Travel Insurance and Universal Healthcare – What You Need to Know

TLDR: The quality of medical services and their payment policies vary around the world. What doesn’t vary? The Medical & Dental coverage provided by a Generali Global Assistance travel protection plan. Generali Global Assistance has worked with medical providers around the world for decades. It has the expertise to get you the treatment you need when you’re abroad.

What Universal Healthcare Means When You're a Visitor

Universal healthcare sounds great – and it can be, when there’s plenty of access and the right doctors are there when you need them. If it all goes right, the bills get paid, the patient gets well, and everyone is happy.

In fact, the only problem with universal healthcare is it’s not universal, even in places that claim to have universal healthcare. It’s not for American visitors. And your U.S. health insurance likely isn’t going to cover your international medical expenses.

Here’s what that means: You’re traveling through the United Kingdom and you sprain your ankle. If you were a citizen of the U.K., you could have that examined and treated, no charge. But since you’re not, you have to pay a bill.

That’s not all. A significant number of providers require you to pay for at least a portion of your treatment up front. That’s where a travel protection plan from Generali Global Assistance can shine.

Our travel medical experts can help you navigate the medical system where you’re traveling, and Medical & Dental coverage can reimburse you up to the plan maximum. With our No Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses service, we can arrange upfront payment of up to $1,000 if you have an acute illness during your trip, while traveling in an area where this service is available.

Also read: What Medicare Doesn't Cover and How Travel Insurance Can Help

How Healthcare Works in Different Countries

Lest you think this sort of thing only happens in exotic locales, let’s look at some less-than-exotic destinations with universal healthcare where you may be forced to pay for your treatment:


Dave Grohl was right: We owe Canada a lot. And if you get sick or injured in the Great White North, you may owe them the cost of treatment, too.

That’s not all. As the State Department reports, “Access to ongoing medical care is difficult for temporary visitors who are not members of a Canadian province’s government-run health care plan. Many physicians will not take new patients. Specialist care is only by referral and may take months to obtain. Although trauma care is on par with that in the United States, emergency room waits for non-life-threatening problems can be very long.”

And if that’s not enough, many doctors in Quebec only speak French. Luckily, if you have a travel protection plan from Generali Global Assistance, it also includes 24/7 Medical Referral and Interpretation/Translation Services.

Also see: Top 10 Places to Visit in Canada

The European Union

What’s great about the EU if you’re a citizen of an EU country is that your healthcare travels. You’re from Belgium and you get sick in Italy? Not a problem. You’re covered.

But if you’re an American and get sick in Italy, it’s much more likely your healthcare does not travel.

In addition, as the State Department notes in its information on travel to Italy, “It is not possible to obtain an itemized hospital bill from public hospitals, as required by many U.S. insurance companies, because the Italian National Health Service charges one inclusive rate for care services and room and board. Private hospitals require you to pay for all services up front and get reimbursed later from your insurance company.”

These conditions aren’t the same throughout the EU. Spain and Germany provide itemized bills, but in France, according to the State Department, “Except for emergency services, you may be required to pay for service prior to receiving treatment,” and, “you may be refused routine care under local law if you lack the ability to pay.”

All good reasons to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies overseas.

See more - Visiting Schengen: What American Travelers Need to Know


The quality of healthcare varies greatly throughout Mexico, but one thing providers have in common is that they ask for payment before treatment.

In addition, the State Department notes that some providers near resort areas have sliding payment scales based on a patient’s ability to pay, and some resorts have exclusive arrangements with some providers.

Getting sick in Mexico can lead to some serious and unintended consequences for travelers who don’t have travel medical insurance.

Find your next trip: Mexican Vacation Destinations Off the Beaten Path

Jamaica and the Caribbean

In Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago, medical providers require payment up front. In addition, the quality of care can vary drastically from facility to facility, regardless of whether the facility is public or private.

Coverage that includes transfers to a facility that provides an adequate level of care is vital for travelers taking Caribbean vacations.

Costa Rica

Most providers in Costa Rica only accept cash payments, according to the State Department. As a result, they strongly recommend travel medical insurance (as it does for many other destinations around the world).

Find the Best Caribbean Islands for Every Month of the Year


Much like Costa Rica, most providers only accept cash, though medical care is readily available and providers are generally high-quality.


As the State Department writes on its website, “Japan has a national health insurance system which is available only to those foreigners with long-term visas for Japan. National health insurance does not pay for medical evacuation. Medical caregivers in Japan require payment in full at the time of treatment or concrete proof of ability to pay before they will treat a foreigner who is not a member of the national health insurance plan.”

Travel tips for your first time to Japan


While medical care in Australia is excellent, providers usually expect immediate cash payments for services. The other major concern in Australia is medical evacuation, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As a result, travel medical insurance with top-dollar coverage for evacuation is recommended.

The quality of medical services and their payment policies vary around the world. What doesn’t vary? The Medical & Dental and Emergency Assistance & Transportation coverage provided by a Generali Global Assistance travel protection plan.

Generali Global Assistance has worked with medical providers around the world for decades. Get a quote for a travel protection plan today.


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