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Sharp Health News

Health insurance options when you travel

May 23, 2019

Health insurance options when you travel

As tourists pour into the city this summer, many San Diegans do the opposite and depart for their vacations. Although trip-planning logistics remain top of mind, you should also look into your health insurance coverage in case medical issues arise while you are away.

Domestic travel
With most health insurance plans, you are only covered for emergency and urgent care when traveling outside of the geographic area where your insurance provides its health care services. You should check with your insurance provider to find out if any other out-of-area options are offered. Such services include after-hours phone- or video-based care from doctors or nurses, and walk-in medical clinics.

If you need medical care while on vacation, you may be asked to pay for the care at the time of service. In that case, be sure to bring back documentation of your visit, including medical notes and proof of payment. You can then submit the information to your health insurance to request reimbursement. Reimbursement is not guaranteed, so be sure to check your member handbook to find out what is covered.

International travel
You should ask your health insurance provider if your plan covers care out of the country or if it collaborates with any company that coordinates emergency medical services while you are abroad.

"A medical emergency may be the last thing on your mind when you're planning to travel abroad," says Jacquie Schwoerke, vice president of Global Patient Services at Sharp HealthCare. "But whether it's a weekend trip to Mexico or you're flying to the other side of the globe, preparing and including an emergency medical plan is and should be an important component of your travel itinerary."

Even if your current policy offers some coverage, you might want to look for supplemental coverage that includes helicopter or medical evacuation. Be sure to consider any high-risk activities you are planning to determine how much coverage you need.

If your health insurance provides no coverage, you can find many private companies offering short-term insurance plans designed to protect travelers worldwide. These plans can even include trip interruption, such as the cancelation of flights and cruises and the loss of luggage, in addition to their medical offerings.

The U.S. Department of State maintains a list of reputable companies that offer medical insurance for travelers.

Medication pre-planning
Make sure you have enough medicine to last through your vacation. If not, be sure to get a refill in plenty of time. If it is too soon to refill your medication, you may need to ask your health insurance if they will make an exception.

With advanced planning, you can spend your vacation assured that your health needs are taken care of and focus on enjoying yourself.

Learn more about Sharp's travel medicine services, including the Sharp Rees-Stealy Travel Clinic, and read more travel tips here.

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