Travel insurance is designed to provide protection for travelers who get sick or injured while away from their home. The cost of medical care, even at a local hospital or clinic, is often more than people who only took the trip with available funds to pay for hotels or guesthouses, tours, and other local costs while away expect. A medical emergency is rarely in the budget and credit card allowances only stretch so far.

Understanding Clinics and Hospital Types

It’s good to know that you often have a choice about where you choose to receive medical attention should you need it. In the case of ex-pats, know that if you’re a foreigner, the local hospitals might not be up to the standard that you’re used to back home.

There are clinics for daytime visits or, alternatively, some local hospitals. Clinics are only suitable for outpatient treatment for small matters, though they’re the most affordable. Each local hospital will have a reputation, so it’s good to ask around to find out what people think from their experience going there for treatment. Not all offer the same standard of care, cleanliness or pricing policies.

Better quality public hospitals charge a premium, especially in their VIP wing. They may have some English-speaking doctors and possibly a few that were trained originally in American hospital facilities. Lesser public hospitals may have none. Private hospitals are likely to have a greater focus on International medicine, the latest medical equipment, and training, but with prices to match.

In Network Hospitals and Other Facilities

When making an insurance claim under travel insurance, it’s necessary to have attended a hospital that is considered “in network.” What this means is that it’s an approved medical facility.

It’s not enough to attend just any medical facility. For this reason, it’s sensible when arriving at a location abroad to confirm what hospitals are in-network and where they are located in the city. Getting the local language or script for that hospital and its address is a good idea, so you can show it to an ambulance or hotel staff, to ensure you arrive at the correct place.

Ensuring You Receive Medical Care

Many hospitals are worried about patients not being able to pay their bill. Accordingly, they will usually require proof that you can pay the bill. Alternatively, they will need to contact your travel insurer to verify your policy and confirm that their hospital is in-network with the insurer.

If you can’t prove that you’re able to pay out of pocket or have insurance that will pay for certain, a healthcare provider may turn you away. Alternatively, you may be unable to leave the hospital after care has been provided until the bill has been cleared. As the size of medical bills often surprises patients, this is an increasingly problematic situation for all parties involved.

Some Countries Are Making Travel Insurance Mandatory

Given the issues with medical bills, some countries have already made travel insurance compulsory for tourists and people who are staying a year or longer. In Asia, Thailand is now adding a new requirement for long-stay visa holders that they hold travel insurance coverage of a certain minimum value to cover potential accidents or illnesses contracted while within their Kingdom.

It’s to be expected that other countries will follow suit as the cost of quality healthcare rises at hospital facilities worldwide. It’s always best to have health insurance to protect yourself. You never know when you might get into an accident or fall ill, so don’t wait to get travel insurance until it’s made mandatory to buy it. You might require healthcare sooner than you thought.

Understanding how travel insurance works and what is likely to be covered is very important for any traveler. That way, it’s possible to prepare accordingly.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "How Travel Insurance Works and Why You Need It," in Medicalopedia, January 6, 2019, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/7149/how-travel-insurance-works-and-why-you-need-it/].