What You Should Know About Your Health Insurance When Traveling

Gearing up for your next trip? Don’t forget to do your research on how your health plan can protect you during your travels.

Woman traveling via train.

You have finalized your trip plans and are now tackling your packing list. Before jet-setting away, you’ll want to learn how your health plan can help you if you happen to need medical care when traveling.

Your health insurance may provide coverage outside state lines, across the country, and even internationally—depending on your specific health plan. No matter where you travel, however, having your health insurance member ID card on you (or accessible through a mobile app) provides you with valuable information, such as your primary network, additional networks that are available, and your insurer’s contact numbers in case you find yourself facing an unexpected ailment or injury.

Even if you do understand the basics of how your health plan is affected in different locations, taking the time to talk to your insurer about your specific plan and the coverage options in the location you are traveling to can bring great peace of mind and ensure that you aren’t missing out on any important details. Keep in mind that the plan you’re enrolled on will determine your coverage both domestically and internationally. For example, you may learn that you’ll need to pay for any care up front and submit a claim for reimbursement upon your return.

Here are three other insurance factors to consider as you’re planning your next trip.

1. Your destination matters.

Most health plans offer health coverage through various networks across the country. As you travel domestically, you will typically be able to find a clinic or hospital that is in-network and will cover the medical care and services you need. Many health insurance plans use shared networks to prevent healthcare providers from having to enroll on every health plan across every city and state. If you look at your insurance card, it may specify whether you’re covered under a shared network, which will tell you where to look for medical care when you’re away from home.

If you are traveling internationally, it may be more challenging to know what care and services are covered and where to go to receive treatment. Many health insurance plans don’t offer full coverage when you are traveling outside the country. Healthcare is handled differently in various locations—some countries offer universal healthcare to their residents, while others operate more closely to the way the U.S. offers healthcare. If you are planning a trip abroad, you may want to look into additional coverage options and visit travel.state.gov which provides more information about insurance providers for international travel.

Related: Keeping Your Family Safe While Traveling

2. Emergency care coverage can differ.

Many health insurance companies cover emergency care for covered beneficiaries when they are traveling within the U.S. However, what constitutes emergency care can differ between insurers. In many cases, emergency care involves seeking immediate treatment for life- or limb-threatening conditions that can seriously jeopardize your health.

3. Travel medical insurance can improve coverage.

Travel medical insurance is a secondary option that can fill in the gaps, covering any needs that may arise during your trip. It is available through a number of insurers and covers certain healthcare treatments and services, although it doesn’t cover preventive, elective, or routine medical care.

Some policies offer medical transportation benefits, which can help cover the cost of getting to a nearby medical facility or returning home after an injury. You may be able to include trip interruption and cancellation coverage as part of a travel medical insurance policy.

If you experience a life-threatening medical emergency while out of town, you should always seek treatment. However, if you experience something less life-threatening, such as cold symptoms or a minor injury, and you’re not traveling in a country with universal healthcare, you may choose to wait until you return home to get it checked out by your healthcare provider.

Doing research before you leave on your trip can make it easier to know what services will and won't be covered, whether or not you should purchase supplemental travel medical insurance, and will help protect your health whether you're traveling stateside or overseas.

Select Health members

If you are a Select Health member and preparing to travel either domestically or internationally, call Member Services at 800-538-5038 for more information about your health plan relating to your destination.

Your primary network is listed on the front of your member ID card while any other networks you have access to will be listed on the back of the card. Click here to view more information related to traveling as a Select Health member.

Related: 5 Benefits of Taking a Vacation

Related Articles