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Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad

In case of illness, American citizens traveling abroad should know about the services that are offered by the U.S. embassies and consulates. U.S. consular officers can help in finding medical care, transferring funds, and telling relatives about a health condition.

But they can't act as lawyers or bankers. Plus, payment of hospital and other expenses is the responsibility of the traveler. Many health insurance companies will pay "customary and reasonable" hospital costs abroad. But very few will pay for medical transport back to the U.S. Medical evacuation can easily cost $25,000 or more, even more than $100,000, depending on your location and health 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 U.S. in most cases. Older adults may learn more about foreign medical coverage with Medicare supplement plans by contacting AARP.  

The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs advises the following for international travelers:

  • 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 health problems, carry a letter from your healthcare provider describing the health condition and any prescription medicines, including the generic name of medicines.

  • Keep medicines in their original containers and be sure they are clearly labeled. Also make sure the prescribed or required medicines are not considered to be illegal narcotics in the countries that you will visit. Contact the foreign embassies before you travel.

  • Complete the information page on the inside of your passport listing 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 healthcare providers in the area.  

  • Some countries require foreign visitors to have vaccines 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.

Online Medical Reviewer: Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Wanda Taylor RN PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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