The Myth of “Free” Medical Care Overseas
First thing’s first: unless the hospital or doctor is literally giving it away, there’s no such thing as “free” medical care. Somebody pays for it. In the United States, we know there’s a vast system of insurers and government programs. Elsewhere, taxpayers cover the bill, as in the case of the United Kingdom. So, let’s say you’re traveling to Old Blighty (that’s London) – why should you purchase travel insurance (for examples, Atlas Travel Insurance)? Won’t you be able to drop into an emergency room and receive treatment? The answer is… maybe, and are you willing to risk your financial well-being (not to mention your health) on a maybe? If you’re on the fence about whether you need travel insurance, here’s a quick list of things to think about when planning a trip overseas:
Imagine the worst
Nobody expects it to happen, but let’s say you look left when you’re supposed to look right, and a double-decker bus clips you. Now you’re in the UK, so medical care is covered, but will you be able to finance the cost of time spent abroad in recovery? Which leads to point #2:
If you’re unable to recover… those are very large buses… travel insurance will typically cover repatriation of your remains. It’s a pretty dark thought, but bad things happen. On a less morbid note, travel insurance will also often cover a return trip to the country if you’re in need of an emergency evacuation. That also applies for situations in a country abroad where you’re unable to access a hospital (e.g. a helicopter picks you up on a remote Scottish island… it could happen). Without travel insurance such as Atlas Travel Insurance, you’ll be left with the bill and possibly facing bankruptcy.
In some countries emergency treatment is covered but non-emergency treatment is not for non-residents. Do a bit of research and find out what the situation is in the country you’ll be visiting.
In an emergency your flight might be re-routed. What happens if you end up in an unexpected country, perhaps with injuries, or if you or a loved one becomes ill on the flight?