International travel up was up 9.4% last year according to the National Travel & Tourism Office. With the likelihood of an increase this year, here are some tips for those new to traveling out of the country from Dr. William Brady, MD, Medical Director at leading travel insurer Allianz Global Assistance and Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Virginia. All offer help in an area still cloudy to new and seasoned travelers alike: purchasing travel insurance.
1. Are you covered?
A number of common health insurance policies provide minimal or no health insurance coverage outside of the US. Those policies that do provide coverage may not cover the cost of medical evacuation back to the US, which can run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Without travel insurance coverage, travelers could be stuck paying upfront out of their pocket for expensive medical treatments or transportation—so make sure see if and how you’re covered by your plane first.
Dr. Brady suggests purchasing a travel insurance plan that includes significant emergency medical and dental coverage and emergency medical transportation benefits. Good travel insurance policies will also provide access to 24/7 travel assistance.
2. Take action
For the best coverage, buy travel insurance (that includes medical coverage) at the same time you book your trip. Take the time to read travel insurance policies and don’t hesitate to call the insurer if you have questions about your coverage.
Good travel insurance policies will include coverage for medical emergencies and offer 24/7 travel assistance. Some can help with small things like finding an ATM to big things like helping to find an appropriate medical facility if you get sick or injured.
3. Be prepared
On your trip, Dr. Brady suggests bringing along a list of your medical conditions, medications and your physician’s contact information. If you get hurt, seek immediate assistance at the closest appropriate medical facility.
4. Where to go
If you find yourself in need of a healthcare professional during your trip, contact your insurer to find the best place to receive care. Good travel insurers will know what to do and where to go in an emergency situation.
Sometimes they will have have a team on the ground in foreign countries working around the clock to provide multi-lingual travel and medical assistance. For instance, Allianz Global Assistance has critical information about the establishments and where the patients are likely to be hospitalized abroad.
5. Be aware of differences in healthcare
Not all countries have the same standard and quality of healthcare that Americans are used to receiving. Understand that healthcare services in foreign countries may vary and consult your travel insurance provider to find the most appropriate medical facility for your particular situation.
Disclaimer: I have partnered with and receive financial compensation from Allianz Global Assistance. However, everything written in this post is from and based upon my own annual policy.