What to Do in a Medical Emergency Abroad

a man walking on a road

A medical emergency could happen on a business trip, vacation, or even during a quick family visit. It's even easier to get caught off guard when you're miles from home.

Of course, your first instinct is to call emergency officials–regardless of the cost. When health and wellbeing are on the line, the last thing on our minds is our finances. That's when good planning comes in handy. Travel insurance, for example, can provide a safety net and some peace of mind.

Healthcare abroad can be expensive, and more often than not, payment is required at the time of service. Basic travel insurance policies usually cover emergency treatment, general medical assistance, ambulatory transport, and most injuries and accidents. There are more comprehensive policies that will cover other illnesses for an additional fee, depending on a pre-existing condition.

It's recommended to get a wellness check done within a reasonable timeframe of applying for a policy. (Some insurers require it.) It's also worth delving into just what can fall under the claims umbrella. For example, a broken bone may not be covered if it was caused by an excluded activity on the policy. If there's uncertainty over what's covered, check with the insurer. Check any time that question comes to mind. It's better to be bothersome on this subject than find out too late that you're not protected.

Now, some countries are very strict in how they provide emergency care, demanding payment upfront or at the very least, handing over those insurance details. In an emergency, hospitals in countries with a reciprocal health care agreement may treat you.

If you don't have travel insurance, that invoice falls on you and your loved ones. If left unpaid, there is punishment as severe as arrest or lawsuit for failure to pay for services.
When planning to travel, it's best to research urgent care. Yes, it isn't something on the radar as much as where to dine for a romantic meal or take in some sightseeing, but it helps to have that information on standby. Most, if not all, carriers provide 24/7 hotlines that deliver a helping hand in a not-so-common situation. Insurers can also arrange medical treatment when warranted, or provide contact information for the right medical practitioners. It is important to talk to these providers in advance.

It helps to consider the destination. Some travel insurance policies are specific to locations, others are worldwide. It's important to find coverage that takes care of those needs every step of the way on your trip. That includes layovers and transit points. Travel insurers usually quote on the length of time you'll be away. If it's a quick visit, one-off travel insurance policies are usually best for a set number of days. Constantly on-the-go? Annual multi-trip policies are of better value and more convenient. Those can range anywhere from 15 to 365 days. What about long-term treks overseas? That can be a little more complex, but there is coverage available depending on the destination.

Just be sure that if such an incident happens to contact the insurer immediately to make a claim. There are cases where the insurance provider and say a hospital will have to liaise to work out payment, before or after treatment. Also, always make sure to get receipts. Having all necessary paperwork helps tremendously in reimbursement during the claims process.

Travel insurance does vary in pricing, but while that extra money could take away from a few drinks by the pool, it could be an inner tube in a difficult scenario.

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