I was told you don't need international travel health insurance, because there is a code or treaty of some kind that a tourist gets free medical care anywhere in the world. Here in the states also, but you have to be a tourist.
- Lenny Sirago Surfside Beach, S.D.
"...the U.S. State Department recommends that seniors purchase additional health insurance when traveling internationally."
Let's face it — the international community hasn't been able to pass universal standards on high-priority issues such as climate change, so there's little chance that they would have been able to ratify universal health care for tourists.
Lenny, it's possible that your friend is confusing the provisions of the 1999 Montreal Convention, an international treaty that outlines an airline's financial liability for international carriage of persons, luggage or goods. Though it doesn't provide universal medical care, it does ensure that in the event that you and/or your cargo are lost, those who survive you will be justly compensated.
But your friend got part of it right: In most of the developed world, hospitals are legally required to admit you if you are near death or must deliver an infant. However, once you've been stabilized, you'll be hit with the medical bills. Depending on the type of treatment received, these could be astronomically high — and most domestic insurances, including Medicaid and Medicare, will not cover you abroad. For this reason, the U.S. State Department recommends that seniors purchase additional health insurance when traveling internationally.
Fortunately, buying coverage is easy, as there are many plans available (but definitely comparison shop for rates). Try providers such as Access America and HTH Worldwide as well as websites such as Insuremytrip.com and Squaremouth.com.
And don't worry about medical facilities abroad — AARP has partnered with Medjet Assist to offer its members an 18 percent discount on their services (AARP members up to age 75). If you become ill or injured while traveling more than 150 miles from home and require inpatient hospital care, you'll get transportation to the hospital of your choice. The annual membership fee is $215 for an individual or $325 for a family.