Medical insurance for travelers — December 2010, reviewed January 2013

Planning for travel out of the United States can be exciting.  It’s an opportunity to get a new outlook on life.  But this outlook could be tarnished if you need to deal with a medical emergency.  Don’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. 

It’s very important to ask your medical insurer two questions before you leave:

  1. Does my policy apply when I’m outside the United States?
  2. Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or an evacuation?

In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service.  You can’t simply give them your insurance card and expect it will go through.  If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a good idea to purchase a separate policy for your trip.

The Social Security Medicare Program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States.  Travel Medical Insurance covers costs of medical attention you may need while abroad
Remember there is a difference between travel medical insurance and travel insurance.  Travel insurance insures your financial investment in your trip.  Typically it covers such things as the cost of lost baggage and cancelled flights, but it may or may not cover costs of medical attention you may need while abroad.

An excellent resource for information related to travel insurance is the US Department of State website at www.travel.state.gov.  It contains a wealth of helpful advice for planning to safeguard your travel abroad.