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We are a family of 4 visiting the US this year. Some years back we were in Boston, and one of the kids (about 18 months at the time) came out with chickenpox. Which of course is a big deal in the US since they vaccinate for it and so see it rarely.

Anyway, he had to visit a hospital in Boston just to see a doctor. We had full travel insurance with a major international provider, yet they would not accept it since the contact numbers for the insurer that we had were back in Europe.

Anyway, we had to shell out something ridiculous for a simple doctor's visit, and then finished up owing them $40 or something which the hospital then proceeded to spend themselves a hundred times over by chasing us for it constantly.

Anyway my question is - is this nonsense about not having a US contact number for the insurer common and should we insist on getting one before taking out insurance?

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    Would a hospital accept travel insurance directly? I would think you would pay, then you would file a claim with your insurance company, and that would have been much simpler. – choster Jan 21 '15 at 16:14
  • @choster that makes a good question in itself :) – Andrew Ferrier Jan 21 '15 at 16:44
  • Hmm the insurance company told us to just get the hospital to call them, if I remember. So what if you needed 20 grand's worth of operation - how do you pay for that up front? – Alan B Jan 21 '15 at 20:54
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    @AlanB A hospital isn't going to deny anyone emergency care based on their ability to pay, not only on ethical grounds, but because it's federal law. – choster Jan 22 '15 at 0:18
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+50

The hospital will want to verify your ability to pay before admitting you. And as your insurance provider is outside the country, they would likely want a local representative to confirm payment services are available within the country.

A fair number of "travel insurance" issuers work through just a few actual coverage underwriters. And the bigger underwriters maintain offices in major countries around the world. So knowing who actually underwrites the insurance coverage and their local office number could help in the situation you encountered.

But having the phone number is not a guarantee, as some travel insurance policies do require you to pay up front and be reimbursed by filing a claim afterwards.

In terms of being refused admittance due to lack of a means of payment, this depends on the nature of your visit. As Choster mentioned hospitals have a mandate to provide primary medical care in an emergency, but this applies primarily to life threatening emergencies. A private hospital can refer less serious cases to the regional public hospital where indigent care is provided.

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