Getting ready to travel abroad and contemplating travel insurance? Our latest guest post by Susan Wells breaks down the benefits to staying protected abroad with international health insurance and why it's to your benefit:
Studying abroad is something every student needs to take advantage of sometime in his or her college career. Whether it's for an entire semester or just for the summer, studying abroad can open your eyes to an entirely different world and give you a lifetime of adventures. Not to mention it'll probably be the only time you'll get to stay overseas for such an extended period of time—most employers only give a two week vacation time maximum.
That said, studying abroad is really a once-in-a-life time opportunity. However, it's expensive.
If you're looking for a few ways to save on travel costs, skipping on international travel health insurance is not the way to do it. In fact, instead of "saving" you can end up getting into severe debt if something goes wrong while abroad.
Trust me. I know from first-hand experience.
I was a junior in college and I was going to finish up my last semester abroad in Russia, a place I wanted to travel to since I connected with my Russian-born best friend Kate. Her mother's food was amazing, their culture seemed fascinating, and photos of the country were beautiful. When an opportunity presented itself to study journalism in Moscow, I took full advantage. I wrote countless numbers of essays just to be able to afford it—without scholarships there was no way I was going.
So when my college's Office of Public Affairs asked me if I wanted to purchase international travel health insurance from an agency it recommended or from my own provider, I chose the former. My classmate, on the other hand, chose the latter knowing she had no intention of purchasing health insurance at all because it seemed too expensive and she knew her immune system was strong.
Just a few weeks into our study abroad session, we discovered a Russian all-time favorite: vodka. A couple of us from the program got tipsy and thought it would be great idea to take an illegal midnight tour of this industrial area that was near our host campus. I can't really recollect what happened exactly. All I know is that my classmate and I (the same one who refused to purchase international health insurance) missed our step and fell half a flight of stairs.
I chipped my tooth pretty severely. She broke her wrist. I ended up shelling out just a few hundred dollars and a co-pay to get my tooth patched up and replaced. She acquired a $3,000 emergency medical bill.
What You Should Look for in International Health Insurance
That said, I can't stress enough how important international health insurance is. You just don't know what can happen—and that's anything! But not all companies and policies should be treated the same however. When considering what provider to choose make sure to get answers to these following questions:
Is Your Country Covered?
While major international countries like Italy, France, and Mexico are covered you need to double check that your destination will be covered as well—especially if you're traveling to a smaller country. This should be the first question asked when speaking with a representative.
What's the Duration?
You also need to see how long you will be covered and check out whether you can pay for just a few months, especially if you're only traveling for the summer. You also need to see what the insurance covers: hospital charges? Pregnancy? Intensive care? Mental disorders? Motor accident?
Do Physicians Need to be in Network?
Typically the answer to this is "yes" so it would be wise to do extensive research and try to find a physician in your area that accepts your insurance before you even leave the states. Most international health insurance companies will have a bank of "contract" physicians which can help you narrow your choices. While it's recommended to go to a contract physician so you don't get stuck with a very large bill, you do need to ask what the consequences are if there is an emergency and you have to go to a non-plan physician.
What's the Protocol for Claims
Last but not least you need to read the fine print for claim protocol and learn how to contest a claim if need be. You should also see how to file for a re-imbursement in case your international health insurance kicks in a little late and in the meantime you suffer from an accident.
Susan Wells is a freelance contributor to www.insurancequotes.org, a website that teaches consumers about various auto, health, and business insurance plans. In her free time she likes to make gourmet meals from her box of recipes. She welcomes your comments.