With the holidays and year’s end fast approaching, there’s a good chance you’ll soon be driving to grandmother’s house, jetting across the country to lock down a final sale, or perhaps taking a well-deserved international vacation.
Whether traveling for business or pleasure, most of us share a common sentiment: “Please don’t let me get sick!” This is especially true during cold and flu season.
Proper hygiene remains your best defense against the common cold, but sometimes there’s just no avoiding an accident or illness. Recognizing this, it pays to know your health care options and insurance benefits before you leave home, so you can rest easy while you’re away (if that’s even possible on a pull-out couch).
Four things for travelers to know about their health insurance when away from home
1) Out-of-network benefits. You know how to find a doctor near your home, but what about when you’re out of state or in a different region of the country? Your insurance network is comprised of the doctors and health care facilities you can visit that your insurance covers according to your plan. Visiting doctors and hospitals that are “out-of-network” (i.e., not a part of your health insurance plan) may result in you being responsible for most or all of the cost of your care. Before you head out the door, review your health plan documents to know what kind out-of-network benefits you have – if any. Some insurance plans offer access to doctors across the country, whereas others only cover visits to doctors within a specific region or health system. You should be able to verify whether a doctor participates in your health plan by calling the 800 number on the back of your insurance card or by visiting your insurer’s website.
2) ER vs. urgent care vs. retail clinic. When we’re away from home and a health-related event occurs, our default setting is often to visit the nearest emergency room. However, in cases where the injury or illness is not severe, this may not be the most time-efficient or cost-effective choice. Doctors and hospitals have added treatment options in recent years, ranging from walk-in urgent care to clinics located inside major retail stores. In the case of a mild illness, such as pink eye, you can likely be treated more quickly at these alternative locations. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield offers a resource to help everyone understand their non-emergency care options here (link to https://www.anthem.com/what-to-know). Of course, in the event of a true emergency, always go to the nearest emergency room.
3) Telehealth. Another way to see a doctor that has quickly become a favorite of business travelers and parents alike is telehealth. Telehealth services allow you to have a live, two-way video chat with a licensed doctor via your smartphone, tablet or computer. One such service is LiveHealth Online. Doctors using LiveHealth Online can provide a diagnosis, treatment and even write a prescription if needed. Best of all, telehealth visits are quite affordable. Many Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield members already have access to LiveHealth Online as a part of their insurance benefits, and anyone can use the service simply by signing up at www.livehealthonline.com and paying with a credit card. Doctors using LiveHealth Online typically charge $49 per medical visit.
4) International benefits. The next time you pack your passport, also take a moment to review your insurance benefits – you may have access to resources you didn’t even know about. For example, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s International Travel Solution (ITS) can help our Blue View Vision members with lost or broken glasses in 20 international destinations. ITS provides everything from quick fixes like temporary glasses to getting members in touch with an eye doctor. Your plan may include similar services for medical, vision, dental or even prescriptions.
Remember, wherever life takes you, it’s always best to know before you go. Insurance benefits and services vary not only by health plan, but also by travel destination. Contact your doctor’s office and insurance company to gather any necessary phone numbers, contact information and medical records before your trip. Happy trails!