirements that are difficult for most people to comprehend. Using an independent insurance agent makes a great deal of sense when you go to buy health insurance for when you are out of the country.
An independent insurance agency has no allegiance to a single company. In addition, purchasing a policy through an independent agent does not add an expense to your insurance, he or she is paid by the insurance carriers. So, the agent will search to find you a policy that meets your needs and budget.
People traveling outside the United States should check their health insurance coverage to find out what, if any coverage is provided when they leave the country. Travelers should use an independent insurance agent to fill the gaps that exist in their coverage for catastrophic events while away.