Is Medical Travel Insurance Necessary?


Ask a Nurse:

Staying healthy while traveling abroad

Q. I’m traveling outside of my home country. Do I need to have some kind of special medical insurance?

A. Traveling abroad can be an exciting adventure, but it can turn disastrous without proper medical insurance. Before traveling abroad, it’s crucial to check with your medical insurance company to determine the extent of your coverage and to check for gaps in possible medical emergencies. When I spoke with my own insurance company, they reported that they would pay for medical emergencies, but not for medical evacuation to the U.S. Medical evacuation could become necessary if you become ill or are injured in a destination that does not provide adequate medical care. According the U.S. Department of State, medical evacuation can cost up to $10,000 depending on your location and the severity of your condition.

If you’re planning to travel to a third-world destination, purchasing such insurance for this gap in coverage would be a wise decision. There are numerous reputable companies that provide this insurance for a nominal fee.

Remember to carry proof of any medical coverage that you do have. However, if you do have a medical emergency in a foreign country, be prepared to pay the cost up front as most foreign medical institutions will not file the insurance paperwork for you. Be sure to bring home all paperwork to be sent to your insurance company for reimbursement.

The U.S. Department of State warns senior citizens that the Social Security Medical Program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical cost outside of the USA. Contact the American Association for Retired Persons for information on medical insurance for foreign travel.( or 800-424-4310).

Q. I need to take prescription drugs for a pre-existing condition. Do I need to make special plans while traveling abroad?

A. Those with preexisting medical conditions should carry a letter from their physician stating the medical diagnosis, treatment and a list of medications. Keep all prescription drugs in their original containers. It’s advisable to check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting to be sure the medications are not considered illegal narcotics.

Debbie Miller is a registered nurse who reports on health issues for Go World Travel.