Stats: 56% Unsure If Their Health Insurance Covers Emergencies Abroad

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A majority of Americans are unclear whether their health insurance works outside the United States, according to a new survey from InsureMyTrip. Over 56 percent polled were not sure whether their domestic health insurance plan would cover any emergency doctor or hospital visits while traveling outside the country.

Twenty-two percent said their domestic health insurance would offer no coverage, while the rest believed their insurance plan would offer coverage.

Survey question: Does your domestic health insurance cover any doctor or hospital visits while traveling outside the US?

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Survey results:

Yes: 21.5%
No: 22.1% 
Not Sure: 56.4%

Understanding Coverage

Travelers are unclear on whether they have coverage should contact their health insurance company on whether emergency medical coverage will extend outside the US. Depending on your specific plan and area of travel, medical coverage can vary widely.

Policyholders may discover they have either "in-network" coverage, limited coverage, or no coverage at all. Travelers should also be aware of the following:

Deductibles: the amount a patient must pay for covered services before insurance kicks in 
Co-insurance: the amount a patient is responsible for a covered health care service
Co-payments: a set amount owed for a covered health care service

A Word About Medicare

Original Medicare does not cover emergency medical care for travelers outside the U.S., InsureMyTrip said. There are supplemental plans such as Medicare Advantage and Medigap that can provide limited additional coverage.

Emergency Medical Evacuations

According to the US State Department, very few domestic health insurance companies will pay for a medical evacuation back to the United States, which can easily cost up to $100,000, or even more, depending on the condition and location of the patient.

Travel Insurance Options

Travelers should know about any limitations of domestic health insurance policies while out of the country, InsureMyTrip said. In most cases, there are gaps in coverage. Some gaps are significant. Travel insurance is recommended because it can act as supplemental or primary coverage.

Most travel insurance providers offer one or two different types of insurance plans that provide emergency medical coverage outside the U.S.:

Comprehensive travel insurance --- offers the most protection for travelers. It provides a variety of benefits including trip cancellation, trip interruption, emergency medical evacuation, emergency medical coverage, 24/7 emergency assistance, and baggage protection.

Example: For a $5,000 two week vacation to Aruba, a comprehensive travel insurance plan will cost a couple in their 50s around $200. This includes a $50,000 medical limit, $250,000 for medical evacuation in addition to trip cancellation coverage.

Travel medical insurance provides emergency medical coverage, 24/7 emergency assistance, and emergency medical evacuation coverage. Trip cancellation is typically not included.

Example: For the same trip to Aruba, a travel medical insurance plan will cost a couple in their 50s around $80. This includes a $50,000 medical limit with a $250 deductible and $500,000 medical evacuation.

Source: InsureMyTrip

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