Hitting the Road This Summer? 5 Health Insurance Travel Tips to Know Before You Go

Summer Travel

Summertime is typically synonymous with travel. Americans are gearing up for the 4th of July weekend but vacations are bound to look a little different this year as the country fights to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

With air travel out of the question for many, this may go down as the summer of the family road trip. But even when you’re traveling no more than a few hundred miles from home, unexpected challenges can arise. For example, what do you do if you get sick or injured and need medical care away from home?

eHealth has prepared the following tips to provide some peace of mind before you gas up the family car and prepare to hit the road this summer.

  1. Know your “coverage area.” Most insurance plans have a specific “coverage area” within which they maintain a network of contracted doctors and medical facilities. Some are limited to a specific region within your home state, while others cover an entire state or even extend into neighboring states. Call your insurance company to make sure you know whether you’ll be in or out of your network coverage area while traveling.
  2. Understand any coverage limitations. While on the phone with your insurer, make sure to ask about your coverage for non-network providers. Unlike network providers who typically accept discounted rates as payment in full, out-of-network providers may not be limited in what they can charge you for care. And, depending on the rules of your health insurance plan, you may have limited or no coverage for non-network providers. (Luckily emergency medical care is an exception and hospitalization for a medical emergency is typically covered at the network rate until you’re well enough to travel to a network hospital.)
  3. Ask non-network providers for a discount. When you see an out-of-network medical provider, chances are that you’re not going to benefit from the discounted rates your insurance company negotiates with its own network of providers. When seeking treatment, tell the out-of-network provider that you’ll be paying yourself (meaning, without insurance) and ask for a discount. Many medical providers will give people without insurance coverage a discount of 10-20%, and sometimes more.
  4. Be prepared to pay for medical care at the time of service. If you don’t have out-of-network coverage, or the out-of-network provider you visit will not bill your insurance company on your behalf, you may need to pay for your medical care at the time of service. But, if you’re facing a large bill, work with the medical provider to see about setting up a manageable payment plan.  
  5. Save all your paperwork. If you do visit a doctor or hospital out of your coverage area, keep all the paperwork you receive, including medical bills and receipts. If the care you received was eligible for coverage under your plan, you can use these documents and receipts to support a reimbursement claim.

Perhaps the biggest question facing travelers this summer is, what happens if you or a loved one comes down with the COVID-19 coronavirus while you’re away from home? Rest assured that most health insurance companies across the country are covering testing and treatment for the coronavirus with fewer restrictions than normal medical care, and often with no copays or deductibles from you. Ask your insurer to confirm the details of coronavirus coverage before you hit the road for your summer vacation.