Does My Health Insurance Cover International Travel?

Check with your provider first. If your international coverage is lacking, look into travel insurance.
Jul 26, 2022

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When making travel reservations, we often fantasize about the historical landmarks we’re going to see at our destination or the flavorful cuisine we plan to devour at local restaurants. But few fantasize about spending a night at the hospital in another country or calling for a medical evacuation — even though it can happen.

You might already have health insurance that covers you in your country of residence, but does it cover you internationally? If you’ve wondered about what would happen if you broke a leg or suffered a stroke on a trip overseas, it’s a good idea to find out if your current insurance will provide assistance.

We’ll help you figure out if your health insurance provides coverage abroad, as well as what your options are to obtain coverage if it doesn’t.

Does health insurance cover you abroad?

If you rely on Medicare or Medicaid for your medical coverage, then the answer is no, you’re not covered outside of the United States. In fact, Medicaid coverage doesn’t extend beyond your state of residence except in rare emergency situations, so keep that in mind when crossing state lines.

If you’re enrolled in an insurance plan through your place of employment or through the Health Insurance Marketplace, then the answer isn’t so concrete. It largely depends on your plan.

Subsidized insurance plans, such as those you find through the marketplace, are exclusive to each state. You might be able to get some emergency coverage abroad to an extent, but you won’t be able to visit a doctor for a routine procedure or buy prescription medication and expect a reimbursement. Private insurance might or might not offer coverage overseas, but again, it depends on the plan you have.

So, the best way to find out whether your health insurance covers international travel is to contact your insurance provider.

Ask the agent whether your emergency medical coverage extends outside of the United States, whether it covers pre-existing conditions and how to proceed with a claim if your policy does include coverage abroad and you need medical services.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you require emergency treatment at a foreign hospital, make sure to bring your passport and your health insurance information with you. Otherwise, you might not be admitted.

Make sure you read the fine print and understand what kind of an emergency would be included or excluded from your plan.

How to get medical coverage for international travel

If your health insurance doesn’t provide coverage abroad, consider the following options to get medical coverage for an international trip.

Purchase travel insurance

The first tried-and-true method of getting medical coverage on a trip overseas is to purchase travel insurance. Not every traveler needs it, and you might not buy it for every trip, but it’s one of those things that can save the day when you’re in a pickle.

The price varies and is based on the destination, length of trip, traveler’s age, amount you’ve prepaid and how much coverage you want. In addition to emergency medical insurance, you can choose to be covered for trip cancellation and interruption, weather, terrorism, travel and baggage delay, as well as a missed connection and even rental car damage.

In most cases, you’ll also have some type of medical evacuation and repatriation coverage included in the comprehensive plan. If you’re hospitalized abroad and you want to be transferred to a medical facility of your choice — or even return home — for more effective treatment, then your international coverage plan will take care of it.

Examples of why you might need medical evacuation coverage:

  • While paragliding in Chile, you land incorrectly and break your ankle.

  • You get in a serious car accident while driving a rental car across Ireland.

  • You’re helping build a school in Guatemala and suffer a stroke.

Some plans offer up to $1 million in medical evacuation and repatriation coverage, which includes return of remains back to your loved ones.

If you have a pre-existing condition, be on the lookout for plans that offer a pre-existing condition waiver.

Also note that you must purchase a policy for each person traveling to make sure everyone is covered in case of an emergency medical situation.

Use a travel credit card to pay for your trip

Although emergency evacuation coverage that comes with travel rewards credit cards includes a smaller maximum amount, it’s good to have in case you didn’t purchase a comprehensive travel insurance plan.

To be covered, you must pay for all or a portion of the trip with your travel card (see each cards’ terms). For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express both cover up to $100,000 in emergency medical evacuation. However, compared to up to a million in reimbursed expenses offered by a travel insurance provider, the covered amount is much lower. Terms apply.

The limits are also lower for medical coverage. For example, the travel insurance plan can offer up to $250,000 in emergency medical and dental expenses, while the insurance that comes with The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a reimbursement of up to $20,000 for emergency medical services and up to $1,000 for emergency dental treatment. Terms apply.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® caps out at $2,500 (with a $50 deductible). With most credit cards, no coverage is offered at all.

If you need health insurance that covers international travel

First and foremost, make sure to contact your health insurance provider to find out if the plan you’re on would cover an emergency during a trip overseas. If not, familiarize yourself with your credit card benefits guide and determine whether any included coverage is enough for you.

Alternatively, consider purchasing a comprehensive plan from one of the many travel insurance providers that also includes coverage against other potential travel mishaps.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

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