What you don't know about health insurance can hurt you

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Over half of consumers aren't sure if they're covered outside the U.S.

You may know what your health insurance deductible is and what network your provider is in, but how much more do you know about your policy?

For example, if you plan a trip outside the U.S., as more and more consumers are doing these days, how much (if any) coverage does your policy provide?

A survey conducted for InsureMyTrip, an online travel insurance marketplace, found that more than half of consumers weren't sure if their health policy would cover them if they got sick or injured in a foreign country.

Over 21 percent said their policy would provide coverage outside the U.S. and 22 percent said it would not.

Justified confusion

The confusion may be justified since health insurance policies vary widely in what they cover outside the U.S. Not only does it depend on the specific plan, it also depends on what country the policyholder is visiting.

Before making any trip outside the U.S., InsureMyTrip recommends checking with your health insurance provider to learn what the plan covers and what it doesn't. Medicare, for example, does not generally provide coverage outside U.S. borders, although there are a few rare exceptions.

Sometimes, lack of information from a provider keeps policyholders in the dark. A survey by HealthMine, a clinical technology company, found that 71 percent of Medicare health plan members say their plan does not inform them if a provider drops out of the health plan's provider network.

Lack of communication

Without access to that information, the patient may be exposed to higher out-of-pocket expenses if they continue to use a provider no longer in an approved network.

The survey also found that only 22 percent of consumers in the survey reported follow-up contacts from their health plan to assess quality of service.

"Plans are much more than claims processors – they are the central hubs of members' health information," said HealthMine CEO Bryce Williams. "In this central role, plans have the knowledge to communicate with members in a timely manner about plan changes."

Williams said the highest-rated Medicare Advantage plans are usually the best at communicating with members.

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