Your Health Abroad
If you or a U.S. citizen loved one become seriously ill or injured abroad, a consular officer from the U.S. embassy or consulate can assist in locating appropriate medical services and informing your family or friends. If necessary, a consular officer can also assist in the transfer of funds from the United States. However, payment of hospital and other expenses is the patient’s responsibility. You can find local medical and emergency information at the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate near the ill or injured person. Find it online at usembassy.gov.
Before you go abroad, learn what medical services your health insurance will cover overseas. If your health insurance policy provides coverage outside the United States, REMEMBER to carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of such insurance and a claim form. Although many health insurance companies will pay "customary and reasonable" hospital costs abroad, very few will pay for your medical evacuation back to the United States. Medical evacuation can easily cost $10,000 and up, depending on your location and medical condition.
What about Medicare?
You are NOT covered by Medicare abroad. The Social Security Medicare program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside of the United States. Senior citizens may wish to contact the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) or a travel agent for information about foreign medical care coverage with private Medicare supplement plans.
What to Ask Your Insurance Company About Coverage Abroad
- Does this insurance policy cover emergency expenses abroad such as returning me to the United States for treatment if I become seriously ill?
- Does this insurance cover high-risk activities such as parasailing, mountain climbing, scuba diving and off-roading?
- Does this policy cover pre-existing conditions?
- Does the insurance company require pre-authorizations or second opinions before emergency treatment can begin?
- Does the insurance company guarantee medical payments abroad?
- Will the insurance company pay foreign hospitals and foreign doctors directly?
- Does the insurance company have a 24-hour physician-backed support center?
- Senior citizens may wish to contact the American Association of Retired Persons for information about foreign medical care coverage with Medicare supplement plans.
Travel Insurance vs. Travel Medical Insurance – There’s a Difference
- 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.
- Travel Medical Insurance covers costs of medical attention you may need while abroad.
If you have pre-existing medical problems you should carry a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs. Any medications you carry overseas should be left in their original containers and be clearly labeled. Some U.S. prescription medications are illegal in foreign countries and may subject you to arrest. Be sure to check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting or transiting en-route to make sure your medications are not considered to be illegal narcotics in that country.
Some countries require foreign visitors to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination (aka Yellow Card) or other proof that they have had certain inoculations or medical tests before entering or transiting their country. Before you travel, check the Country Specific Information and contact the foreign embassy of the country to be visited or transited through for current entry requirements.
Health Experts Recommend Vaccinations for Travel to Some Countries
Know Your Options Abroad During a Pandemic Flu Outbreak
Prepare for Other Health Considerations Abroad
Learn About Your Destination
Check your overseas medical insurance coverage: Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.