As soon as countries in Asia started opening back up after COVID, I went into full planning mode. My husband and I had postponed our honeymoon yet another year because we wanted to maximize our time abroad without having to spend precious vacation days in a hotel room quarantining. Once January 2023 came around, we started our adventure through Southeast Asia visiting Japan and then making our way to the Philippines.
However, after spending years hearing nothing but coronavirus this and that, you often forget there are other diseases out there. Unfortunately, while traveling to one of the islands of the Philippines, I started feeling very sick. By the time we reached our hotel, I knew something was very wrong as the pain on my abdomen wouldn’t subside. Finding myself sick, in a country where I didn’t know the language nor how the healthcare system worked, was daunting to say the least.
Doing the job I do day in and day out, however, I’m luckier than most as it has prepared me for situations like this and most importantly to have an insurance plan to cover my medical expenses. Before our trip, I bought a Patriot Travel International Lite plan to cover my spouse and I in case the unexpected happened. From this experience, I gained a few nuggets of wisdom:
When we entered Japan, we were asked to present our travel insurance documents. Being the diligent insurance agent that I am and having heard others’ experiences while traveling, I purchased an insurance plan ahead of time. I also read my insurance documents and downloaded my documents to my phone to have on hand.
Looking back, I don’t recall reading anywhere that Japan would ask for proof of insurance but I am glad I was prepared for this question.
Did you know? – When you purchase an insurance plan through ISI, you’ll be issued an ID card as well as a visa letter. The visa letter is an official document that can be presented to an embassy, consulate or at a port of entry and it highlights the most important benefits of your plan.
As I work with insurance plans every day, I had a pretty good idea how to use my plan and what I would be covered for. However, normal people usually don’t spend their days reading through insurance documents! A simple phone call to the insurance company will help you verify your benefits. They can explain to you how to use your plan abroad and how to locate a doctor or clinic. I was able to contact the international phone line before going to the clinic and they informed me what my coverage would be.
Use Online Tools
Every insurance plan offered through ISI gives you access to an online portal where you can find providers, file your claims, extend your coverage and much more. I was able to locate a clinic in their international provider search and after going to the clinic, I took a picture of the documents and receipts the doctor gave me and uploaded my claim to the myIMG portal offered through our Patriot International plan. I’ve been able to follow up on my claim right online and upload any documentation that was missing.
Did you know? – You can find international providers right through your account when you buy a Patriot International plan. Create your account before your trip and access the international provider search here.
Bring Extra Cash
In this day and age, many places accept credit cards or bank transfers. As convenient as that sounds, if you’re visiting remote locations, cash is still needed for day-to-day transactions. My husband and I were in El Nido, Palawan, a beautiful yet remote island of the Philippines. One of the days, there was a whole island outage and thus, ATMs didn’t work.
On top of that the clinic did not accept card payments. Thankfully, we had extra cash that we could use to pay for my visit to the clinic as well as prescription medication. Generally, for minor conditions like mine, you will be expected to pay out-of-pocket and then file a claim for reimbursement. For major conditions that may require emergency procedures or life-saving treatment, you or the hospital can contact the insurance company to arrange direct billing.
After a quick recovery, we were able to finish our backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. I am very lucky I have the training to handle situations like this one in a country on the other side of the world where I did not speak the language.
At ISI, we recommend the plans we do because we know that the unexpected can happen at any time and we have personal experience with them. To learn more about a specific plan, our team of licensed insurance agents is here to assist you!
Yessica Pacheco is the Director of Customer Service at ISI. She’s originally from Colombia but has lived in the United States since 2005. She has had the opportunity to travel through Latin America, Europe and Asia. Her interest in education and international studies along with her experience in bilingual customer service led her to EIC. When not in the office, you’ll find her immersed in a good book or with her dogs at the beach.
Tags: ID Card, international phone line, international provider search, online portal, Patriot International Plan, patriot travel, prescription medication, Study Abroad, study abroad health insurance, visa letter