Every country in the world has their own sets of laws and policies that govern how residents pay for medical care. Some have socialized care which is provided by the government or privatized care where the patient pays for the care out of their own pocket or through insurance.
So, what happens if you are visiting a country and need medical attention?
In most cases even if the country has free healthcare for its own citizens, a foreign visitor will have to pay for their own bills. This is one of the leading reasons that vacationers purchase travel insurance. They want to avoid the bills and costs associated with an unexpected medical expense abroad.
Medical Expense Coverage
When planning a vacation, tourists always think of the great time they are going to have. Whether that includes lounging at the pool, getting a tan on the beach or enjoying a drink at a trendy bar, most dream vacations do not include illness or injury. However, it is a risk we all take when we leave our homes. This risk is most amplified when we are in unfamiliar locations or taking part in activities that can lead to getting hurt. Since we have no control over accidents or illness, it is best to be prepared.
Medical expenses coverage is there to pay for emergency treatment in case you fall sick or get hurt on holiday. Depending on the type of cover you have purchased, the following protections are included:
- Emergency Treatment and Medical Expenses
- Travel and Accommodation Costs
- Search and Rescue Costs
- Hospital Expenses
- Travel and Accommodation of Companion (Someone to stay with you while In the Hospital)
Exceptions for Medical Coverage
It is important to read the wording of your policy carefully before departing on your trip. This makes sure that you know exactly what is covered in case of an issue during your holiday.
A common thing that vacationers overlook is that some travel insurance does not offer benefits if you are found to be under the influence of alcohol when injured. Most people will probably have a glass of wine or some scotch if they are on vacation, so it is something to be aware of when traveling. Some policies also do not cover accidents that happen if the insured is under the influence of recreational or illegal drugs.
Some Activities Might Not Be Covered
Some other points to keep in mind is that travel insurance policies also have language that points out that injuries sustained because of violent activities or behavior will not be covered. Insurance providers also have restrictions on what type of activities they cover during your vacation. So normal sightseeing and tours may be covered but you could be denied medical expenses if you injure yourself in a high-risk activity like mountain climbing. Always check the language in your policy about what type of activities are covered. You may need to upgrade your policy if you plan on going for example on a ski trip instead of a regular visit to a city like Paris.
Medical expenses are standard for most travel insurance policies. What you need to keep in mind is that the coverage level and other restrictions vary. The best way to avoid being blindsided by a refusal from the insurance company for a medical expense is to go over all the details before making a purchase.
Emergency & Necessary Treatment
Travel insurance policies cover emergency or necessary treatments that are needed in the case of an illness or injury. Basically, this means that any medical procedure that is required to treat you after getting hurt or sick is covered. Emergency treatments are where you need immediate medical attention. Necessary treatments are ones that are needed and cannot be delayed or averted. However, anything beyond that is not covered. For example, cosmetic procedures or a regular medical checkup will not fall under this cover (with the exception of our wellness checkup benefit.)
Medical repatriation is the act of bringing the insured back to their country of origin because of an illness or injury that cuts their trip short. Many travel insurance policies have medical repatriation as part of medical expenses cover. In some cases, repatriation can become quite expensive especially if they require new tickets or travel plans that need to be arranged in a short period of time. Special chartered flights with the proper medical facilities may be needed to transport a patient. These special flights are called air ambulances and you should check the language in your insurance to confirm that they are included as part of repatriation. However, these sorts of travel arrangements may not always be approved by the travel insurance company. If the movement of the patient is deemed harmful, alternative solutions may be provided. This is usually decided on a case-by-case basis so you should keep in mind that an air ambulance is not always the best solution.
Travel Insurance medical expenses may also cover a few other items like the cost of tickets and accommodation that must be forgone because the policyholder had to leave early. Another aspect of this is when a tourist receives treatment and is not fit to travel. They may need a few days or weeks to recover before they can depart for their home country. Travel insurance also covers these expenses and you should always speak with your provider about these points before purchasing a plan.
Pre-existing Medical Conditions
Some travelers may have existing medical conditions that can be a problem or may make their travel riskier when compared to a healthy individual. It is best to speak with your insurance provider and tell them about your pre-existing condition so that they can help you get the right coverage. If you do not do this, it is likely that any medical emergencies that may arise during your travel because of your condition will not be covered by travel insurance.
Steps to Take During a Medical Emergency
Even though insurance providers try to be as customer-friendly as possible, you cannot just call up the company and expect benefits. In case of an emergency, you must follow certain steps to ensure that you get reimbursements and the coverage that you are entitled to under your policy. There can be variation between travel insurance so always read your policy documents, so you know the procedures for your specific plan. If you are not sure what to do, you can always contact the sales or support team and ask them directly before you travel so that you are prepared.
If you are on vacation and are faced with a medical emergency, then follow the below steps and you should have all your bases covered:
- Immediately call the hotline for your travel insurance provider. Normally there should be a customer support person that can help you through a medical emergency. Make sure you keep the contact number and contact method readily available at all times while traveling. If you are unable to do it yourself have a relative or travel companion do it for you.
- Always keep cash or credit card on hand to pay for certain expenses on the fly. Sometimes you cannot wait or delay while waiting for the insurance company. In other cases, it is not possible for the medical staff to take payment from the insurance. So, it’s best to make these smaller payments yourself and then get reimbursed by insurance later.
- Depending on where you are vacationing, the hospital may not offer any medical assistance unless they are assured that you can pay for the bills. You should relay this information to the travel insurance hotline so they can guide you on how to give the hospital staff this confirmation.
- The bulk of your treatment and medical bills will be covered by insurance. The hotline will arrange for guarantees to present to the hospital or clinic.
- Always document everything. This includes itemized bills, doctors’ notes, lab reports, and receipts for medicine and other medically necessary items. The more proofs you have the better it is when filing claims. The travel insurance provider will require all this information when you reach back home.