What You Should Know About Health Insurance While Traveling

After two long years, restrictions on travel and leisure are finally relaxing and many Americans are planning to hit the road for the first time since the start of the pandemic. There’s adventure to be found in exploring faraway cities, discovering new sites and foods, but travel comes with risks too – accidents, injuries and illnesses are never easy to navigate, but doing so in unfamiliar territory adds to the challenge. Here’s what you need to know about your health insurance while traveling.

Traveling internationally

You’ve probably already checked COVID-19 testing requirements, booked flights and lodgings, researched where you’ll eat and what you’ll see. But one important step travelers often forget is ensuring their health insurance plan covers them while they’re abroad. Most domestic health insurance plans, including Blue KC, do not cover international travel. The good news is that Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) offers an international plan specifically for this purpose: GeoBlue.

GeoBlue is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, though you don’t need to be currently enrolled in a BCBS medical plan to purchase a GeoBlue plan. Among other benefits, GeoBlue members enjoy:

  • Comprehensive international travel insurance that includes medical evacuation and repatriation benefits
  • 24/7 phone, web, mobile and telemedicine support
  • Prompt and convenient access to trusted doctors and hospitals across the world
  • Appointment scheduling support (particularly useful in a country where you don’t speak the language)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment insurance (pays a death benefit upon the accidental death of an insured or upon the loss of a limb due to an accident)
  • $0 deductible/provides first dollar coverage
  • Travel arrangements for family bedside visit
  • Easy-to-use mobile app to access ID card, search international providers and request a guarantee of payment for doctor’s visit and many other helpful travel features

Traveling domestically

You can rest easy: many Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans include coverage for care in 50 states and are accepted by over 90 percent of doctors and specialists in the United States. For some Blue KC members traveling domestically, you’ll be covered under the BlueCard program which connects all 36 individual Blue Cross Blue Shield licensees so members can enjoy access to the savings the local Blue Cross Blue Shield plan has negotiated with its doctors and hospitals.

For example, if a member of Blue KC, whose Plan includes the BlueCard program, slips down a ravine and breaks a leg while hiking in Glacier National Park, MT, you will be charged the rate Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana has negotiated with the local hospital rather than paying the steep fees you’d otherwise encounter.

So, if you’re planning to travel domestically:

  • Call your BCBS company to find out what your benefits cover while traveling
  • Always carry your current member ID Card
  • To find nearby doctors and hospitals, call BlueCard Access at 1-800-810-BLUE (2583) or visit the Blue National Doctor & Hospital Provider Finder
  • Call your Blue Plan for precertification or prior authorization if necessary. Refer to the phone number located on your Blue ID card

No one goes on a trip expecting to get hurt or sick, but accidents happen to the best of us. In fact, a recent study found that 28% of Americans have gotten sick or injured on vacation, most commonly from bacterial or food-borne illnesses. So, if you’re going to hit the road this summer, knowing you have a plan for the worst-case scenario can give you peace of mind – and help you make the most of your long-deserved vacation.