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What To Do When Insurance Doesn’t Cover It

African American man in a manual wheelchair strolls along with others in Japan
African American man in a manual wheelchair strolls along with others in Japan

What to do when the needs of a participant with a disability is not covered by the usual insurance or program costs?

Participants who receive funding for a personal assistant through Medicaid or other government support are not able to use that funding once outside their home country. Travel insurance companies typically do not pay for personal assistants for daily care overseas or durable medical equipment that is not related to a first occurrence of an illness or injury overseas.

Since these costs are unlikely to be covered for people with existing needs, exchange programs or institutions should work with a participant to cover the costs.

For example, you can pool funds for participants with disabilities who require services or accommodations that are otherwise a significant barrier to participation, and work jointly with others from home or host country to cost-share expenses to make coverage possible.

Some insurers may want to consider adding coverage for repair or rentals for existing durable medical equipment or personal assistants.

If an individual is duct-taping a crutch or wheelchair or relying on informal assistance for transfers, for example, this can lead to a potential injury to a back, a pressure sore, break, etc. and added cost for the insurer who now has an injury or illness to cover as a result of lost or faulty equipment or lack of usual personal assistance.

Most travel insurance plans also offer added benefits, including coverage for lost or damaged luggage and a 24-hour traveler hotline.

For example, in the event of a wheelchair that is broken in flight, this service can assist with airline claims for damaged equipment, locating rentals abroad and coordinating repair services.

For international participants who encounter major medical costs for a catastrophic illness or surgery, and/or hearing aids or wheelchairs not covered by short-term duration health insurance, various options have been tried since non-immigrant individuals cannot qualify for host country public assistance, such as:

  • Inkind services or donations from the doctor, pharmacy or hospital
  • Contributions from associations related to a specific disease or disability
  • Fundraising donations from local community groups or international clubs.

Contact your insurance provider to ask if an additional insurance coverage ‘rider’ can be added to your policy in advance to cover these needs (often it is available for a minimal additional premium cost).

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