How Travelers Can Prepare For Medical Problems

What happens if you become ill or have an accident while traveling?  If you need medical attention, how will you verify the hospital’s or doctor’s credentials?  How do you negotiate medical care if you don’t speak the local language?  Who will pick up the hotel bill if illness or injury prevents you from traveling home?  If illness or injury prevents you from using your original tickets home, how will you pay for alternate travel arrangements?

Getting the right care, communicating with medical professionals, and paying for emergencies in case of a medical problem are concerns that should be considered when planning a trip.  Making sure that you are adequately insured so that you are covered in case of a medical emergency is important.  Ask yourself the following questions:

How do you ensure that you are getting quality care?
If you are faced with a health emergency or injury, particularly abroad, you’ll want the best medical care possible.  With a comprehensive travel insurance or travel assistance plan purchased prior to departure, one toll-free or collect call connects you with round-the-clock travel medical assistance.  The helpline, through its international network of hospitals and local physicians, locates medical facilities and doctors who meet high standards, taking the guesswork out of finding the right hospital or medical practitioner.  If the local medical facilities are inadequate, the help line’s medical assistants coordinate medical evacuation to ensure appropriate treatment. 

What about financial arrangements for medical services?
Without travel insurance, medical evacuation itself could run into thousands of dollars.  Many hospitals require payment upon admission, and the travel insurance specialists can help coordinate payment of covered medical expenses to ensure that you receive treatment.  While travel insurance policies typically reimburse you for medical expenses, in some cases policies will provide direct payment to the hospital or medical provider.  And in situations where you health insurance reimburses part of the cost, comprehensive travel insurance policies cover the balance.

How do you effectively communicate during a medical emergency?
In times of crisis, communication with medical personnel and family back home is crucial.  In a destination where English is not commonly spoken, communication becomes a major issue.  The 24/7 hotline included with comprehensive travel insurance policies, assistance services and travel medical policies provides translation/interpretation services, assists in consulting with treating physicians, and updates family, employers, and insurance companies.

Will your current healthcare insurance cover you?
To help you determine whether additional coverage is needed, here are some questions to ask about your current healthcare policy:
  • Does your current health insurance cover you out of network and out of country?
  • Do you have higher deductibles and co-insurance when you travel outside of your plan’s designated network area?
  • Are you covered for costs associated with a medical evacuation, and what are the limits for that coverage?

If your healthcare policy does not cover these situations, you might consider travel insurance, both  for peace of mind and for your pocketbook. In addition to handling services and costs directly associated with medical care, comprehensive travel insurance policies often provide coverage for hotel and meal expenses incurred while you are receiving treatment and cannot travel.

Plotting out the itinerary for your travels is a key component to planning a vacation.  Reviewing your healthcare policy and considering the options available prior to departure is also an important part of the planning process.



US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA)
UStiA is a national association of insurance carriers, third-party administrators, insurance agencies and related businesses involved in the development, administration and marketing of travel insurance and travel assistance products.