When planning a trip abroad, a cruise, a job assignment, or even a permanent relocation, you need the security of knowing that your health insurance plan covers (and your dependents) should you get sick or injured.

Many policies, including ACA-compliant plans, do not cover treatment while out of the country (however briefly) or provide only limited coverage for emergency treatment.

Here are some critical questions to ask:

  1. How can I be sure that my health insurance is valid when I am abroad?
  2. Is travel insurance the same as travel medical insurance?
  3. I am a member of my employer’s group health insurance plan. Does this include overseas travel?
  4. I am expecting to take up employment abroad. Do I need additional health insurance?
  5. Does Medicare cover seniors who take up permanent (or short-term) residence abroad?
  6. What can I do to minimize the need for (and cost of) medical care while I am abroad?

The answers are in the depths of your health insurance plan. Here are straightforward suggestions on what to expect and where to find more information.

  1. Most health plans do not cover healthcare and medical expenses incurred abroad. So first, you must make sure of your coverage before you travel. If you have health insurance as a member of a group insurance plan, talk to your healthcare plan coordinator. You may need an additional travel health insurance plan. If you have individual insurance, contact your broker or your insurers directly.
  2. Beware!  Travel insurance often does not cover emergency medical care or medical transport back to the US.  Be sure that you have Travel Medical Insurance which covers the costs of medical attention you or your dependents may require while abroad.  Always consult a qualified insurance agent or broker.
  3. Your group (employer-sponsored) insurance may include travel health insurance but, check with your healthcare plan coordinator.  If foreign travel is not part of your group plan, you will need to sign up with an alternative insurer.
  4. If you plan to live and work overseas, you should have an international health insurance plan.  Plans like these ensure that you have coverage in your country of residence and in any country you need to visit (including home visits to the US).  As you might expect, these policies can be expensive but could be a requirement to get a visa to show proof of adequate health insurance coverage
  5. US Medicare does not provide medical cover when you live outside the country for over six months. As an ex-pat resident, you will need to purchase a local plan or an international health plan to cover your medical expenses abroad.
  6. Some countries require foreign visitors to have certain vaccinations or medical tests.  You will need proof, normally an International Certificate of Vaccination (a.k.a. a Yellow Card), that you have had the appropriate vaccinations or medical tests before entering (or passing through).  Before you travel, check with the foreign embassy of the countries you plan to visit.  If you take prescription medication(s) (see below), they are permitted/available in that country.

Note: you will have to provide evidence of Anti-Covid vaccination when returning to the US.  SEE Your Health Abroad (state.gov).

If you have a pre-existing condition, e.g., Type 2 diabetes, you should

  1. Take a letter from your physician that describes the medical condition and any prescription medications. Your specific branded product may not be available, so it is essential to include the generic name of the prescribed drugs
  2. Take sufficient of the medication(s) to last for the length of your trip, plus some extra to allow for possible delays
  3. Always keep your medications in their original, labeled containers.

Travel abroad should be fun and relaxing.  Whatever your reason for going overseas, you need to be sure that your health, and that of your loved ones, is secured by insurance.  Sometimes, the cost of medications may be lower than in the US, but the costs of care and major medical interventions are high worldwide.  The price of the alternative, medical evacuation, might be as high as $50,000.

If you are planning to travel or live abroad, make sure the insurance is right for YOU.

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels