When you're getting ready to take a trip into Mexico - packing the car, getting maps, checking the spare tire, etc. - it is always a good idea to check in with your health insurance provider to find out what they will cover in the event that an unexpected medical situation arises while you are traveling.
Health insurance companies such as Aetna, Blue Cross, Blue Shield and PacifiCare give membership cards to their individual and group plan subscribers. To get started, check your card to find out what telephone number you should call to reach a customer service representative for your area and plan type. This representative will be able to provide you with important information about how to receive and pay for emergency healthcare while in Mexico, under the guidelines of your specific plan.
It is important to note that most US health insurance companies will not cover basic medical expenses such as routine doctor visits if you are outside of the 50 states. However, most companies will cover (or reimburse you for) at least some portion of your medical bills if it becomes necessary for you to seek emergency treatment. Very few companies will pay for your medical evacuation back to the United States, which can cost up to $50,000 depending on your location and the type of medical condition for which you need treatment.
When you speak with the customer care department of your insurance company, make sure to ask for the correct international telephone number to call from Mexico in the event that you need help with "foreign services". While some member cards feature these emergency telephone numbers prominently, others do not. Keep this telephone number with you at all times during your travel in Mexico, so that you may rest assured that in the event of an emergency, you will receive immediate and explicit direction as to where you should go for treatment.
It is also crucial to note that US Medicare does NOT cover hospital or medical costs outside of the USA. If you currently receive coverage under either Medicare or Medicaid, you should contact the AARP before you leave for your vacation to find out about supplemental coverage through one of their twelve Medigap plans.
While in Mexico
If it becomes necessary for you to seek emergency treatment while in Mexico, rest assured that you can contact the local US consulate for assistance in locating appropriate medical facilities, informing your family and friends, and transferring funds from the United States to pay for your care. However if you are in a true emergency call the local emergency hotline or go to the nearest emergency facility first - don't wait for your consular officer to get back to you. You can work out the paperwork later, once you are feeling better.
It is generally a good idea to assume that you will be asked to pay for your medical services and treatments "up front". You will also need to request that all of your medical records, bills and payment receipts be translated into English. Once you have returned to the United States, you may submit these papers to your health insurance provider for reimbursement. Most US health insurance companies will advise you to follow these steps for the reason that many Mexican hospitals and doctors simply don't accept foreign health insurance. (This is commonly attributed to the fact that US health insurance companies often refuse to pay foreign hospitals or physicians for services they have provided, or insist upon paying at an enormously discounted rate.)
A few of the larger US health insurance companies such as Aetna have developed relationships with Mexican healthcare providers and in the event of a catastrophic event will direct you to go to the nearest provider recommended by their network, where you can simply present your membership card and (once having met your deductible) enjoy the same medical coverage that you typically would in the United States. If there are absolutely no providers in the region that your insurance provider works with, they will then transport you by ambulance or air lifting to a hospital, clinic or doctor with whom they do have a relationship. To find out if your health insurance provider offers these services, call the customer service telephone number listed on your membership card. Also, http://travel.state.gov advises that you carry medical claim forms from your company with you on your journey, so that your attending physicians can detail both your condition and their treatment in a way that your insurance company can understand and process easily.
If you are planning to travel into Mexico and want to make certain that you are fully covered for medical air evacuation in the event of an emergency, you will be well advised to consider purchasing supplemental medical coverage designed for international travelers.
Supplemental Medical Coverage for Travelers
Supplemental medical insurance policies for travelers are available via the internet, and many reputable companies offer temporary policies which guarantee you air evacuation to the hospital of your choice. These companies offer supplemental medical insurance:
Vacationers, business travelers, recreational vehicle owners and timeshare owners who travel more than 100 miles away from their home are covered by the SkyMed plans, which guarantee their return to their home hospitals and physicians (not to mention loved ones and caretakers). SkyMed membership provides hospital-to-hospital emergency air transport, transportation for recuperation nearer home, commercial carrier escort flights, escort transportation, minor children and grandchildren return, vehicle return, and much more.More coming soon...