By FPA member Eric S. Toya, CFP®
Last Updated: May 31, 2012
Your long awaited trip is finally here. Whether you are going to the Louvre in Paris, the ruins of Chichen Itza in Cancun, or the beaches of Phuket, Thailand, you have likely spent hours planning your itinerary, your hotels, meals and the “must see” sites. But what if you or a travel partner becomes ill or injured while you are out of the country? Are you covered? And how do you obtain the treatment that you need?
The reality is that many private health insurance plans don’t cover you when you are traveling abroad. Even if they do, you will likely have to pay out of pocket for any services and submit paperwork for reimbursement upon your return home. In the meantime, you’re out those funds, and if it went on a credit card, you may be racking up interest charges. Additionally, most policies do not cover medical evacuation back to the United States, which will likely run in the five or even six figures, depending on your location and medical condition.
Medicare does not cover medical services outside the U.S., however you may have a Medigap policy that covers foreign travel emergencies.
What Should You Do?
First, find out what your insurance covers. Call your Medigap or health insurance company, and ask them exactly what is and isn’t covered. For example, how exactly is “medical emergency” defined? Other questions to ask:
- How is a payment made, and what is the reimbursement process and timeline?
- Are pre-existing conditions or high-risk activities (scuba diving, mountain climbing, etc.) covered?
Is there a 24-hour support line that I can call collect from overseas?
Should You Buy Travel Medical Insurance?
Travel Medical Insurance is different from simple travel insurance. Travel insurance covers the non-refundable financial penalties or losses you may incur for such things as cancelled flights, lost bags, or if you are unable to travel due to sickness, death or a handful of other acceptable reasons.
Travel Medical Insurance covers the cost of medical services that you may need while abroad, generally only in the event of an emergency. You should consider travel medical insurance if you do not feel that your insurance coverage for medical services outside the U.S. is adequate. However, be sure to ask a provider of Travel Medical Insurance the same questions that you would of your own insurance company.
FPA member Eric S. Toya, CFP®, is Vice President of Wealth Management for Trovena, LLC in Redondo Beach, Calif. Eric graduated from the University of Southern California with a BS in Finance and Accounting. Eric has been quoted in national publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine and the Los Angeles Times.