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Why should I buy travel medical if health care is ‘Free’ abroad?

18 May 2011
Why should I buy travel medical if health care is ‘Free’ abroad?
Travel Insurance FAQs

Most Americans are aware of the differences in health care between the U.S. and other countries where medical care is considered ‘free’. While it’s not free, it’s supported by the taxpayers of that country, the question: “Why buy travel medical coverage is health care is free?” is often asked. There are a number of reasons you should still consider buying a plan that provides medical coverage.

Will you remain within the borders where medical is ‘free’?

Are you absolutely certain you will remain within the borders where medical care is free?

For example:

  1. What if you spontaneously decide to travel to see another country where the medical isn’t ‘free’?
  2. What if your plane is re-routed due to an emergency (volcanic ash cloud anyone?) and you land in a country where medical care isn’t free?
  3. What if you are injured or become seriously ill during the flight and have to land in a country where medical isn’t free?

In each of these cases, are you financially prepared to cover medical bills on your own?

Emergency treatment may be free, but what about non-emergency treatment?

Emergency medical treatment in the UK, for example, is covered – even for tourists and immigrants, but non-emergency treatment is not necessarily free.

This means that if you, or your child, becomes ill and you seek medical treatment in a hospital and that illness is not considered an emergency, you could be facing a sizable health care bill.

If you have a non-emergency medical condition and decide to be seen by a general medical practitioner, you will likely have to pay for the medical care up-front because you are not a resident of that country.

With travel medical coverage, you can submit those bills and medical statements for reimbursement or, in some cases the travel medical provider will pay the health care provider directly.

What if you can’t reach a hospital?

Many travel insurance plans with medical coverage also include coverage for emergency evacuations. If you are injured or become severely ill and have to be evacuated, a travel insurance plan with that coverage will arrange for and coordinate your evacuation to a medical facility – either one that is local or one of your choice, depending on the plan.

The cost of an evacuation alone can run in the tens of thousands of dollars (most are even higher). Plus, after your treatment, the coverage includes money to get you back home too.

Emergency evacuation coverage typically includes repatriation of remains as well. If you, or a traveling companion dies on your trip, this coverage will provide transportation of your body back home for burial – a costly exercise without travel insurance.

What if something really bad happens?

What if you are hit by a garbage truck and require surgery, months of medical treatment, even physical therapy? Can you really count on the health care in a country where you are not a resident to cover you? Are you financially prepared to face a long recovery in another country?

Having a travel insurance plan that includes medical coverage (up to policy limits) will help you in all of these situations.

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Damian Tysdal
Author
DamianTysdal

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.