Finding a doctor or medical care while traveling abroad

The last thing you want to consider when planning your vacation is what to do if you get sick or injured while traveling. Talk about a downer. Still, it’s better to be prepared in the unlikely event of an accident or illness while away from home. Here is what to do before you leave on your trip to ensure you’ll have access to medical care should you need it:

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Do you know how to find a doctor when traveling abroad?

1. Call your health care provider. Ask your insurer what benefits are available to you when you’re “out of area.” Have your provider state clearly what out-of-pocket costs you may have to pay for emergency care, and if you must have pre-authorization before hospitalization. Also inquire about the availability of network providers in the countries where you’ll be visiting.

Generally, major health care providers will cover emergencies in areas within your state, as well as in other states, but it’s crucial when traveling out of the country – especially with changing health care regulations – that you know exactly what is covered and where. You’ll also want to know how your provider defines “emergency” so you’re not surprised when the bill comes.

For non-emergency or chronic conditions, ask your provider about in-network urgent care facilities and doctors that are available where you are traveling.

2. Decide how you will access care if a medical problem occurs. Before traveling, especially internationally, identify health care providers and emergency/urgent care facilities at your destination. This step is exceptionally important if you require ongoing medical treatment for chronic conditions or are pregnant. Often times, your health care provider can give you a list of in-network doctors at your travel site or you can access websites such as The Department of State’s www.usembassy.gov to find doctors by country, or the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers at www.iamat.org. Verify with your provider who is in network and isn’t – and what you’ll pay for out-of-network doctors and facilities abroad.

You may also call the hotel where you’ll be staying and ask the hotel doctor for a list of reputable professionals and hospitals near where you’ll be visiting.

Finally, ask your health care provider if it offers special coverage and and networks for travelers, as does Blue Cross Blue Shield with its “BlueCard” that links health providers around the world into one network you can access for care. Other insurers offer similar services for its members traveling abroad.

3. Keep track of everything. Before you travel, make sure you have your insurance card, as well as a list of all your medications and allergies, the names of any chronic conditions or medical issues you have, and your and your family’s blood types. If you need treatment, retain records of all paperwork and bills for possible reimbursement later.

4. Evaluate your coverage and decide if it’s enough. If you are concerned that you won’t have all the coverage you need when you travel, look into travel insurance plans that cover medical and emergency expenses.

So go on that dream vacation or visit loved ones! A few simple steps taken in advance between the planning and packing will ensure that if you become ill or need emergency treatment, you’ll be prepared, freeing you up to enjoy your time away.