Prepare for health care during international travel

Prepare for health care during international travel

Lyn and Charley Marshall have budgeted for travel to 10 overseas locations on their bucket list. Their first excursion is a trip to France. Before going, they consider whether they need additional medical insurance.

The Marshalls check www.medicare.gov and learn that regular Medicare does not cover medical expenses incurred in foreign countries with three exceptions not applicable to their travels. 

The Marshalls then research the coverage of Medigap policies for foreign medical expenses. They discover that standard plans C, D, E, G, H, I, J, M and N provide foreign travel emergency health care coverage outside the U.S, if it begins during the first 60 days, and Medicare doesn’t otherwise cover the care.  These plans also pay, after a $250 deductible is met, 80% of certain medically necessary emergency medical services provided on foreign soil with a lifetime cap of $50,000.00. Since this is the Marshalls’ first trip outside the U.S. since qualifying for Medicare, the full $50,000.00 is available to them.

Having form F, which also covers preexisting conditions, the Marshalls determine it is not necessary to switch their supplemental policy. However, they are concerned about the limit to the coverage for subsequent trips. They decide to determine how expensive additional medical coverage would be.  They go to the website www.reviews.com/travel-insurance/international, a site which reviewed 22 different international travel insurance plans and recommended the best plans for individuals, families, adventurers and long trips. They first review the policy coverages and exclusions.  The site allowed them to feed in the dates of travel, to choose an amount of coverage and a deductible and obtain a premium quote.

The site required that policies offer coverage in five major areas:

Trip Cancellation/Interruption: Reimbursing for pre-paid trip costs like flights, hotels, and rental cars if cancellation is for a covered reason; Emergency Medical Care:  Emergency medical care covering every situation from a chipped tooth on up; Medical Evacuation & Repatriation: Paying for an emergency evacuation to a local hospital or a medically staffed flight back home if necessary, this being necessary because evacuation costs aren’t included in medical expenses; Baggage/Personal Item Loss and Delay: Providing reimbursement for any property lost, stolen, or damaged on the trip; and 24/7 Worldwide Assistance: Providing a wide range of services like help with lost documents, filing claims, and medical emergencies before and during trips. The Marshalls find it a distinct advantage that the Travelex policy recommended for families covers children under 18 at no additional cost since they contemplate from time to time taking one or more of their grandchildren.

Charley takes blood pressure medication daily.  It would be most convenient for him to transfer these to a small clear bottle along with the low-dosage aspirin he takes each day.  However, airline restrictions require leaving the HBP pills in the original prescription bottle and the aspirin in its OTC packaging. Charley puts both in a clear Ziplock bag, along with Lyn’s Albuterol inhaler and steroid pack, both with prescription labeling attached.

Lyn additionally needs liquid cough syrup for night-time eruptions.  She is unable to find a bottle small enough to meet the airline’s 3 ounce liquid limitation, so she plans to purchase that med at a French pharmacy.  If she doesn’t use it all, she will throw the remainder away before she boards the plane for home.

The travel season is at hand. Before taking that next foreign adventure, be sure to follow the steps the Marshalls took to safeguard your own travels.

Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm in Fort Worth. She lives in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain.