I’ve written here before about how important having health insurance is. If you need a refresher, think about this: You and your family of five children (you like big families) go on a vacation to the coveted Disneyland. Not only is this considered a rite of passage for most children, it has been a pastime for your children to beg and plead to go on the big trip. After months of promises for good behavior, spotlessly clean rooms and free babysitting for mom and dad to go out on a date, you concede. Not that you did not want to go to Disneyland, but any trip with five children is exhausting and is not for the light of heart.
After a fairly uneventful 12 hour drive in your mini-van (besides the usual “are we there yet” and “Mom, he’s looking at me”, you and your brood arrive in the Sunshine state. After a quick jaunt to the beach (which is never quick when you have five kids, sand and big waves), you and your spouse are starting to think this trip will go okay.
Halfway to the hotel, disaster strikes. You hear a moan from the back of the car, a nauseated child whose fever is burning up. Burning up so much, you rush her to the emergency room.
An emergency room visit in your own state, with insurance, can be more than ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS on average. But without insurance, the prices can be astronomical, definitely encompassing more than you spent on your entire trip alone.
Ok, ok, this might seem a bit dramatic. No, you don’t need California health insurance when traveling to Disneyland. But you do need to be insured. While some insurance companies make you pay more out of pocket when you use hospitals or services out of their approved network, it is still much cheaper than if you had no health insurance at all. With two world renowned hospitals in California (UCLA Medical Center and Cedar Sinai Medical Center), many people come to California when they are sick. Just make sure you have insurance. Period.
For most domestic travel, your own health insurance should be plenty. International travel might be a little different, and worth looking into if you are traveling to a place where health concerns might be an issue. Some European countries offer universal health care, which might be able to help you find medical attention if you are traveling in Europe. However, many Europeans may expect the same health care in the United States, and will be sorely disappointed. As of now, the United States does not offer free health care to international travelers or even its own citizens.
However, just because you don’t have health insurance and are traveling you cannot assume you will be left to fend for yourself. Many hospitals will treat you first and bill you later. Just be prepared for the bill so it does not give you a heart attack and another trip to the hospital.
While it seems like a lot of money upfront with monthly premiums for insurance, it can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Plus, your kids have been waiting for a long time to go to Disneyland. The last thing you want to do is ruin the memories of the most magical place on earth by thinking about the hospital bill waiting at home for you. The one you could have avoided by having health insurance in the first place. It might seem like health insurance is a good place to scrimp if you are generally healthy and wanting to save money for something else. But I promise you, it is not. After one trip to the hospital you will regret it.