So you’ve booked that trip to an exotic location and are excited for an international adventure! Maybe you’re a seasoned vet at traveling or a newbie on their first voyage out of the country. Traveling abroad can be a thrilling experience but certainly takes some thoughtful preparation. Often these excursions are best planned ahead of time as there can be a lot of moving parts that need to come together. You’ve bought your plane tickets, booked your hotel, got your passport, bought travel sized toiletries and packed your bags. You’ve done all the prep work but if you’re traveling abroad, have you planned what you’ll do if you get injured? Where you’ll go for medical treatment, how you’ll pay for it, and how quickly you’ll be able to get back home?
How many people are traveling abroad? According to stats from the National Travel and Tourism Office, 2016 saw an increase of more than 8 percent in the number of American citizens jetting off to international destinations. In 2016, a total of 66,960,943 U.S. citizens traveled outside the country, compared to the 61,783,913 who did the previous year. According to the State Department, there are 113,431,943 valid passports in circulation, which means 36% of Americans own a valid passport
As the weather warms up (or not in New England!) and spring break and the summer months are getting closer, more people are starting to get the travel bug and are planning their next vacation to foreign countries around the world. As you start to look forward to sun, fun and relaxation, we’re here to remind you that it’s important to know what to do if you happen to get hurt on an international vacation.
Travel itineraries never include an injury and no one plans or anticipates getting hurt. But sometimes good times are interrupted by an unplanned accident. It’s extremely important to take the necessary steps to be prepared and knowledgeable if the worst case scenario happens. Accidents and injuries are stressful no matter what, but an extra layer of distress may occur whilst in an unfamiliar location. There may be language barriers, a different process of receiving care and an overall confusion.
We encourage you to think ahead when thinking abroad. Consider the steps that you can utilize to protect yourself in a time of destination distress. Please consult Schulze Law for any questions or concerns as you make your travel arrangements. We can guide you through the necessary steps to have a protection plan in place.
- Contact Your Insurance Company
Do you know if your insurance company covers you outside of the U.S.? Find out because sometimes the answer can be tricky. Call your health insurance carrier, describe the trip you are taking and understand if there are any gaps in coverage once you leave U.S. soil. Though most big health insurers advertise coverage for emergency and urgent care abroad, “their standard policies offer only the bare minimum,” says Devon Herrick, Ph.D., a senior fellow and health economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis. “A life-threatening emergency visit may be covered,” he says, but you might have to return to the U.S. for follow-up care. Medicare typically doesn’t cover international hospital or medical costs. A limited amount of insurance carriers will pay for a medical evacuation to receive adequate and quality treatment or a flight back home to the states. Once you’ve determined the status of your healthcare options, there are steps and options to consider.
- Find the U.S. Embassies and Consulates
If you are hurt in a foreign country, it can be challenging to locate a healthcare professional. If you are overseas and in need of emergency assistance contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Help is available 24/7 to give emergency assistance to U.S. citizens, including transferring funds from the U.S. for out-of-pocket medical costs, help in getting appropriate medical services, and informing your family or friends. For more on what the Department of State can and can’t do during a crisis, please read more at Travel.State.Gov for details. You can also call: 1-202-501-4444 for a directory of all US embassies and consulates while overseas and 1-888-407-4747 from the U.S. or Canada. Have these numbers and resources ready prior to take off!
- Consider Travel Insurance Options
According to IMG Global, Travel Medical Insurance protects you in the event of an illness or injury when traveling outside of your country of residence. It provides key medical benefits in case of an emergency. Traveling abroad is an exciting experience, but unpredictable illnesses and accidents can happen.
Typically, there are two types of travel insurance: a travel health plan or a vacation package. Travel health plans are generally stand-alone policies that cover only medical emergencies and cost a few dollars a day. A vacation package, also known as a comprehensive plan, provides coverage that includes medical emergencies, trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage loss or damage and flight cancellations. Please examine the policies carefully and ask questions. Make sure you ask about any exclusions for pre-existing conditions and injuries that are due to high-risk vacation activities like mountain climbing; preauthorization requirements for hospital admission or other services; and what the requirements are for a second opinion.
You may want to consider a local company, Global Rescue. According to their website, they are the world’s leading membership organization providing evacuation, medical, security and travel risk management services to individuals, families, enterprises and governments.
- Do Your Research!
While it may be much more fun to research the best beaches, cocktail concoctions, dinner delights, and action packed adventures at your vacation destination, please learn more about the health and medical options. According to Consumer Reports, some countries that have subsidized national health care will provide free care to visitors Please check with your host country’s embassy or consulate to find out. There are some countries where you’ll need proof of health insurance as an entry requirement, and others where medical facilities won’t accept health insurance at all. In that case, you will have to pay by cash or credit card and file for reimbursement later. Be sure to keep all paperwork.
- Bring A Folder of Medical Documents
This folder may be slightly less glamorous than the pamphlet with pics of your resort but it’s an important part of travel plans!
According to Corporate Travel Safety, a travel medical document should contain the following for each person on the trip:
- Personal contacts to be notified
- Contact information for usual medical care providers
- Current medical conditions
- Current medications, including dosages and schedule
- Basic medical
- Any recent surgeries or illnesses
- Your travel
- Travel medical insurance information
- What If You’re In A Car Accident?
If you’re involved in a car accident abroad, there may be extra complications and difficulties to deal with. Be prepared and don’t wait until it’s too late.
Prior to your trip:
- Research the driving laws where you’re going
- Get an International Driver’s Permit, but take your U.S. license with you
- Research your automobile insurance options and have the right coverage
- Know the local numbers to contact the police
- Understand your medical coverage
What Happens At The Scene of a Crash:
The rules at the scene of an accident are similar in a foreign country:
1. If you’re able, contact the local authorities immediately.
2. If anyone is injured, tell the operators you’ll need emergency medical assistance.
3. Take down information
4. Take pictures of the accident scene using your phone and/or camera.
5. If you have travel insurance or car rental insurance, contact the insurance company as soon as possible.
6. In many regions, you’ll be asked to fill out and sign a statement – get a copy of that.
- Contact Schulze Law ASAP
Our team can help you prepare as well as guide you through the worst case scenario, should your fun adventure be sidelined with an injury. For example, we can determine if you can sue another driver for damage. This may depend on the law in the country where the accident occurred, so it’s important to contact us as soon as possible so we are able to tell you your options. Also if you are hurt, we can assist in determining your rights.
Injuries and accidents can happen no matter where you are in the world. But with some preparation and proper education, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy that vacation as much as possible.