If you travel abroad frequently, you may wonder if medical emergencies in other countries are covered by your Medical Insurance. Generally speaking, the answer to this question will be “no.” Medical insurance generally allows you to see a specific network of doctors in a city, state, or region. Although some health insurance will provide medical emergency coverage, this coverage does not usually extend outside the United States. If you have an acute medical problem outside the States, you will probably receive only very minimal help from your insurer when you have to negotiate payment. On the other hand, traveler’s insurance may protect you.
There are some exceptions to the basic guidelines provided above. Some forms of Medical Insurance, such as Medicaid and Medicare, will cover you in the event that you are traveling abroad and have to be medically evacuated from Mexico or Canada to a nearby U.S. hospital. Also, you may be able to receive some limited amount of coverage in Mexico or Canada in the event that you live in a border region and must travel to a hospital or doctor’s office in another country — as long as that hospital or office has been found to be the only place that can treat you.
Likewise, some forms of Medical Insurance can actually protect you — to some extent — on the high seas or in the air. For example, if you have an emergency while a passenger on a cruise ship, you may be evacuated back to the United States. In this case, it is possible that your existing Medical Insurance will cover some part of the treatment you receive. Every once in a while, a medical emergency grounds a plane traveling between two domestic destinations. As long as you are treated within the U.S., there is some chance that insurance may help you.
Overall, you should not expect your existing Medical Insurance to cover you when you are out of the country. In the rare case that it does so, the limits of this coverage will be spelled out within your policy documents. That does not mean that you have to travel completely without any health protection, however. Your insurer may be able to advise you about traveler’s insurance or supplemental insurance that can protect you for the brief term of your stay abroad. Because most international travel does not last very long, a large amount of coverage is often possible for very reasonable rates.