Traveling abroad can be thrilling and enriching. It also can be a major medical risk, and purchasing international medical insurance is an affordable, accessible way to manage that risk.
A 19-year-old man’s recent summer getaway to Cancun, Mexico, turned tragic when – while enjoying his pristine ocean view – he fell from three stories. Nobody saw him fall.
Later found unconscious, he was taken to a local facility – one with a reputation for refusing patient treatment and/or discharge, withholding passports until full payment is made upfront, and price gouging.
It could have been a worst-case scenario, since the man’s injuries left him in critical condition and in need of emergency surgery to reduce brain swelling. He’d need to be moved quickly to someplace that could deliver that level of care.
Fortunately, he had international medical insurance, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges Americans to purchase when traveling outside the U.S. That’s because nearly 1 in 4 Americans have had medical issues while traveling abroad, according to research from Harris Poll and GeoBlue, which provides health insurance coverage for travelers.
“It really makes sense,” says Capital Blue Cross Senior Account Executive Jackie Sariano. “It’s affordable, it’s accessible, and it provides peace of mind when traveling abroad.”
On Their Minds
According to Harris Poll and GeoBlue, Americans are increasingly thoughtful about possible medical issues when traveling internationally: Nearly two-thirds agree health concerns factor into their destination choice.
Still, too few are turning their worries into action by ensuring their health and finances while traveling internationally.
As a result, more than three-quarters of consumers either don’t know how they’d pay for or won’t have sufficient insurance to cover medical care when abroad. Too many mistakenly assume their domestic health plans will simply work the same way abroad.
Rethinking Employee Benefits
Post-pandemic, employers have been faced with a new dilemma: how to support employees who want to work remotely outside the U.S. or add leisure travel to international business trips. It’s becoming more common: 41% of companies are considering a permanent work-from-anywhere option and 80% of U.S. travelers are planning to add leisure days to future business trips.
But relying on a domestic health plan can result in increased financial burden, delayed or denied medical care, and other stressors. International providers often expect full payment at time of service; international claims are often considered out of network, making them more expensive; and most individual and employer-provided domestic health plans don’t cover medically necessary evacuation or repatriation to the U.S.
Covered Care That’s Right There
For employers, the path to safer employee travel is simple: health plans that include international health insurance coverage. These plans ensure access to quality providers who accept direct payment from the carrier, 24/7/365 multilingual support, coverage for medical evacuation, and more.
Capital Blue Cross, for instance, offers coverage from GeoBlue – a fellow member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield family – as an option for employer and individual plans. Capital also provides the option to purchase international medical plans directly at any of its five Capital Blue Cross Connect health and wellness centers, and further shows its commitment to coverage and risk management outside the U.S. by providing GeoBlue coverage to its own employees.
Quick Action, Quality Care
A GeoBlue plan covered the 19-year-old man who fell three stories in Cancun, and the people and policies behind that plan quickly kicked into action upon receiving the man’s injury report.
GeoBlue’s medical review team determined the emergency-surgery need, and within two days of being notified, GeoBlue had an air ambulance fly the man and his father to Houston in time to receive the necessary care at the appropriate cost.
In this case, the foresight to purchase international medical insurance couldn’t have paid off more.
“Life is full of unexpected events,” Sariano said. “Don’t wait until it’s too late.”
To learn more about GeoBlue, visit https://about.geo-blue.com.
(GeoBlue® is a trade name of Worldwide Insurance Services, LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.)
THINK (Trusted Health Information, News, and Knowledge) is a community publication of Capital Blue Cross. Our mission is to provide education, resources, and news on the latest health and insurance issues.