Preparing yourself for medical care overseas

Being sick and in need of medical care can
be stressful enough without the added anxiety of having to travel off-is

land for treatment, but that’s a situation
in which many Cayman patients find themselves.

In the financial year

 2008-2009, 753 people covered by the
government’s insurer, the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company, were
referred to overseas medical centres for treatment for a variety of illnesses.
Many others covered by private insurance company also travel off island each
year for health care.

Patients who need to go overseas should
contact their insurance providers before leaving Cayman to ensure that their
treatment is covered and that other expenses can also be claimed back.

“Every case is different. There really
isn’t a generic process,” explains Alex McCallister, claims manager at British
Caymanian Insurance.

In some cases, airfare could be compensated
or an insurance company could pay for an accompanying nurse – it all depends on
what kind of insurance policy an individual has.

McCallister says patients should be sure to
let their insurance company know beforehand that they intend to travel overseas
for care since some cases need to be pre-certified. “Ideally, let your
insurance provider know a couple of weeks beforehand,” he said.

It is also advisable for patients to let
their insurance company know to which medical professional, specialist or
facility they have been referred because some companies have a network of
health professionals, and if the doctor or specialist that patients see is not
in that network, the patients will not be fully covered.

Maria Freed, managing partner of Oncology
Referral Network of America, arranges for patients in Cayman to receive medical
treatment in Miami that they cannot get on island.

the airlines

She advises patients who need overseas care
to ensure that the airlines they have booked for travel knows they are taking a
medical trip. “This way, if you are delayed, or something unexpected comes up,
they will be more flexible and can waive change fees

,” she said.

Also, make sure you leave your

itinerary and passport information with a
friend or relative.

She also advises that when making an
appointment to see a doctor or medical facility in the US, patients should
allow enough time for last-minute schedule changes. “Surgeons can get delayed,
imaging equipment go down, etc. Staying for three to four days during weekdays
is a good rule of thumb. This way if a medical condition needs further tests,
or you need to see another specialist, you still have time,” she says.

It’s also a good idea to contact your
consular office in Miami to find out about immigration rules. Remember,
depending on where you’re from, you may need a visa to enter the US, or the
standard amount of time given by immigration may not cover the amount of time
your medical treatment warrants. Consular staff can also be helpful if you lose
your passport, need to extend your visa, or arrange money transfers from

“Bring your local medical records, with
your diagnostic results preferably in a pdf file or a disc, so that you can
share them with the US physician or hospital, and still have them in your
possession. Paper medical records and actual X-rays can be misplaced easily,”
says Freed.

Her company downloads records of its
international patients records onto disks and gives them to the patients before
they depart for home, so they can have a record of what was done to them in

One complaint often heard from patients,
especially if they are unfamiliar with the city in which they are sent for
treatment, is they don’t know where they are going or where they’re supposed to

“Typically, the international department of
a US hospital or the insurance carrier makes the appointment for a patient,
leaving the patient a little clueless as to where they are going. Patients
should insist on a schedule, with addresses, contact info and directions,”
Freed advises.

coverage first

She also recommends that patients speak
with their insurance company before leaving for medical treatment, to find out
what their out-of-country medical coverage includes. “Learn what is the
preferred method of payment for out-of-pocket fees – credit cards, personal
checks, cashier cheques. If you are paying cash for your medical care, ask for
a generous discount and one global price, including one follow up visit, so you
only have to make one payment. Rather than have to pay the surgeon,
radiologist, anaesthetist, separately

,” she said.

Patients can often suffer feelings of
isolation and despair when being treated overseas so it’s usually a good idea
to take a support system with you. Ask a friend, spouse or relative to
accompany you. They can ask the questions you might be in too much pain or too
ill to ask, they can take notes, or just be someone to talk to while you’re in
a waiting room.

Freed says it’s also important to ensure
there is good communication between your physician overseas and your doctor in
Cayman. “

Ask the US physician if they would send
his/her medical summary to your local physician. Good communication among physicians
is crucial to getting good medical care and avoids duplicity. [It’s] easy to do
via email, so make sure you have your physician’s email address,” she says.

Knowing your family’s medical history is
also important so that you can tell your doctor or specialist overseas. Find
out if any of your parents, grandparents, first aunts or uncles, and siblings
suffer or suffered from any particular diseases. This can be helpful in making
diagnosis and prognoses.

Finally, Freed advises that you should do
what your doctor tells you, as US physicians are not obligated to continue
treating non-compliant patients.

Patients who need to go overseas should
contact their insurance providers before leaving Cayman to ensure that their
treatment is covered and that other expenses can also be claimed.

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