International travel has become inexpensive with modern transportation, so many people take trips to foreign countries for vacations, business, and school. Unfortunately, foreign countries can be very different from the U.S. in terms of law, professional qualifications, and the rights of non-citizens. When seeking medical care abroad, the differences prevalent in a foreign nation can make the process of obtaining medical treatment a nightmare. Before heading out for international travel, therefore, Dr. Edward Honig recommends researching the nuances of medical care in the host country that will be visited.
Importance of Preparation
Foreign travel can be a lot of fun, but it can quickly turn into a disaster when a medical problem arises. Foreigners are often unable to receive government benefits because they are not citizens. Many countries, moreover, have enacted laws that restrict the rights of non-citizens or treat them differently by law. Restrictions on the rights of foreigners are normally problematic when attempting to purchase property, do business, or open a bank account. Unfortunately, the problems associated with navigating through the legal system of a foreign nation can be especially problematic when seeking medical care.
In many cases, individuals who need medical care are in urgent need of treatment. A person who has a heart attack, for example, would have less than an hour to figure out how to contact emergency services and get into a hospital. A medical emergency could result in a person becoming incapacitated, and this would prevent them from getting their affairs in order before seeking care. Many foreign countries are unwilling to treat patients who are not able to pay for treatment before it is administered, and this can result in a hospital refusing to treat a dying patient or even provide palliative care. As a result, it is critical that anyone traveling abroad is prepared to obtain medical care before reaching their destination.
When to Go to the Hospital
Many people who travel abroad are afraid to go to the hospital because of the cost and hassle that this will entail. In many cases, people choose to forego treatment until they return to their home country. The problem with waiting to seek medical care is that this can lead to more severe complications that would be much more difficult to treat in a foreign country. In general, people who do not wish to be treated in a foreign country should return to their home country for treatment immediately so that they do not risk experiencing a severe health emergency abroad.
If someone experiences a medical problem in a foreign country and wishes to stay, they should go to the hospital as they normally would but should also be prepared to face the consequences of doing so. People who plan to stay in a foreign country for an extended period of time should talk to their insurance company to determine what degree of coverage they can receive abroad. Many insurance plans are happy to cover medical treatment in foreign countries since it can be much less expensive than treatment in U.S. hospitals. When an insurance plan will not cover treatment in a foreign country, long-term residents should protect themselves by obtaining comprehensive insurance coverage in the host nation.
Finding a Reputable Hospital
Dr. Edward Honig, a cardiologist at Glen Cove Hospital in New York City, recommends that international travelers identify a reputable hospital for medical treatment before arriving in a foreign nation. Travelers have plenty of time to make calls and ask around to investigate a foreign hospital before they set out on their trip. Many insurance companies and hospitals in the U.S. are willing to provide referrals for reputable hospitals in foreign countries. The Internet has also made it easier to find a hospital before arrival because travelers can use translation tools to read a hospital’s website and browse through reviews online. As an internist, Edward has literally seen it all, so he definitely knows what you want to look for when considering a hospital.
Cost of Services
Most countries offer medical care that is less expensive than in the U.S., but this should not be assumed without conducting an investigation. Medical care in some countries can actually be more expensive than in U.S. hospitals, especially in the capital cities of developed nations. There are also countries that make medical care several times more expensive for non-citizens, so this type of discrimination should be investigated before traveling. In general, medical care in foreign countries can be equal to or less than the cost of care in the U.S. when travelers make the right preparations before setting out on their trip.
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