Your grand adventure to Australia ends with a twisted ankle in the outback; You hike all the way to the top of the Rocky Mountains, only to trip and cut yourself on your broken camera; Perhaps that cute animal you get too close to for a photo decides to attack. Sometimes accidents happen, even on the most well-planned excursion.
But these minor (or more serious) health concerns do not have to put your life abroad on hold if you’ve thought ahead with travel health insurance. A quick Google search shows there are hundreds of plans to choose from- something that can quickly become overwhelming. With all these options, how do you choose the right international travel medical insurance for you?
First, make sure you don’t panic! Every problem has a solution and it’s best when taken in steps. Follow these steps and be on your way to finding a plan.
Step 1 – Examine your current health care plan
If you have private health insurance in your home country, research whether it covers you internationally. Although very few plans do cover you for everything you need when you travel abroad, you may be one of the lucky ones. Make sure you know exactly what is covered while you are overseas, how much coverage you have for those benefits and how long it will cover you outside your home country.
Step 2 – Assess Your Needs
Consider what you will be doing during your time abroad. If you intend to ski, scuba dive and bungee jump across America, then you should certainly purchase a travel health insurance plan that will cover those sorts of activities. However, if you plan on having a more sedate experience, or if your time abroad will mainly consist of work, then you may need only a modest plan.
If you are married or have children, keep the needs of your family in mind as well. If they need preventive medical services or coverage for a pre-existing condition find a plan that has these items included.
Another item to consider when choosing travel medical insurance and visa requirements; Many work or travel visas require you to maintain global health insurance while abroad. Please check the specific requirements of your destination country based upon your situation. Also, see student insurance and insurance for J-1 Visa.
As you assess your health needs, pay close attention to your financial needs as well. You should determine a realistic budget on when it comes to how much you can spend on global health insurance.
Step 3 – Research Your Destination’s Health Care System
How do individuals in your destination country access health care and what sort of medical technology is commonly available? Also, never assume that you can access the country’s health care system, even if it has socialized medicine. Do your research– look at what information is provided by the destination country’s government about foreigners accessing health care. If socialized healthcare is available, there more than likely will be a waiting period before you can access it. Know what that waiting period is so you can have private health insurance in the meantime.
Step 4 – Ask your friends
Since you are not the first individual to travel or relocate abroad you may know someone who can share their own research with you. Be advised: as with everything else in our modern world, technology has changed travel health insurance too. Make sure you ask individuals who have recently traveled so you can have the most current and accurate advice.
Step 5 – Research the Plans
Now that you have some idea about what you need, and some suggestions from your friends, it’s time to start the research. Some items to consider as you decide which travel health insurance plan is best for you:
- Company Reputation – as with any major purchase, especially with any repeated monthly purchase, you want to work with a company with a reputation for excellent customer service.
- Customer Support – find a company with a 24-hour customer call center in your native language. The time to practice and improve a second language skill is NOT when you are ill or injured.
- The number of medical providers – does the company have a wide-range of in-network medical care providers so that you may have some choice of doctors? If not, find out if you are able to visit a doctor that is not in-network and what that will mean for your coverage.
Step 6 – Consider Your Budget
As with any health insurance, global health insurance is complicated. Now that you have narrowed down your options to a few possible travel medical insurance plans, it’s time to closely examine the fine print:
- What is the out of pocket expense on the plan? This will be in the form of a co-pay, deductible or co-insurance.
- Will your insurance company be billed directly or will you be responsible for filing a claim for a refund? Make sure you know this ahead of time so you will know what to expect. Often, it may depend on the provider you visit and how they choose to bill.
- Do you need to pre-certify? Many plans require that certain instances are pre-certified like surgeries, CAT Scans or pregnancies. Know what items need to be pre-certified and make sure you do so for those items. If not, the insurance company will often reduce the amount of coverage you receive.
Choosing a travel medical plan is much like any important purchase – you need to honestly assess your needs and your budget and then research the best option for you. With a bit of diligence, you can find the right global health plan for you.