Medical travel insurance: Do you need it for your next trip?

Consumer Report

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The story of an Atlanta couple who says they were basically held hostage at a Mexican hospital over a medical bill has a lot of us asking what would we do if that happened to us?

Tori Austin and her fiance Stephen Johnson said they were on a cruise when Johnson became ill. He was treated at a small hospital near Cancun, Mexico and were presented with a $14,000 bill which they were told they needed to pay before they could leave. (Friday, there were published reports that Tyler Perry had heard about the issue and offered to pay the couple’s bill.P

But the issue has some people thinking about their next strip. We talked to Dusty Hall, a medical broker and insurance expert in Flordia.

“This isn’t uncommon unfortunately when people travel which is why it’s really important to have this type of insurance (medical travel insurance) when you go overseas,” he told me.

He says for your health and the health of your pocketbook a medical travel policy is a good idea. “It’s insurance so claims are going to be a hassle but whenever you have an emergency it is going to be helpful to have that and a lot of times, hospitals will let you go based on the fact that you have it,” he says.

Hall says he and his wife vacationed to Europe last year and he bought policies for about $300 for each of them. He says when traveling with a family, make sure to get coverage for everyone in the family.

He says a lot of companies sell this type of insurance but you should do your research before you buy. He says that includes reading reviews of the company and determining if you think they’re the right fit for you and your family. He says find out ahead of time what kind of activities the insurance covers. For example, he says are you going scuba diving or hunting? Will bills be paid if you are injured doing these activities? Hall also says make sure that a company has “boots on the ground” in terms of representatives in the country. He says to make sure you take a copy of the medical policy with you when you travel and all of their emergency numbers. He also suggests calling the numbers before you leave on your vacation to make sure they actually work and that someone will answer you if you need help during a medical crisis.

“The two most important things you’re going to buy are based on reimbursement for medical costs,” said Hall. “What are they going to pay the doctor or hospital as well as the cost of what it would be for you to be medevacked,”

He says being medevacked could be thousands of dollars and while you may want to check out your own medical policy to find out if you are covered while out of the country Hall says that it may be doubtful that insurance from your workplace is going to pay.

He says a separate medical travel policy is the way to go. “I would say 100 percent of the time just get an outside policy,” said Hall. “If you’re spending that much for a vacation just get the outside policy- it’s not a bank breaking cost if you’re spending thousands of dollars to go overseas.”

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