GeoBlue-Harris Poll Survey Shows Uncertainty Over Travel Health Risks/Medical Coverage As Appetite for International Travel Increases

52% Don’t Think They’ll Need Medical Care Abroad & Most Are Unaware That They’re Not Covered

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa.--()--Americans are increasingly traveling outside the U.S. with nearly half planning a trip abroad in the next two years. Despite the fact that one in four will experience a medical event abroad, according to a new survey of 2,086 conducted by Harris Poll and sponsored by GeoBlue, 46% believe a medical event would be covered by their domestic health insurance. Additionally, over three quarters of consumers (76%) likely don’t have adequate health insurance coverage for international trips according to GeoBlue, a leading international health insurance company and independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

A majority of travelers surveyed (77%) know medical care abroad is just as important as a nice place to stay and a good flight. Furthermore, nearly 9 in 10 (87%) know a medical event is a realistic possibility. Nevertheless, 52% have an ‘it-won’t-happen-to-me’ attitude, which is concerning as most don’t have adequate health insurance coverage in another country should they need it.

Appetite for Travel is Growing

Appetites for international travel are large, with nearly two thirds (64%) making plans to travel internationally in the next 5 years. 46% are planning an international trip in the next 2 years and 30% of Gen Z and 27% of Millennials would work remotely abroad if their job allowed it; 59% are concerned about getting sick while abroad.

The Importance of International Travel Medical Insurance

Most Americans who travel abroad are under/uninsured for the medical needs they are likely to encounter – whether it’s a minor medical issue (e.g., allergic reaction, stomach bug, etc.) or a serious life-threatening issue requiring a medical evacuation. This is why it's not uncommon to see GoFundMe campaigns created to get relatives home from abroad after a medical emergency. This usually happens because the travelers didn’t have a medical insurance plan that was designed for international travel and assumed their domestic health plan had adequate coverage outside of the country. The rise in international remote work, workcations, business travel and an increase in leisure travel only increases this risk.

The Gaps and Risks in Relying on a Domestic Plan Abroad

With nearly half of consumers planning to rely on their domestic health plan while traveling abroad, it’s clear most people aren’t aware of the coverage gaps that could result in emotional and financial distress when using a domestic health plan abroad.

  • Some domestic employer-sponsored health plans offer no coverage abroad. Even those that do, offer “portability” of your coverage, which still leaves gaps in care, coverage and service (e.g. you need to pay upfront and claim for reimbursement; most domestic health plans don't cover medical evacuation abroad, care received abroad is considered out of network, etc.)
  • Most ACA plans don’t provide international medical coverage.
  • Even the richest Medicare supplement plans have limited international benefits.

“Eager to travel and work from anywhere, Americans are making plans and getting their passports in order, but far too many don’t make arrangements for medical coverage abroad even though they know an illness or accident in a foreign country is a very real possibility. Consumers and their employers alike need to make sure these travelers have adequate health coverage while abroad,” Lynn Pina, Chief Marketing Officer at GeoBlue noted. “Think of it this way, if you need a passport, you need an international travel medical plan,” she added.

Why Consumers Need Travel Medical Insurance

Most employer-sponsored and ACA plans aren’t designed to be used abroad. With 190+ countries in the world, all with different healthcare systems and infrastructure, U.S.-style health plans often don’t work abroad.

  • International healthcare providers expect payment in full at the time of service. Americans are used to showing their health plan ID card and getting immediate service with no upfront payments or small co-payments. Many international providers will deny care and/or confiscate the traveler’s passport until full payment is received.
  • International claims are typically considered out of network on a U.S. style plan. Travelers not only have to pay upfront to receive care, but they will likely be reimbursed at a lower rate since it’s an out-of-network claim.
  • Domestic health insurers often don’t have 24/7/365 service. If you need to find out your coverage and benefits from the hospital in a foreign country, the time difference means you may not get help from your domestic health insurer when you need it, which could mean a delay in receiving care and/or obtaining verification of your coverage.
  • A medically necessary medical evacuation is typically not covered on a domestic health plan. Should a traveler need a medical evacuation, they will likely need to pay for it upfront and also try to make the complicated arrangements on their own. A medical evacuation could range from $10,000 to more than $100,000 depending on the medical situation and location(s) involved.

A travel medical insurance plan, whether consumer purchased or employer-sponsored, will address these gaps in care and coverage. GeoBlue consumer plans offer up to $1 million in coverage for less than $2 a day (subject to age and eligibility). Employer-sponsored plans can provide blanket coverage for employees, whether on business or leisure travel.

For the full survey results, infographics and more information please visit:

About GeoBlue

Owned and backed by 15 Blue Cross Blue Shield companies and Bupa, GeoBlue is the trade name for the international health insurance programs of Worldwide Insurance Services, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For 25 years, GeoBlue's purpose has been to simplify the international healthcare experience for the globally mobile. GeoBlue members have access to one of the largest care networks in the world, coupled with high-tech, high-touch services that enable them to fulfill their international aspirations. Whether it's executives doing business in Tokyo, students studying in Spain, or tourists traveling the world, the power of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield brand is always within reach. To learn more, visit


Liam Collopy, Executive Vice President
Stanton Communications
Ph: 510-488-2472 |


Liam Collopy, Executive Vice President
Stanton Communications
Ph: 510-488-2472 |