I was traveling through Budapest when it happened, when I collapsed and my lips turned blue. It began with a coughing which just wouldn’t stop, though as I felt my airways narrow and swell, I freaked out because I knew.
As you would expect from most 19 year old backpackers on Contiki through Europe, I had spent the better half of the evening reaching an early stage of incredibly drunk. Not too long after we got back to our campsite I was on the ground.
Any number of causes can trigger asthma, and severe asthma attacks can prove deadly. I found myself unable to speak in full sentences, though the words that I did manage to wheeze out in-between coughing fits on the ground successfully made the point that I would kill anyone who called for help.
Without health insurance there was no way in hell my backpacker budget had enough left in it to afford an ambulance call out fee. Especially after I had just spent it all on booze.
The Day I Stopped Breathing Abroad
Purposely Avoiding the Hospital
Hundreds of thousands of tourists find themselves in the same position every year; purposely avoiding the hospital despite being in dire need of medical care, simply because they don’t have the budget to foot the bill.
Your regular health insurance generally won’t cover you while abroad, so if you trip on a cobblestone street and break your nose, somehow trigger an asthma attack and can’t breathe, get hit by a Tuk Tuk in Asia, or even slip and break your back while on an Amazon cruise, for lack of a better phrase, not having medical insurance which specifically covers international travel means you’re screwed.
Luckily my freak asthma attack passed within an hour, and luckily I wasn’t hit with hospital fees I couldn’t pay. Though there’s no worse feeling, knowing you need care, and knowing you don’t have the means or insurance to cover it. And I didn’t know enough Hungarian to convey that I couldn’t pay the bill.
The stupidest thing you can ever do is to think it will never happen to you. A good friend came back from the Solomon Islands one year with a broken arm from playing a casual game of football.
My sister set herself on fire in Thailand during a fire breathing course. My brother-in-law during that same firey Thailand trip, went head first over the handle bars of his motorbike while on a day tour.
And then there’s the Australian woman who passed out drunk in the streets of Canada and woke up with the most graphic and severe case of frostbite the world has ever seen. Literally, click through to that story – her fingers were swollen to the point of full size balloons, and she’s genuinely lucky to still have the use of her hands.
Regular Articles on Health Travel
Brand Ambassadors for GeoBlue
As international medical coverage is such an important issue for those traveling abroad, we have recently teamed up with IndividualHealth.com to write regular fortnightly articles about everything to do with travel health!
You may have caught our most recent articles on “Which countries won’t let you in without health insurance?“, and “Legal travel to Cuba for Americans” – you can expect a lot more where these came from in terms of fantastic tips and tricks on international health; we’re in the process of writing about topics such as emergency medical evacuations abroad, first aid tips for the hard-core hiking enthusiast, and tips for staying safe in some of the world’s most dangerous countries.
Through our partnership with IndividualHealth we have recently become Brand Ambassadors for GeoBlue, a leader in global health cover offering policies which exceed the needs of just about all travelers and expats alike. Our new fortnightly health column will as such be proudly sponsored by IndividualHealth on behalf of GeoBlue. We are excited to partner with and show our open support for our health insurance provider of choice.
What to Look For in an International Health Insurance Policy
As mentioned above, medical coverage for travel is important as your regular health insurance generally won’t cover you while abroad.
When looking for a health insurance policy which suits your needs, you should seek cover which offers at least:
- Reimbursement for unexpected medical costs due to emergency medical care.
- Reimbursement for unexpected dental costs due to an accident.
- Advance payments to medical facilities and help to get emergency medical transportation when you are injured.
- Coordination of and payment for emergency medical evacuation services, including medical care providers to attend to you until you reach an appropriate medical care facility.
- Accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) and travel accident benefits to help take care of you or your family if you are seriously injured or killed while traveling.
- Emergency travel assistance services to help you locate a local and appropriate medical facility to care for your medical needs and those of your family. Source.
You should also look to find a policy which will reimburse medical expenses no matter which hospital you end up at (some policies do not).
Medical coverage plans for international travel will come in the form of single trip travel medical (less than 6 months), multi-trip travel medical (covers multiple trips for up to 12 months), or long-term major medical (renewable, continuous coverage for the long term traveler).
GeoBlue – Health Insurance We Trust
Why we advocate for GeoBlue Insurance is because their policies offer all of the above and more. They offer the most complete set of benefits and services in the industry and essentially provide a worldwide, all-access pass to an exclusive level of care.
GeoBlue has an elite network of doctors from most every specialty ready to see you in over 180 countries. Only a small fraction of doctors around the world meet GeoBlue’s exacting standards—participation is by invitation only.
They seek out professionals certified by the American or Royal Board of Medical Specialties who speak English, and they factor in recommendations by over 158 Physician Advisors from all over the world.
They assemble in-depth provider profiles so that members can choose with confidence, and they put formal contracts in place to ensure preferred patient access. GeoBlue doctors and hospitals bill them directly so you don’t have to even worry about filing a claim, and you don’t have to lay out any cash.
Though let’s say you’ve been knocked unconscious and rushed to a medical facility which is not part of the GeoBlue network. GeoBlue makes their best attempt to arrange direct payment no matter which medical provider you see. Most of the time they are successful and there is no cash outlay for you as the patient at all.
In the instance that you’re required to pay a rural provider outside of the GeoBlue network for health services, it’s easy to submit claims online via your phone or computer, and you’re reimbursed within days. That’s right, I said days. Not weeks, not months, but days!! The concierge level of guidance is also amazing, and the level of care is exceptional. GeoBlue is involved every step of the way, and they make sure you’re covered always.
But what’s the use of an elite network of doctors if you can’t find them? The other brilliant advantage of GeoBlue is their mobile app and excellent 24 hour assistance.
GeoBlue Mobile Assistance
When you’re covered by a health insurance plan with GeoBlue, GeoBlue travels with you. Policy holders can use their mobile device to quickly and conveniently connect to quality care across the globe for anything from emergency needs, to filling a simple prescription, to translating your symptoms, to finding the right doctor at home or abroad.
With a few simple taps, you’re able to get detailed profiles of carefully selected primary care physicians and specialists, as well as a broad range of hospitals, pharmacies, even dentists, where you are, when you need it. Review qualifications, make an appointment, and get directions, right from the App on your cell.
Plus, proof of coverage is always at your fingertips, ready to show and share with providers. Mobile Assistance is backed 24/7 by their toll free assistance line as well.
As a policy holder, your computer or mobile device becomes a powerful translation tool. Their database consists of over 5,000 commonly used medical terms and 4,000 medical health phrases in dozens of languages. It’s easy to find the term or phrase you need, and once you do, audio files allow you to play a precise translation in the world’s most widely spoken languages.
You can rely on GeoBlue to help you translate brand names or find generic, and get accurate dosing information in the world’s top destinations, even if you can’t understand Icelandic!
So don’t think of it as just one more thing to carry with you, but something to carry you past medical misunderstandings. GeoBlue provides the best tools available to navigate the complexities of healthcare and arrive at the best decisions for personal care.
Get a Free Quote Today
To apply for coverage with GeoBlue or obtain a free quote, contact Timothy Jennings at IndividualHealth.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A health insurance broker we trust, Timothy has worked in the international and US domestic market for more than 30 years and offers travelers a range of different options on plans and coverage including short-term travel medical (generally less than 6 months), annual renewable coverage for expats, and coverage for business groups worldwide. Timothy is one of a limited few brokers that works full-time in this field, and he definitely knows his stuff!
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