SAN FRANCISCO — Getting sick or hurt while on summer vacation is unfortunate enough. Don’t add insult to injury by neglecting a few health-related details that could save you money in the event you need medical treatment.
If you’re traveling domestically, research in-network providers at your destination to avoid having to pay higher rates for out-of-network care. Go to your insurer’s website or call the toll-free number on your insurance card for help finding local in-network doctors for non-emergencies. Some insurers offer smartphone apps, such as UnitedHealthcare’s Health4Me app, that allow you to find physicians in a given area.
Keep your primary-care doctor’s phone number handy as well. You can always call for advice if it isn’t an emergency.
“Most of the time, parents just need an answer to a question," said Deborah Mulligan, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and a pediatric emergency physician in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Another option for relatively minor problems is visiting a retail health clinic or urgent-care clinic. There are more than 1,300 retail clinics in 39 states, and they accept major health plans or cash payment if you don’t have coverage, said Tom Charland, chief executive of Merchant Medicine, a consulting firm in Shoreview, Minn.
Check your insurer’s website to find a facility, or go to the sites of big operators, such as TakeCareHealth.com, a Walgreens subsidiary.
Retail clinics offer a limited scope of services, treating ailments like pink eye, bronchitis, ear infections and bladder infections. If you have a non-life-threatening injury such as a simple fracture, cut or burn, visit an urgent-care center instead.
It’s vital to carry a short health summary for every traveler in your family listing current medications and health conditions, previous hospitalizations, drug allergies, your doctors’ contact information and the like. The American College of Emergency Physicians offers a variety of forms online that you can print and fill out, including one for children with special health-care needs. (Go to emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual, http://emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual, scroll down and click on Medical Forms.)
If you’ve had an EKG, take a copy of it in your wallet. This will help doctors establish a base line and possibly avoid an expensive cardiac work-up, said Linda Stogner, a family physician in Estancia, N.M., and ship physician with Lindblad Expeditions.
“It’s your record. It’s your heart. You should have it," she said.
If you or your children are behind on immunizations, get caught up before you take off. “Imagine the cost of falling ill from something like whooping cough or measles unnecessarily," Mulligan said.