Affordable Care Act

Zika and Travel Insurance: What You Need to Know

Published on June 17, 2016


With the Zika virus in the news and many experts warning against travel overseas to places like the Olympic Games in Brazil, now might be a good time to review what your health insurance can do for you when you’re away from home – and what it can’t.
Health insurance coverage away from home
Most health insurance plans only provide you with full coverage for your medical care within a limited geographical area where the insurance company has a network of doctors and hospitals. When you travel outside this area, even in the United States, your coverage may be severely reduced. In fact, depending on your plan and the kind of care you receive, you may have no coverage at all.
Even when you do have some coverage outside your network, your health insurance plan may require you to pay your medical bills up front and then submit a claim for reimbursement after the fact. Depending on the cost of the care you received, paying up front can be a real burden.
When it comes to medical care rendered overseas, most health insurance plans work the same way. You may have limited coverage, or no coverage at all, and you’ll probably be required to pay for your care up front and then submit a claim after you return.
The value of travel insurance
This is where travel insurance can help. A good travel insurance plan can help you fill the gaps in your medical coverage overseas – and provide you with assistance outside the bounds of what we typically think of when we think about health insurance. What’s more, it’s pretty darn affordable.
Here are a few key things every traveler should know about travel insurance:

  • It helps with out-of-pocket medical costs: Medical bills can quickly reach into multiple thousands of dollars, and it’s a safe bet that foreign hospitals are not going to accept your American medical insurance card. Bills for medical services rendered overseas are usually settled with cash or credit. Travel insurance policies typically pay your up-front costs and then negotiate reimbursement with your health insurance provider after you’re back in the United States. Just be aware that most plans place a maximum dollar limit on your coverage, and many have a deductible you must pay before coverage kicks in.
  • It often provides medical translation help: Communicating with doctors, nurses and hospital administrators in another country can be extremely difficult. How do you make a decision about treatment if you don’t know what the doctor is saying or how much the procedure is going to cost? Travel insurance companies can provide you with access to translators to help you bridge language and culture gaps.
  • Emergency extraction from foreign locales: If the worst happens, some travel insurance plans will cover the costs associated with removing you from your overseas location and returning you to the United States in an emergency.
  • Travel insurance is affordable and easy to qualify for. Since your policy will only last for a set period of time, travel insurance is pretty affordable. You can decide how long you want your coverage to last. Depending on your age and other factors, you may find that a two-week policy for overseas travel can cost as little as $30. Since travel insurance doesn’t provide comprehensive coverage, it’s easy to qualify for, even if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

Understand what you’re buying – and what you’re not 
It’s important to note that travel insurance isn’t going to cover a lot of your standard medical care. It may not, for example, cover a regular checkup or preventive medical tests while you’re overseas. It’s mostly designed to help you in emergencies, and there are dollar limits placed on your coverage – so be sure to pay attention to a policy’s “maximum coverage limit.”
You should also educate yourself on any specific exclusions under your travel insurance plan. The rates you pay for travel insurance are typically not based on which country you’re traveling to, but certain restrictions may apply. Coverage may be limited if you’re traveling to a war zone or if you’re engaging in risky athletic activities while overseas.
Whether you’re traveling to an area where Zika is prevalent or anywhere else overseas, you owe it to yourself to consider travel insurance. With its affordability and the special assistance it can provide, travel insurance can make a great companion for your next global adventure.

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