A broken dental crown in Germany. A fall with injuries in Egypt. A heart problem in the Caribbean.

Medical emergencies can have a stunning lack of respect for our international travel plans, but as Omahan Amy Tokos can attest, a simple precaution can spare an incredible amount of headache and expense.

“It was kind of a last-minute decision – let’s buy travel insurance. It cost us $99 each, and my mom says it saved her at least $50,000,” Tokos says.

She and her extended family were cruising in the Caribbean when her mother started experiencing an irregular heartbeat.

“This was the first incident of her ever having AFib (Atrial fibrillation). She was just weak and couldn’t move,” Tokos recalls. “When we got to Belize, they removed her from the ship and took her to the hospital.”

Tokos disembarked, as well, to provide support. After a couple of nights in the hospital, she and her mom were flown, by private medical plane, to Miami, where cardiac surgeons restored a regular heart rhythm.

“The insurance paid for mom’s medical flight (a $40,000 expense) and her hospital costs in Belize,” Tokos says. “She ended up paying less than $2,000 out-of-pocket for that whole thing.”
It could have been a much different, much more expensive travel tale.

Oftentimes, traditional insurance plans, whether through an employer, a federal program (such as Medicare) or otherwise, have exclusions or limitations for international travel – potentially providing little-to-no coverage for medical care and medical evacuations abroad.

“Travel plans, including GeoBlue, offer peace of mind for just these situations for just a few dollars a day in most cases,” says Tom Gilsdorf, director of the Medicare Advantage Business Unit for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE).

The GeoBlueTravel Medical & International Health Insurance that BCBSNE offers is designed to supplement traditional health insurance, including Medicare. With GeoBlue, there are no upfront payments for medical treatments and no claims to submit. Travelers have access to a network of English-speaking doctors in 190-plus countries and an app to translate medical terms, find a doctor or pharmacy, receive travel alerts, download ID cards and more.

Short- and long-term GeoBlue plans are available, regardless of whether you are enrolled in a BCBSNE health plan.

“Whether it’s a short three-day trip or a month, these plans can be tailored to provide coverage for as long as you are traveling abroad,” Gilsdorf says.

Those who have a BCBSNE Medicare Advantage plan, Gilsdorf says, have even broader international travel benefits, including up to $50,000 for emergency care and transportation. Even so, he says, supplementing with a travel benefit plan can “ensure you have the best experience possible if the unexpected happens while you’re out of the country.”

Tokos is a travel insurance convert: “My husband says that’s the best $99 we ever spent.”

Departure checklist

For additional peace of mind when traveling (domestically or abroad), consider these tips from BCBSNE and AAA Nebraska:

• Special diets? Wheelchair access? If you have dietary restrictions or any other special needs, be sure to tell your travel service provider. If booking on your own, check to make sure your hotels or attractions, including historical properties, are equipped with elevators.

• Position yourself for comfort. For long-distance flights, consider paying a little extra for additional leg room and avoid seats positioned against the restroom wall or galley area, many of which do not recline.

• Beware of online travel scams. Use caution if you book airfare through a third-party website. The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker recently issued alerts for scammers pretending to be online airline ticket brokers.

• Keep daily medications in your carry-on bag or on your person. And carry an emergency care contact list (including your medications and dosage) in your wallet or purse.

For more information on travel health insurance coverage from BCBSNE, including online quotes, visit NebraskaBlue.com.”