Traveling is a time of great excitement, and while no one wants to think about getting sick, it is best to prepare for worst case scenarios, especially with something as important as one’s health. Whether it’s dealing with an accident, a newly contracted disease, or ongoing treatment of a previous condition, finding adequate and affordable health care while traveling is often possible, even if it’s also stressful. If treatment is possible at home, it may even be best to wait. There are, of course, a significant number of people who travel specifically in order to receive healthcare in another country where the care and costs are better than in the U.S. Here’s the what to know when it comes to medical care before hitting the road.
Generally speaking, the insurance that covers people while at home in the States, whether it’s employer- or government-sponsored, does not apply while traveling abroad, writes Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD. Checking the terms of an individual’s health insurance coverage before heading off is absolutely essential to find out the exact details. Insurance companies should be able to connect their clients with partner services in destinations within the United States if for some reason their health insurance does not extend to medical issues arising while traveling. For those traveling abroad, it is best to search for a comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical expenses, should they become necessary.
Doing research on specific health issues and where medical facilities can be found while traveling is the best course of action to follow. It’s also a good idea to find out if there are any pressing medical concerns in the location in which the group will be travelling. If anyone in the party has a serious medical condition, experts recommend researching possible complications due to travel before departure.
Locating Adequate Services
It is much better and easier to find out about and locate medical services abroad before traveling, particularly for those with ongoing or complicated medical issues and for pregnant women. If English is not commonly spoken in the country to which an individual or group will be travelling, knowing the names of all current medical conditions, medications and allergies in the local language is imperative. There are many resources available to locate services online, including those from the U.S. Department of State and the International Society of Medicine. Buying a travel insurance plan can also help with the search, as most plans acquired prior to travel have service hotlines dedicated to these issues.
Drugs and Pharmaceuticals
People who don’t travel frequently or have had no experience seeking medical aid abroad may be surprised to learn that the pharmaceuticals and medical products they’re familiar with may not be available in other countries. In developed countries there is usually no problem obtaining quality drugs, but access to them cannot be guaranteed, especially in developing countries or far-flung destinations. Travelers are advised to be prepared and bring any drugs they may need with them, such as pain relievers and anti-diarrheal medications.
Traveling Specifically For Health Care
Believe it or not, there is actually a tourist sector specifically dedicated to medical travel. There are a variety of reasons people travel to receive medical treatment that aren’t simply cost related. Some specialized treatments or drugs are simply not available within the United States due to strict regulations, and wait periods to receive care are sometimes significantly shorter overseas than domestically. Countries like Costa Rica, Dubai, and Thailand even specialize in offering these excluded services and have created entire industries based on higher quality medical care, reports Josef Woodman in the U.S. News & World Report.