Leisure travel is supposed to be fun, so no one wants to think about getting sick while they’re on vacation. But it happens a lot. In fact, it’s kind of a thing. And, if you’re not prepared, it can really cost you. Traveler’s insurance is always a good idea to protect yourself in case of a serious medical emergency. But one way to avoid paying dearly – and not just in terms of money – is by using virtual care for any non-life-threatening emergencies that might happen while you’re on vacation.
Hopefully you’ll never have the misfortune of getting sick while you’re traveling. But if you do, here are four financial and non-financial costs you’ll save yourself this summer with a virtual doctor visit.
- Surprise out-of-network and balance billing charges
Many travelers don’t realize that their health plan might not cover them when they’re traveling. Also, due to a practice known as “balance billing,” you can visit an ER in a hospital that your health plan covers in-network but see a doctor who is out-of-network. In this case, your plan may only cover a fraction of the cost of in-network care. Getting slapped with a huge, unexpected bill adds stress to your life and your budget at a time when you’re supposed to be relaxing and recharging.
By and large, virtual care providers offer clear-cut price transparency at a cost that’s either covered by your health insurance or at least very affordable by comparison to urgent or ER care. For a virtual doctor visit, you’ll spend between $40 and $50, which is comparable to the cost of many health plan copays. Some employers even offer telehealth services at no cost to their employees, so check with your employer before you head out. Plus, telemedicine services mean you won’t get lost trying to find a clinic or ER, or wait around in a strange town for who knows how long to get care that might not be covered. So, lie back, get comfortable, and grab your computer or smartphone. In just a few minutes, a telehealth provider can tell you what to do about that weird rash, ugly bug bite or nasty cough. It’s the best way to avoid being welcomed home with an unwelcome healthcare expense.
- Higher copays associated with ER and urgent care
Even with great health insurance, you could be looking at a copay of around $75 for an urgent care visit and $100 copay (or more) for a trip to the ER. A brief consultation with a virtual care doctor can cut those costs significantly. And if it’s something serious, your telehealth doctor may even be able to help you locate a doctor or hospital that’s covered by your health plan.
- Time – the kind you waste waiting for ER or urgent care or for a prescription to be filled
Time off is a precious thing that should never be squandered. If you get sick while you’re taking advantage of your hard-earned vacation time, don’t waste a minute of it waiting in a crowded doctor’s office, urgent care clinic or ER. There are few avoidable experiences that you will regret more. Instead, schedule a visit with a virtual care provider and skip the wait. In most cases, you can get an appointment within 15 minutes, and your consultation will take about 15 minutes as well. Your prescription, if you need one, can be sent electronically to the nearest pharmacy to you. Then all you have to do is hang up, pick up, and feel better.
- Stress – the kind that even a vacation can’t unravel
Sometimes life can stress you out so much that it follows you everywhere – even on vacation. If a few days away still has you feeling anxious or depressed, odds are it’s also affecting your physical health.
Virtual care doesn’t just treat sniffles and strange skin reactions while you’re on vacation. Many telehealth providers also offer behavioral healthcare for those times when life makes it so hard to relax that you can’t even get away from it all on vacation. Studies show that “telepsychiatry” is just as effective as in-person therapy, and new research suggests that its effects may be longer lasting. If you need help coping with stress or depression while you’re on vacation, virtual therapy is a convenient, effective, affordable option.
For most minor illnesses, telemedicine can take the sting – not to mention the frustration, the squandered time off and the sticker shock – out of getting sick while you’re on vacation.
Plan ahead, and you won’t be caught off guard. Before you leave, choose a telehealth provider and complete the signup or activation process. That way if you do get sick, you can feel better faster, and get on with your summer adventure.
MDLIVE’s provider network gives you affordable access to a complete virtual care team of licensed, experienced care providers, including family physicians, pediatricians and counselors. Schedule a visit with us via computer, phone or app.