Of course, there is never a good time to get sick or hurt, but it is even worse when you are traveling overseas. In addition to the pain and symptoms you are experiencing, you have to worry about whether you can communicate with your health care providers and whether you have to pay for the services you receive out of pocket. For these reasons, an injury or illness overseas can be even scarier than it would be at home. However, if you consider the possibility before your departure and plan for the contingency beforehand, it doesn’t have to be so frightening.
Know Where To Go for Help
There are many problems that can arise in relation to a vacation that you are not able to solve on your own, such as how to get out of a timeshare. In the case of an injury or illness that happens overseas, the place to go for help is the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in that country. These diplomatic agencies can help you locate health care providers, transfer funds from the United States to pay medical fees, and inform friends or family in the U.S. of your condition, if you so desire.
Identify Health Care Facilities
While the Embassy or Consulate can help you locate a facility, you may want to have an idea what is available so you can choose where to go beforehand. There are several sources of information about medical providers abroad that are available here in the U.S. for you to research before your trip. Major credit card companies can provide information about overseas health care providers upon request. The American Board of Medical Specialists publishes the Official ABMS Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists, available for checkout from your local library. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers not only publishes lists of foreign health care providers but identifies those who speak English.
If you have medications that you take on a regular basis, research beforehand to see if it is legal to bring them into the country you plan to visit. Foreign countries have their own drug restrictions, and what is legal here may not be over there. If you do bring medications with you on your trip overseas, keep them in the original containers and make sure they are clearly labeled.
Get a Letter From Your Doctor
You should have a letter from your doctor describing any pre-existing conditions you have and the treatment you are receiving. This should include both generic and brand names of any medications. As long as you ask your physician to write this letter for you well before your scheduled departure, he or she should be happy to provide it.
Fill Out the Information Page
You may experience an emergency during your trip that prevents you from seeking medical care on your own but requires someone else to take care of it for you. If you are unable to speak on your own behalf because of a medical condition, the information page of your passport can identify your name, address, and emergency contact. You should be sure to fill this out completely before your trip.
Confirm Insurance Coverage
You are responsible for paying any medical bills that you incur during your overseas trip. Before you depart, you should confirm with your insurance company that it will cover you while traveling abroad, because this is not a given. Medicare does not cover overseas medical costs, though some supplement plans may. Some short-term health insurance policies are intended specifically for travel, and you may want to obtain one to cover you for the duration of your trip.
Research the Country Itself
Know what you are likely to encounter in terms of pathogens when you go overseas. Some communicable diseases are endemic to certain areas. Research ways to avoid falling ill to one of these. Obtain any health care or medical treatment that you require for your trip, e.g., vaccinations.
While you hope an injury or illness does not happen to you during your overseas trip, it is always a possibility. Planning for this contingency beforehand helps you obtain the care you need in a timely fashion.