Travel health Part 2: The unexpected can happen

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By Dr. David Rideout

After a very long and cold winter, Donna and Mark, a retired couple from Framingham, had been looking forward to their annual trip to the beaches of Sanibel Florida. Elaborate plans were made months in advance. The day before the trip, Mark woke up with a fever of 102, and severe facial pain. He made a visit to his doctor, who diagnosed a severe sinus infection and advised that flying for the next week was out of the question. Fortunately, Donna and Mark had purchased trip cancelation insurance. With this specific insurance, all of the prepaid trip costs were reimbursed.

Depending on your health history, and particularly if you have chronic health issues, it is a smart idea to look into trip cancelation insurance to cover you financially in the event you should have to cancel a trip unexpectedly.

Dr. Rideout(RXcolumn)Travel health insurance When traveling outside of the U.S., you most likely will be asked to pay out of pocket for any medical treatment. This can be extremely expensive. Before you travel, find out what your existing health insurance will cover if you become ill or injured overseas. Some policies cover only specific procedures and will have exclusions. Consider purchasing a supplemental policy for traveling overseas. Make sure the supplemental policy will make payments directly to the hospital or clinic, so that you are not expected to pay these costs at out of pocket. If you have chronic health issues, it is important to research this through your insurance carrier in advance of your travel.

Medical evacuation insurance — Depending on where you are traveling, you may want to consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance. This is sometimes bundled within a supplemental travel health insurance policy. If you are traveling to a remote corner of the world, or where you are unlikely to find good healthcare, consider adding this. This insurance will cover the cost of transporting you from a remote area to an area that has high quality healthcare and hospitals. Medical evacuations can be extremely expensive. An air ambulance evacuation from a remote region can cost up to $100,000. Check with your current health insurance provider to see what is or is not covered by your plan.

Finding a doctor while traveling — Fortunately, when in the U.S., you may visit an urgent care center, and be seen by a board certified physician while away from home. They can be found in all regions of the country, and have extended hours and accept most commercial insurance.

When traveling abroad, the best resource for finding a doctor or clinic would be the U.S. embassy. The embassy will help locate medical services near you and will help notify your family in the event of an emergency. Finally, a very good resource for all your travel health questions is the CDC website: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel.

Dr. David Rideout is the lead physician at Doctors Express, Saugus office, one of 10 Eastern Mass offices, offering seven-day walk-in urgent medical care. He can be reached at 781-233-1000. Visit their website, www.DoctorsExpressBoston.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.