Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad
In case of illness, American citizens traveling abroad should be aware of the services that are offered by the U.S. embassies and consulates. U.S. consular officers can assist in locating medical services, transferring funds, and informing relatives of a health condition.
However, they cannot act as lawyers or bankers. Additionally, payment of hospital and other expenses is the responsibility of the traveler. Although many health insurance companies will pay "customary and reasonable" hospital costs abroad, very few will pay for medical transport back to the United States. Medical evacuation can easily cost $10,000 or more, depending on your location and medical condition. Some private supplemental travel insurance plans provide coverage for overseas medical costs as well as medical evacuation. The Medicare program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States in most cases. Older adults may learn more about foreign medical coverage with Medicare supplement plans by contacting AARP.
Recommendations for international travelers by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, include the following:
Learn what medical services your health insurance will cover overseas before going abroad.
Carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of such insurance and a claim form.
When going abroad with any pre-existing medical problems, carry a letter from your health care provider describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of drugs.
Keep medications in their original containers and be sure they are clearly labeled. Also, make sure the prescribed or required medications are not considered to be illegal narcotics in the countries that you will visit by contacting the foreign embassies prior to travel.
Complete the information page on the inside of your passport providing the name, address, and telephone number of someone to be contacted in an emergency.
Take a listing of addresses and telephone numbers of U.S. embassies and consulates in the countries you will visit. They keep a list of hospitals and doctors in the area.
Some countries require foreign visitors to have vaccinations or medical tests before entering. At least 4 to 6 weeks before traveling, check the latest entry requirements with the CDC travelers' website, the foreign embassy of the country to be visited, or a dedicated travel clinic.
- Bowers, Nancy, RN, BSN, MPH
- MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician