Call Your Health Insurance Company
The first step is to contact your health insurance company to verify whether your emergency medical coverage extends outside the U.S. Contact the customer service department and ask these kinds of questions:
- If I get sick or injured abroad, will my policy cover me?
- Does my insurance cover pre-existing conditions abroad?
- Will I have to pay health expenses abroad out-of-pocket and then file a claim for reimbursement?
“In most cases, you’ll get some coverage for care needed to treat an emergency, but you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket and then submit for reimbursement after you return home,” says Lisa Zamosky, author of Healthcare, Insurance, and You: The Savvy Consumer’s Guide.
Zamosky says insurers can and do define things differently from one another and health plans offered by the same insurer often include different benefits. You always want to make sure you understand the specifics of what your particular health plan covers, including exclusions and the definition of emergency — because it may be different than your own.
“Generally speaking, insurers define a medical emergency as one in which a reasonable layperson believes their health would be in real jeopardy without immediate medical attention — think heart attack or a serious accident,” Zamosky says.
And while most big private insurance companies do offer some type of coverage abroad, coinsurance, deductibles and other plan requirements would still apply.