Do I Need Additional Health Coverage if I Travel Internationally?
SmartFinancial Offers Unbiased, Fact-based Information. Our fact-checked articles are intended to educate insurance shoppers so they can make the right buying decisions. Learn More
You will likely need additional health coverage if you plan on traveling outside of the United States since Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace health plans are not required to include international travel coverage. Multiple insurance carriers sell separate travel insurance that can cover emergency health care services and potentially other treatments you need while in a foreign country.
Keep reading to find out how you can know when your health insurance covers international travel and what types of coverage can protect you as you travel abroad.
Does My Health Insurance Cover International Travel?
ACA-compliant health insurance plans aren’t required to cover you during international travel, so you should contact your insurer before you leave to find out if any out-of-country medical services you receive would be covered. Keep in mind that some health plans don’t cover out-of-network care at all, meaning you would be fully on the hook for medical expenses you incur while visiting a foreign hospital that isn’t in your plan’s network.
Meanwhile, plans that do cover out-of-network care will usually require you to pay a greater portion of the costs through coinsurance or copays. As a result, there’s a good chance you will have to pay more for international treatments even if your health insurance company agrees to cover them.
Fortunately, numerous companies sell supplemental health insurance products that can provide more comprehensive health coverage while you are traveling abroad. For example, medical evacuation insurance can cover the costs of transportation to a medical facility that can provide you with appropriate care in an emergency. This type of coverage may automatically be included in a travel health insurance plan, which can also cover the emergency care itself and potentially even regular treatments related to a preexisting condition.
Does Medicare Cover International Travel?
Medicare only covers treatments at foreign hospitals in specific situations where they are closer to you than an American health care facility. For example, if you live in the United States near the border of Mexico or experience a medical emergency near the border, Medicare may cover treatments at a Mexican hospital. Similarly, you may be covered if you visit a Canadian hospital after experiencing a medical emergency on your way to Alaska.
Meanwhile, Medicare will only cover care you receive on a cruise ship if the ship is within six hours of an American port. Conversely, some Medicare Advantage plans and most Medigap plans include international travel coverage.
Specifically, a Medigap plan can cover 80% of the costs for medically necessary care in foreign countries that Original Medicare won’t cover as long as you have met a $250 deductible and receive the care within 60 days of starting your trip. Note that Medigap foreign travel emergency coverage comes with a $50,000 lifetime limit.
Does Medicaid Cover International Travel?
Medicaid generally doesn’t cover medical expenses you incur overseas. In fact, you may have limited coverage anywhere outside of your home state since Medicaid benefits are largely determined at the state level. For example, North Carolina Medicaid only covers out-of-state routine care if you receive it in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee or Virginia within 40 miles of the North Carolina border, exclusively covers medically necessary care elsewhere in the United States and doesn’t provide any coverage outside of the country.
What Won’t Be Covered by Health Insurance During International Travel?
Even if you purchase a separate travel health insurance plan, your insurer likely won’t cover preventive services and other kinds of routine care. You may need to purchase a long-term international health plan to receive coverage for these kinds of services outside of the United States.
Instead, travel medical insurance predominantly provides coverage for emergency situations such as slipping and breaking your leg while rock climbing, getting sick after a spider bites you on a hike or requiring a medevac helicopter after you have a heart attack in a remote location.
How Much Does It Cost To Get Medical Insurance for International Trips?
The average cost of health insurance for international travel ranges from $40 to $80, with factors like the length of your trip and the coverage limits you select influencing your rates. Meanwhile, you will usually have to pay 5% to 7% of the cost of your entire trip for a trip insurance package that includes coverage for emergency medical care, canceled flights, trip interruption and lost or damaged luggage.
How Do I Know if an International Medical Facility Is in My Network?
The best way to know if a medical provider is in your network or if your insurance company will otherwise cover care from that provider is to contact your insurer in advance to get your treatment preapproved.
Nevertheless, there are some health insurance companies with networks that extend beyond the United States. For example, Cigna’s network includes 1.5 million hospitals and health care professionals throughout the world, while Blue Cross Blue Shield’s GeoBlue contracts with more than 1.7 million medical providers globally.
How To Get Medical Coverage When You Travel Internationally
You may be able to buy coverage for your vacation from either a company that specializes in travel insurance or a traditional health insurance carrier that offers international coverage. It’s recommended that you obtain quotes from three to five different companies so you can compare all of your options to find the best deal.
To make this process as simple as possible, consider using an online insurance marketplace like SmartFinancial. We can take information about your coverage needs and budget from a brief questionnaire and match you up with insurance agents who may be able to help you find a health plan with built-in travel coverage. If you’re interested in receiving free health insurance quotes today, simply enter your zip code below.
How To File a Claim for Medical Care During International Travel
Claim filing processes can vary from company to company but you will generally need to fill out your insurer’s designated claim form and provide an itemized bill listing all of the treatments you were charged for along with other documents showing information such as where you were treated and what injury or sickness you were treated for.
You should be aware that foreign health care providers generally don’t accept American insurance and won’t file claims on your behalf. As a result, even if your health plan covers international care, you will likely have to pay for your treatments out of pocket initially and then file an insurance claim yourself to be reimbursed by your insurer.