One of the most common questions a practical traveler will ask before leaving home on a trip abroad is whether a domestic health insurance plan will cover them while they are away. Without medical coverage, even a minor incident could result in exorbitant medical bills or even the inability to return home, and so it is important to know whether your health coverage extends beyond the borders of your home country.
Although different overseas visitors health cover can differ vastly from insurer to insurer, the majority of major health insurance companies provide their policyholders with at least some level of emergency coverage. However, it is typically up to the insurance company to determine what qualifies as an emergency, and odds are any issue that does not represent an immediate threat to life or limb will be unlikely to qualify.
This is because of a concept known as the “prudent layperson” standard, which essentially states that only conditions that can clearly be seen as risks to life or the permanent quality thereof qualify for emergency coverage. Therefore, a broken neck sustained in a crash may qualify, but a case of food poisoning requiring hospitalization is not as clearly covered.
Another aspect to healthcare while overseas is the requirement for immediate payment. In most scenarios, medical facilities will only bill you directly for treatment, and as a national visitor, you will likely not be eligible for coverage under any citizen healthcare program. Most often, you will have to pay up front before submitting a claim for reimbursement to your insurer with an itemized receipt.
A national health insurance program as a sole source of coverage is effectively invalid outside of the home country. Governments typically only cover services administered and received within its own territories, although it may make some limited exceptions for neighboring and partner countries. Those who rely on these programs exclusively may want to consider a travel insurance policy that includes medical coverage.
One thing insurers do frequently provide is a list of medical facilities offering care up to US standards. Many insurance companies place this information online, making it easier to locate a capable doctor in the event your medical coverage comes into play while visiting a foreign country. Domestic consulates of your home country also have access to this information and can provide some assistance if healthcare issues arise.
Healthcare coverage is a valuable resource, but in most cases, it is only intended to cover you in your home country. Travel health insurance can offer peace of mind in this common coverage gap, and is a prudent consideration for travelers who take pride in being prepared for anything.