What a lot of Americans don’t realize is that their health insurance won’t cover them if they get hurt overseas, whether on a cruise ship to the Caribbean or climbing Mount Everest or diving the Great Barrier Reef.
Gilbert, AZ (Vocus) December 24, 2009
Though terrorism is on everyone's mind when it comes to international travel, more US travelers are injured by cardiovascular trauma and simple accidents such as walking across the street, or in the case of this story, at an elephant parade. As more Americans travel abroad and try scuba diving or mountaineering or simply navigating foreign cities, few realize that their health insurance often doesn’t cover them overseas in case of an accident.
“As an avid scuba diver, I have been able to swim with and feed sharks. Call me ‘Crazy’ but it is way cool and fun. What a lot of Americans don’t realize is that their health insurance won’t cover them if they get hurt overseas, whether on a cruise ship to the Caribbean or climbing Mount Everest or diving the Great Barrier Reef, ” says Doug Gulleson of Good Neighbor Insurance.
According to the Consumer Reports on Health newsletter, Americans have a 1 in 5 chance of getting sick or injured while on vacation. Still, only about 30 percent of Americans buy travel or overseas medical insurance, says the U.S. Travel Insurance Association.
Getting hurt looking at St. Peter’s Basilica when crossing the road, rather than looking out for oncoming traffic is more common than you might think. Throw in unfamiliar streets and driving habits, exotic foods, viruses, and extreme sports, and that dream trip could cost quite a bit more than planned.
“We had a young man travelling to rural China last year. He went to a festival and somehow got trampled in an elephant parade. He had to be medically evacuated to Bangkok, Thailand, but luckily for him, he had spent $80 for short-term overseas health insurance.”
“ His life-threatening accident could have cost him over $20,000 for evacuation, hospitalization, multiple surgeries and broken bones, but it cost him only $250 and they reimbursed him for the missed flight from China to the United States. We are happy to report that his aunt told us that everything was taken care of and he was safe and on the mend, ” Doug states.
One of the advantages of a broker like Good Neighbor Insurance is that they are intimately aware of the various programs offered and have extensively travelled, so they can make recommendations based on destination and need. “We routinely discover people either travelling without any protection at all, or paying more than they need to. Take cruise insurance for example; you can buy a policy from the cruise line itself, but you’ll pay 50% more than if you bought it from us. Of course, if you break a leg in Belize on a river tour option and have to be flown out, it’s still better than being asked for $10-20k up front for treatment and then discovering your U.S. based insurance won’t reimburse you,” says Jeff Gulleson, founder of Good Neighbor Insurance.
A study done on overseas fatalities of U.S. citizen travelers showed that cardiovascular events accounted for 49% of overseas deaths of US citizen travelers, while injuries accounted for 25%. Infectious diseases other than pneumonia, on the other hand, accounted for only 1% of overseas deaths. Male travelers were more likely to incur fatalities. American travelers who are concerned about health issues while traveling abroad, focus more on avoiding diseases related to mosquitoes and food. Medical facilities rake in millions of dollars in immunizations. Yet rarely are diseases the cause of overseas fatalities. Life-sustaining injuries and cardiovascular events are the bigger killers that require sophisticated emergency travel insurance expertise. Travel insurance companies work with local doctors and hospitals, provide translation services, and contract with multiple medical evacuation companies.
A mission trip to South America turned deadly for one American church group when one of their members drowned in high ocean swells. His body was discovered and travel insurance paid for repatriation of his remains. Another American man in China sustained injuries when the van he was traveling in rolled off the road. Four days later his evacuation service was finally able to airlift him to medical facilities outside the country. Fortunately, he survived the harrowing ordeal which would not have happened had he not been able to get evacuated out of China.
Most Americans don’t realize that scuba diving and river excursions are not covered under their health coverage, and neither are they covered under normal travel insurance. Insurance companies list various sports they will cover under a sports rider. This is important to remember if you want to be involved in extreme sports overseas.
The U.S. State Department warns travelers on their website that, "U.S. medical insurance is generally not accepted outside the United States, nor do the Social Security Medicare and Medicaid programs provide assistance outside the United States. If your insurance policy does not cover you abroad, it is a good idea to consider purchasing a short-term policy that does."
Good Neighbor Insurance carries all the international insurance companies’ plans, great pricing, and are available by phone to answer questions. “When something happens, you want to pick up the phone or text, and find out what you should do and where you should go, whether you are a retiree with a knee problem or a young person studying overseas.”
About Good Neighbor Insurance:
Jeff Gulleson established Good Neighbor Insurance in 1997, to provide global health and life insurance services after living for 30 years in Indonesia.
GNI helps clients find good, cost-effective international health, travel, and life insurance while providing caring service based on integrity. The company serves students traveling overseas, short-term teams, aid organizations, foreign and domestic corporations, universities, and volunteers both from the U.S. and abroad.
GNI’s website at http://www.gninsurance.com has more information as well as a guide to medical advice for overseas travelers, written by Jon Askew, MD