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4 health care tips if you’re headed overseas for vacation

Man in red shirt holding plane tickets and luggage
Before you head for the distant reaches of the world, learn more about your health insurance to avoid unnecessary headaches.


Traveling and vacations are like peanut butter and jelly – they complement each other quite well. And Americans love to take advantage of these opportunities whenever they can. Indeed, according to a recent survey done by the U.S. Travel Association, workers took an average of 17 days off for vacation purposes last year. That’s up from slightly more than 16 days in 2015.

“Americans spent an average of 17 days on vacation last year.”

Where are individuals spending their time away? Far away, at least in recent years. For example, in 2016, international travel rose 7 percent in the U.S., based on figures collected by IPK International. The most popular destinations included sandy beaches and rural enclaves.

But here’s one thing that Americans dislike: getting sick. Falling ill is never any fun, but it’s especially bad news when you’re far away from home and your primary care physician.

However, depending upon your policy and insurance provider, you may be able to get the same or similar coverage benefits in a distant part of the world that you would get back in the States. The following are a few tips on accessing health care when you’re abroad:

1. Speak with your insurer directly
Contingency planning is a key component of traveling, especially as it pertains to illness or injury. Prior to departure, check your insurer’s website to see if this is addressed. If you have specific questions that aren’t referenced, speak with a representative directly. Key questions to ask include with your policy covers emergency expenses, if second opinions are necessary upon initial diagnosis and whether recreational activities, such as scuba diving or mountain climbing, are covered.

2. Find the appropriate physician
A primary care physician will most likely be the doctor you need, but you may not know what provider is in your network. The State Department recommends visiting this website.

Before you leave, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated.Before you leave, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated.

3. Get vaccinated
Certain contagious diseases largely absent in the U.S. may be more prevalent in the country you’re traveling to. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should have more details about this. Also, speak with your primary care physician before you leave to determine if you ought to get vaccinated. These shots are extremely effective in warding off disease. For instance, if you’re headed to South America, hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines are highly recommended for most travelers.

4. Inquire about medications
Do you take any prescription medications? If so, you may want to check with the foreign embassy you’re traveling to. Some countries don’t allow certain pharmaceuticals in. For instance, Canada has very strict rules regarding prescription meds.

Check out the State Department’s website for more tips on accessing health care while you’re away.

“You may not be able to avoid getting sick while you’re traveling, but with a little advance planning, you can make the experience a lot less traumatic,” said Christi Sharp, benefits planning sales director at PayneWest Insurance. “Your PayneWest colleague can help.”

Indeed, PayneWest Insurance prides itself on providing affordable, accessible coverage, with deductibles that can be tailored to your needs. To learn more, speak to one of our agents.

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