10:22 AM

Preparing for Travel: What Happens If I Get Sick or Injured?

Becoming ill while traveling in a foreign country can be frightening, so it is best to be prepared before you leave home. Taking the following measures can minimize inconvenience and distress should you become ill while traveling in a foreign country.

Before you pack

  • Check health insurance coverage – Contact your health insurance carrier to understand whether you have health coverage while traveling abroad (or what is covered elsewhere in the United States). Ask for advice on medical care while traveling.
  • Buy health insurance for travelers – If your insurance policy does not cover you abroad, you may wish to consider purchasing a short-term health insurance policy that does. There are short-term policies specifically designed to cover travel. For more information, contact your travel agent or look for information online or in travel magazines.
  • Bring your card – and paperwork too – Be sure to have your health insurance identification card and a claim form with you while traveling.
  • Senior tip: Understand your Medicare supplement coverage – Medicare does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States (with few exceptions). Your Medigap plan may offer options. Visit medicare.gov/coverage/travel for information specific to Medicare and medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/medigap-travel to learn more about Medigap plans that may have health coverage for travel to foreign countries.
  • Passport to help – Be sure to complete the information page on the inside of your passport, providing the name, address, and telephone number of someone to contact in case of emergency. This will help to facilitate identification in case of an accident.
  • Bring a letter – If you have a pre-existing medical condition, carry a letter from your primary health care provider describing the condition and any prescription medicines you are currently taking. These should include generic names for these medicines.
  • Pack medication properly – Bring medicines you are taking in their clearly labeled original containers. Some medicines are considered to be illegal in foreign countries, including those sold over-the-counter in the United States. The U.S. State Department recommends that you check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting to be sure.
  • Finding medical help while abroad – Lists of English-speaking foreign health care providers can be obtained from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers.
  •  More planning resources – Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s web page dedicated to health care help while abroad.

Special care if you become ill or injured while traveling

  1. Identify help – Before you leave, visit the website for U.S. Embassy and Consulate information. After you select the embassy in the area you are going to visit, review U.S. Citizen Services for area-specific information about medical emergencies, list of local health care providers and medical facilities.
  2. Consular office assistance – If your illness is serious, consular officers can help you find medical assistance, and, if you desire, inform your family and/or friends.

Learn more about LVHN’s travel medicine program at LVHN.org/travel.