A Travel Insurance Reminder!

I have spent several hours today dealing with a friend whose 74 year old mother has had a medical crisis in Spain! Mom just 'assumed' that her insurance was good. Mom, like most US citizens of this age group, has Medicare Part A as her primary insurance... and it covers NOTHING outside of the US! NOTHING! (And of course it does not cover the expenses we incurred on Mom's Amex today to get daugther to Spain to bring Mom home!)
We were very lucky that the crisis is not life threatening but she can't travel alone right now so... it's not going to be cheap. One round trip for daughter, one changed ticket for mom.... And then of course the bills for doctors, meds, hosptials in Spain all have to be paid. (We actually were pretty lucky and got a round trip to Madrid for $1,500 not to bad, but not free!) I admit I travel without travel insurance a lot. My payor will reimburse me for expenses outside the US and I have no chronic conditions. But everytime I take my mother out of the US we have insurance. At a certain age, it statitically gets a little riskier! But I think a lot of American's don't realize that Medicare does not provide ANY coverage or reimbursement for medical expenses outside of the United States so....(Note: I have never checked but would assume it might cover you in a US territory, but I know it doesn't help at military bases :) )

Posted by Tom
2876 posts

Neither Medicare Part A or Part B cover care outside the US. But some "Medigap" or Medicare supplemental policies DO cover emergency medical care overseas. It depends on which Supplemental "Plan" you choose. If you're on Medicare, and you like to travel, you might want to choose your Supplemental plan accordingly. It's all explained here: http://tinyurl.com/c4arfju

Posted by Anna
Lawrenceville, Georgia
693 posts

Carol, excellent point! In my case, my supplementary health insurance also does NOT cover travel outside the US. I purchase health insurance for my trips that includes repatriation - in other words, it pays to send me home if necessary, dead or alive. Also if deemed necessary, it'll pay for someone to come to my side and escort me home. All this for around $15 per month. This insurance will cover existing conditions. However, one has to be free of new symptoms for six weeks and one cannot have a new medication for six weeks prior to the effective date of the insurance.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2313 posts

I started buy Travel Insurance from Travel Guard when I turned 65 and went on Medicare. We go for a month each summer and have never had to use it thank goodness. It covers pre-existing conditions if you sign up within a very short period of time after purchasing anything related to you trip. It is very reasonable for what we sign up for (everything). Someone mentions that they are healthy and do not always take out travel insurance. I sure hope they are not involved in a vehicle accident (their fault or the others fault) where they are serious injured. At that point, the travel insurance will not be available.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8729 posts

I have a membership with Divers Alert Network (you don't have to be a diver to join) - $35/year. In addition to med evac/repatriation coverage, they would have also paid for the daughter's transportation to accompany her mother home, among many other things. It's incredibly cheap insurance for what it provides - making sure your rental car gets returned if you can't do it, changes to transportation, getting minor children home in the event you can't take care of them, lots of things you might not think about.

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
944 posts

Neither this woman or my mother have any pre-exisiting conditions or other reasons that I would have considered an issue. But things happen and the point is that Medicare is NOT stepping up for you where my Blue Cross would. (Yes, I would have to pay out of pocket, but I have LOTS of room on my credit cards :) ) Travel is not only for the young LOL! (By they way, I do have an emergency evacuation policy via my company so I don't travel entirely "unprotected" And I am not sure why a car accident matters. Having been in one with an uninsured motorist, my health insurance paid and then sued the idiot)

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
3278 posts

Having reached the age identified as "elderly," I can speak from experience. I am on Medicare, but realize it won't pay for anything in another country. For the past few years I have been buying emergency evacuation insurance when I travel to Europe. For my next trip, I will look at including a medical-coverage policy. I have fallen on curbs several times while in France. Once, I feared that I had broken my arm and had a sore knee for several days. If the accident had been worse, I may have ended up needing medical care. For some older people, one fall can break a hip or a head. Younger people can also suffer injuries, but usually don't have "brittle bones." I carry with me an electronic device that contains my medical history. It can be plugged into any computer to be read. I hope that it will be useful in the event that I need it. And yet I still travel alone and don't worry about my health. I check with my MD before going and make sure I have my prescription drugs with me. I'm aware there are pharmacies all over Europe that carry a vast range of drugs and health-care products. I've learned to watch my step while walking. I get plenty of rest and try to eat well. So far, I'm good. I'll keep on traveling for a while yet. When I get to the wheelchair stage, I may give it up.

Posted by Rosalyn
1776 posts

This issue comes up periodically, and it bears repetition. For a long time I was among those who are clueless about how much emergency repatriation can cost. A few years ago, my daughter, who has worked in the field of university education abroad, mentioned that because it can run as high as $50,000 (think perhaps two business or 1st class tickets, medically-trained attendant, non-advance purchase ticket for spouse, etc.), those programs always include isurance for that contingency. Every year they had at least one need to use it; once, sadly, for a death. Flying a body home is also very expensive. It's not just a matter for old folks. To paraphrase Nigel, stuff happens to the young, as well. Thank you to the person who mentioned Divers Alert. I've been meaning to look into it and will do so before our next trip.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8729 posts

Several years ago, my brother-in-law's mother became ill while on a tour in Costa Rica. It was determined that she needed to be brought back to the States by air ambulance. My brother-in-law had to fly down (last minute ticket, of course) to deliver $30,000 cash that was required in advance before she could fly, and he flew home with her. They had no insurance for such an eventuality. Since then, I have always made sure I had med evac insurance when I travel. Even if you are healthy, anyone can be involved in an accident.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24137 posts

Carol, Interesting topic! In my case, I ALWAYS get travel medical insurance before travelling. For the past few years, I've been buying an annual policy, both to cover trips to Europe as well as trips to the U.S. and also other parts of Canada. As our "universal health care" is managed separately by each Province, I'd have to pay any difference between the costs in the location I was receiving care vs. what my home Province would pay. I've learned that the differences can be substantial, so the insurance is a really good idea. Hope your situation works out well and doesn't cost too much. Good luck!

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
4235 posts

"A long time back, I had a co-worker hurt in Bangkok..." Wow, Crash. That's, ummmmm, a little over-the-top...;-) Carol, I'm glad things are working out for your friend and her mother. Expensive, but working out. Please let us know how this turns out after the dust settles.

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
944 posts

Phase one is in progress. My friend is on her way to Madrid. As I said this is not life threatening etc.... Last summer on my flight home from Rome there was a woman with the med evacuation in progress,,, the woman and her nurse were in business. She was on O2. Nurse called family on boarding etc,,, I am sure none of that was cheap!

Posted by Thomas
Vienna, Austria
517 posts

I was recently confronted with a similar situation. I was contacted by a friend in the states who had a friend who was traveling around Europe and suddenly the husband was felled by a major stroke and had to be hospitalized in Vienna. I made contact and helped out in the very small ways I could, but the real issue was if their insurance would cover anything. It really made me think that it's a good idea for seniors to check their coverage before they go and maybe it might be worthwhile to consider getting some kind of trip insurance to cover repatriation if necessary.

Posted by Beatrix
2204 posts

Please stop telling people it's a good idea for SENIORS to get medical travel insurance. It's a good idea for EVERY traveler who travels abroad. Period. My uncle was cycling while on vacation in Malta when he fell and fractured his hip. He needed a hip replacement - at the age of 30 !!! Fortunately, he did have insurance, was flown back home and had the surgery and recovery close to family and friends. Just imagine having that kind of surgery and lengthy (!!!) recovery in a foreign country all by yourself because your insurance only pays for treatment (maybe) but not for medical evacuation ... Like Ken, our family has a yearly insurance. In our case it is an add-on to our home insurance policy. Very affordable (because we are not seniors) and worth every penny.