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The pandemic has given rise to a new phenomenon. Countries are seeking to protect their own national healthcare systems from the potential financial ravages of tending to travelers who become ill with COVID-19 while abroad and don't have coverage to pay for their treatment.
Would-be tourists should be aware that International healthcare coverage is something that must be obtained separately from their standard, U.S.-based health insurance and any trip-cancellation insurance, and that international coverage is rarely included in their existing health policies.
Plus, due to the pandemic, any existing international coverage that may be included in your current health plan can be voided just by traveling to a COVID-affected region. Of course, you'll only learn about this exclusion if you read the very fine print.
"What frequently happens is that domestic health insurance is simply not accepted by healthcare providers outside the U.S.," a spokesperson for prominent travel insurance provider Allianz told Conde Nast Traveler.
"The reason for [requiring healthcare coverage] is to prevent local healthcare providers and governments from having to foot the bill for uninsured tourists," the Allianz spokesperson continued. "The coverage also does protect travelers from potentially catastrophic medical bills or emergency medical transportation costs."
Many countries, while reopening to foreigners, are already requiring arrivals to present proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test at the airport, or to take a test or retest (at their own cost) once they touch down, and then quarantine themselves while awaiting the results.
The following destinations are requiring mandatory proof that you've purchased an international travel healthcare plan-typically attained separately from your existing health insurance at home-in order to cross their borders. If you're planning on traveling outside of the U.S., check with the destination offices in advance to see if they require a specific policy.
Prior to its reopening on July 1, Aruba implemented one of the tightest COVID-19 insurance requirements around. Visitors to the island nation are obliged to purchase a new, pre-selected healthcare policy from the Aruban government, which covers $75,000 in hospital expenses, "initial tests of suspected cases, [and] up to four medically necessary COVID-19 tests as a part of outpatient retesting."
The price of the policy varies based upon each traveler's age, and the duration of his or her stay, and can be calculated online here.
The compulsory insurance purchase doesn't include the cost of visitors' COVID-19 PCR tests, which need to be taken within the 72 hours prior to arrival, and the negative results of which they will need in order to enter the country. Alternatively, you can prepay to test upon arrival at Queen Beatrix International Airport and quarantine until results come in.
On August 1, Costa Rica began allowing Canadian, U.K. and E.U. residents to enter the country, if they provide proof of negative COVID-19 test results from a sample taken within the 48 hours prior to their departure, plus proof of international health insurance, "covering lodging in the event of being quarantined and medical expenses due to acute illness."
This Caribbean nation, which reopened to U.S. tourists on August 1, also requires visitors arriving from countries with high or moderate risk to provide proof of negative results from a COVID-19 PCR test performed within the 72 hours prior to their departure. All travelers staying in St. Maarten must have proof of appropriate health insurance coverage. "Additional travel insurance covering COVID-19 related expenses is strongly recommended," per the website.
Tahiti and French Polynesia, which reopened to international visitors on July 15, requires all visitors over six years of age who are arriving by air to present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result conducted within the 72 hours prior to their departure. Each adult must also fill out a digital entry form, in which they must attest that they have obtained the proper travel insurance, "or personally assume all expenses related to cost of care including hospitalization, confinement, or repatriation, should the visitor fall ill during their stay."
Turks and Caicos
Having reopened to foreign tourists as of July 22, Turks and Caicos requires all visitors to submit a three-step, travel pre-authorization application via the new TCI Assured Portal. Applicants will need to complete an online health screening questionnaire, upload proof of negative results from a COVID-19 PCR test taken within five days prior to their arrival (children under ten are exempt), and provide evidence of insurance, "which covers COVID-19 medical costs and full hospitalization, doctors' visits, prescriptions and air ambulance."
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has reopened for tourists that can provide evidence of negative results from a COVID-19 PCR test taken no more than 96 hours prior to their departure (children under 12 and those with moderate or severe disabilities are exempt) and proof of international healthcare insurance coverage.
Most international flights pass through Dubai airport, which also has its own set of health regulations and protocols that must be adhered to. It therefore also now requires all travelers to download the dedicated COVID19-DXB app (iOS or Android) for easy reference.
Laurie Baratti is a San Diego-based journalist whose work has previously appeared in publications like TravelAge West, SPACE,...
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