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Do I need special health insurance when traveling abroad?

  • October 30, 2011

Q: Do I need special health insurance when traveling abroad?

A: Most health insurers — including basic Medicare — don’t cover medical costs incurred outside the country.

Some insurance policies do (Including some Medicare Advantage plans), but with limitations. Ask your current insurer if your policy covers you and your family while traveling abroad.

If not, consider supplemental insurance, available for as little as a few dollars a day. It’s often bundled with trip cancellation insurance and can be purchased directly from suppliers or through travel agents and tour companies. The U.S. State Department provides a list of companies that offer travel insurance.

Travelers may be surprised to find that payment is required on the spot and, in some countries, even before treatment. Medical evacuation back to the U.S. can cost as much as $100,000. So don’t take the risk.

That’s why the State Department recommends looking for medical policies that guarantee their payments abroad, pay directly to foreign hospitals and foreign doctors, and have a 24-hour support center.

For additional information, visit The Travel Medical Center at