Spring Breakers: Where to Go for Care Away from Home
by Dr. S. George Kipa, M.D.
| 3 min read
A 2020 survey found that 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 18 will or might travel for spring break. When planning a vacation, it’s important to prepare for the unexpected, including illness or injury. To avoid bringing travel plans to a standstill, vacationers should consider preventive steps and identify the most cost-effective and convenient choices for care while away from home.
When planning a domestic or international trip, consider some of the following preventive measures to reduce the chances of illness or injury while on vacation:
- Ensure everyone is up-to-date on mandatory vaccines. They are the first line of defense against diseases or infection.
- Bring a travel health kit that includes medications, sunscreen, insect repellent and personal hygiene products.
- Be aware of surroundings. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 44.
- Don’t forget to pack insurance IDs and other means of identification.
In emergency situations, there are several ways to find critical care. Here is a breakdown of the emergency protocol for each health plan:
- HMO (Health Maintenance Organization): With an HMO, a primary care physician coordinates all medical care, including specialist visits. Members can contact them for a referral to the closest medical professional. If a condition requires immediate attention, utilize resources like Blue Cross’ Find a Doctor tool to find nearby doctors and hospitals. If traveling through Michigan, members can call the number on the back of their Blue Cross or Blue Care Network ID card. Those who are out of state can call 1-800-810-2583. Members traveling abroad can utilize the Global Core program, which provides access to emergency care in more than 200 countries and territories.
- PPO (Preferred Provider Organization): When it comes to choosing a doctor, PPO members have more flexibility. They don’t require a referral from a primary care physician but are encouraged to choose Blues-approved doctors to ensure lower costs. International travelers with a PPO, can also opt for Global Core-approved providers. In this case, out-of-pocket expenses will be matched with the prices in the U.S.
- EPO (Exclusive Provider Organization): An EPO plan covers accidental injuries and emergency care outside of the members’ network (whether that’s in the U.S. or globally). In some cases, costs may need to be paid upfront. However, members can still submit an international claim through Global Core. To find a local hospital outside of the country, call 1-800-810-2583.
In need of a quick check up while travelling? Vacationers suffering from mild symptoms, such as stomachaches, rashes or flu symptoms, can save time by considering some of the following resources:
- Online Visits: Members can communicate with a medical professional by phone, tablet, or computer. Prescription orders and visit summaries can also be provided to a local or primary care physician.
- Urgent Care Centers and Retail Health Clinics: Sprains, minor burns or allergic reactions can be addressed at an urgent care center in half the time of an emergency room. These walk-in facilities found across the country offer a wide range of care at convenient hours. To avoid unnecessary costs, be sure to research urgent care centers within a health plan network.
- 24-Hour Nurse Line: In some situations, symptoms of illness or injury can be addressed by phone with a 24-hour nurse line. This resource gives patients access to free health guidance and recommendations for treatment. To reach the line, call 1-800-775-2583 for PPO members, and 1-855-624-5214 for HMO members.
About the author: Dr. S. George Kipa, MD is a deputy chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read:
- Get to Know One of the Nurses Behind the 24-Hour Nurse Line
- The Real Story Behind Michigan's 250,000 Avoidable ER Visits
- Are Your Health Care Choices Costing You?
Photo credit: JL Barranco