It’s never fun to think about, but whenever you travel from home there’s always the chance that you could experience an unplanned health issue. From the common cold to a minor sprain, it can be a challenge to navigate your care options during the holidays and especially when you’re away from home. This is especially true this year due to COVID-19 concerns. If you do decide to travel this holiday season—your Medicare health plan is a valuable resource for making sure your holiday travels are as healthy as can be.
Here are five top tips to keep in mind if you head out of town this holiday season.
1. Take advantage of virtual care.
When you’re away from your regular family doctor but need care for a non-life threatening medical issue, the emergency room or urgent care can be a time-consuming option with longer than normal wait times due to the holidays. But if you have a sore throat, minor fever or sinus infection, a virtual visit with a doctor is the perfect alternative. (Remember: for health emergencies, you should always go to the nearest ER or call 911.) Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, virtual care connects you with a board-certified doctor with the click of a button. And for Medicare members, they’re often available through your primary care provider’s office or your insurance company. Virtual care is a great option for:
- Allergies, bites and stings
- Sore throat, fever and headache
- Cold, cough and flu
- Diarrhea and heartburn
- Pink eye, rashes and hives
In addition to convenience, virtual care is often more cost effective—saving money on a trip to a more expensive ER or urgent care center. Be sure to check with your provider and health plan about available virtual care services. Priority Health members have $0 cost share for virtual visits through the end of 2020.
2. Check your travel benefits.
Your Medicare plan likely has benefits that travel with you. As one example, Priority Health Medicare members traveling outside of Michigan can use this helpful travel information when using their plan with an out-of-network provider. Priority Health’s Medicare plans also include unlimited world-wide coverage for emergency and urgently needed services and the same copay as at home. Additionally, if you’re authorized to be admitted to the hospital from an ER visit while you’re away from home, your hospital stay will be covered as an in-network benefit.
Priority Health Medicare Advantage plans also include an out-of-state travel benefit. This means when you visit any Medicare-participating provider in the U.S. outside of Michigan, you’ll pay in-network costs. Your health provider likely has travel-related information on their website, so check your plan details to know how to get coverage if you’re planning to leave the state this holiday season.
3. Take advantage of any extra travel assistance.
Many health plans offer travel assistance to all members, which eliminates the need to purchase additional, and often costly, medical or travel assistance coverage. At Priority Health, for example, members and their dependents have access to Assist America® at no extra cost. Priority Health MAPD members can access to this service as well. It’s available whenever members are traveling more than 100 miles from home or in another country. Coverage includes:
- Medical emergency services: Access to quality medical care including medical referrals, emergency medical evacuation, prescription assistance and more.
- Travel emergency services: Help with lost luggage or documents, legal and interpreter referrals and care of minor children and pets when experiencing a travel emergency.
- Pre-trip planning services: Visa and immunization requirements, security and natural disaster alerts and more. Multilingual, trained and emergency-dispatch certified assistance is available to help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with one-touch access through the free app.
Not a Priority Health member? Your health plan may offer a similar travel service.
4. Plan ahead and pack smart.
No one wants to be in the middle of a holiday celebration and have to run to the nearest pharmacy or convenience store to pick up an over-the-counter pain reliever or decongestant. Pack the medications using this helpful list that you tend to use most during this time of year. If you’re going to be taking care of any grandkids, make sure to pack children’s dosed medicine, too.
Be sure to pack plenty of masks and hand sanitizer to protect yourself from COVID-19 if you plan to enter any public spaces.
Are you currently taking prescription medications? Make sure you have enough medication to get you through your time away from home. If you have family traveling together, include a list of everyone’s medications, dosage and schedules in your bag. If you’re flying to your destination and are taking your prescriptions in a carry-on, keep them in an easily accessible location in case a TSA agent needs to examine them.
5. Protect yourself with preventive care.
Make sure you get preventive care before you head out to travel. Like your annual check-up—which is included in most Medicare plans at no additional cost to you. For example, Priority Health Medicare Advantage members have a summary of many types of preventive care and screenings available as part of their plan.
Get your flu shot for the season before you hit the road. Remember that if you think it’s too late to get your shot in December, it’s not. Don’t skip getting one altogether since vaccination can still help you as long as flu viruses are going around. With the season being so long and unpredictable, flu viruses can still be spreading around as late as May.
Don’t let sickness, injury or other travel emergencies make travelling more complicated. Check with your family doctor or primary care provider and your Medicare plan provider about services available to you that can make receiving care while travelling a breeze.