You are ready to take off on that fabulous vacation you are eagerly anticipating.
Have you prepared and packed for everything? What about your health? Are you prepared and packed for that?
According to Jacquie Schwoerke, vice president of Global Patient Services, Sharp Health Care in San Diego, CA, “Many travelers incorrectly believe their U.S. health insurance will automatically cover them wherever they are. The majority of U.S. health insurance plans (including Medicare) do not cover you traveling outside the U.S., except for U.S. territories. Be sure to check with your health plan to see if it provides worldwide coverage and assistance in the event of a medical emergency.”
Some HMO plans do provide coverage for true life-threatening emergencies while traveling outside the country, but it depends on the plan. The important question to ask your domestic health plan is: Does the plan have a benefit to cover medical emergencies outside the US? If the answer is yes, request a copy in writing of what the travel benefits include and exclude, as well as the contact information when traveling abroad.”
Jacquie recommends you ask a few more questions:
1. How much does it cover for medical care and medical evacuation?
2. Is there a maximum amount per person?
3. Must I pay and submit for reimbursement, or will the health plan guarantee payment and wire funds directly to the hospital?
4. Who is the contracted travel assistance company? What is the phone number?
5. Does the coverage only coordinate air ambulance evacuation to the nearest medical facility or will they coordinate air ambulance transport to the US?
6. Is the cost of the air ambulance arranged and paid by the travel assistance company?
7. How long does it take to coordinate an air ambulance to transfer you home?
8. What is the process for notifying the travel assistance company and expediting a medical evacuation?
Travel Insurance can cover many, if not all, of these costs, if your HMO does not.
Jacquie also recommends you take these medical records with you as well. I know it sounds like overkill, but if you do get hurt while white water rafting or horseback riding or fall from a misstep on a cobblestone street, you might be glad you took the time. Do it once and then you’ll have it for every future trip.
- Physician name, phone and fax number
- Name and phone of home hospital
- Insurance ID cards or a copy with the ID number and Customer Service phone number
- List of known medical problems (i.e. high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems)
- List of hospitalizations and past surgeries, including dates, diagnosis and type of procedures
- ID cards for any surgical implants (i.e. joint surgery for hip or knee, pacemaker, cardiac stents)
- List of current medications with dosage and times of day taken. The complete list should also include prescriptions, over the counter medications, vitamins and herbal supplements.
- Allergies to medications and foods
- Blood type
- List of vaccinations and when received
- ICE Contact - In Case of Emergency – List name(s) of person to notify back home, include relationship and phone numbers. Leave a copy of all this information with that ICE contact, including copies of insurance ID cards (front and back), copy of passport, travel insurance policy information, and travel itinerary.
While you are doing all this, I recommend that you take a color copy of your passport. Keep your passport in your hotel safe and only walk around with the photocopy. Photocopy the front and back of your credit cards and ATM card. Leave that copy in the safe as your back up and at home with your ICE contact. I know, from personal experience, you’ll be happy you did.