Dealing with medical issues can be a difficult, confusing and time-consuming task in your normal day to day life. Dealing with them during extended travel can add layers of complexity to the equation if you are not properly prepared. Here we will look at dealing with medical concerns during extended travel by breaking them down into two categories: the medical issues you know about, and the surprises that will come up as you travel.
Known medical issues are much easier to deal with. If you have time to plan before your extended journey starts then sit down with your doctor and work out a plan on how to deal with the issues you know you have. If you take routine prescription medications see if the doctor can provide a prescription for a supply large enough to cover you while you are away. If you plan on being out of the country this will be your best bet. If they cannot, have the prescription sent to a nationwide pharmacy, or at least one that you know has a branch in the area(s) you plan to visit. In most cases, one branch of a pharmacy can move a prescription that has refills to another branch as you move about the country. The rules on this vary state by state and some specific medications may have certain restrictions as well. If the pharmacy at your current location cannot transfer a prescription from another branch then contact your doctor and have them send a new prescription directly.
For doctor visits, ask your doctor if they can do virtual visits or seek out a specialist who can. Virtual visits are basically teleconferencing with your doctor over your phone, tablet or computer. Having a virtual doctor takes the guesswork out of health care while you travel. Knowing you have medical support from anywhere can be extremely reassuring.
Dealing with unexpected medical issues can be a whole different can of worms and contacting a virtual physician is much less stressful than trying to find urgent care in a place you’ve never been. Once you know where to go if you have an unexpected medical issue, you'll need to know how you'll pay for the services should you need them. As of 2019, there are no longer any state health PPO plans that will cover you outside of your state of residence. California was the last state to offer such a plan, and it will no longer renew them as of 2019. Private or employer PPOs are still available that can offer across state coverage. Make sure you know what insurance you have and if will cover you. All insurance plans should cover you in an emergency. Unfortunately, the insurer defines what an emergency is so don't assume that just because you went to the emergency room that you will be covered.
If you do not have insurance that will cover you out of state then you will either be out of network or self-pay. Self-pay means you are paying cash for the services with no insurance company involvement at all. Don't let this scare you, it may be cheaper to be self-pay then to pay the out of network costs. If you are used to having a specific service done that your insurance says costs X dollars, don't be surprised if the cash cost on that same test is 1/10 of that or less at a private lab. Most medical procedures are not nearly as expensive as the insurance/medical industry would have you believe. There are websites like healthcarebluebook.com where you can enter your zip code and the procedure you are doing to get the accepted cash cost for that service. If the facility providing the service is attempting to bill you an amount significantly higher then continue to negotiate it down to as close to the accepted amount as possible.
As with most medical issues, staying ahead of the game is the key to success. Make sure you plan for everything you know about before you leave and then formulate a plan for the unexpected as soon as you arrive, or sooner if you can. By doing so you should be well positioned to deal with whatever medical issues that do come up during your travels.