Obtaining medical treatment and hospital care can be costly for travelers who are injured or who become seriously ill overseas. The Social Security Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical services outside the United States.

Before you leave the United States, you should be informed about which medical services your health insurance will cover abroad.

Senior citizens may wish to contact the American Association of Retired Persons for information about foreign medical care coverage with Medicare supplement plans.

If your health insurance policy does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs abroad, you are urged to purchase a temporary health policy that does provide this type of coverage. There are short-term health and emergency assistance policies designed for travelers.

You can find the names of companies that provide such policies from your travel agent, your health insurance company, or from advertisements in travel publications. In addition to health insurance, many policies include trip cancellation, baggage loss, and travel accident insurance in the same package. Some traveler’s check companies have protection policies available with the purchase of traveler’s checks.

Medical Evacuation

Although some health insurance companies may pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs abroad, very few will pay for medical evacuation back to the United States. Medical evacuation can easily cost $10,000 or more, depending on your location and medical condition.

One of the main advantages of health and emergency assistance policies is that they often include coverage for medical evacuation to the United States. Even if your regular health insurance covers you for emergencies abroad, you should consider purchasing supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Whichever health insurance coverage you choose for travel overseas, remember to carry with you both your health insurance policy identity card and claim forms.

Do You Need Travel Insurance?

You may not need travel insurance, if you are already adequately covered by other insurance policies.

Depending on the travel insurance plan, travel insurance usually promises to cover you for cancellation or interruption of your trip, some form of emergency medical care while you are traveling, lost or stolen luggage, and various other troublesome occurrences.

Before you decide on a travel insurance plan, it is wise to investigate the plan carefully and read the fine print. You should closely check any agreements with your travel agent, tour operator, airline, or other companies involved with your travel plans. The agreements may include written guarantees.

If you have a fully refundable airline ticket, you may decide that you would not need trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

On the other hand, it may be worthwhile noting that certain insurance plans can protect you by covering the financial costs in case of the following situations:

A sudden, serious injury or illness to you, a family member, or a traveling companion.
Financial default of the airline, cruise line or tour operator.

Natural disasters or strikes that impede travel services.

A terrorist incident in a foreign city within 10 days of your scheduled arrival in that particular city.

The fact that you, a traveling member of your family, or a traveling companion were quarantined served with a court order or required to serve on a jury.

A circumstance in which you were directly involved in an accident enroute to departure for your trip.

It is a good idea to check your other insurance policies. For instance, your homeowners or tenants insurance may cover the loss or theft of your luggage.

Certain credit cards may also provide additional travel insurance, if you have used them to purchase the ticket for your trip.

Your health insurance may provide certain coverage, regardless of where you travel. But it is very important to note that some policies only partially cover medical expenses abroad. Moreover, as previously explained in the section on Health Insurance, Medicare/Medicaid will not cover hospital and medical services outside the United States.

Your travel agent should be able to advise you about the right plan for you. Before purchasing travel insurance, review the plan carefully, and be wary of buying coverage that you may already have.