MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A word of warning for anyone taking a trip out of the country for spring break or for any other reason.
Travel experts say safety standards as well as medical care and your insurance coverage overseas are not the same as you will find here at home.
A Twin Cities father is sharing his story of paying a six figure bill after his son was injured in Mexico and their Blue Cross Blue Shield policy did not cover medical care in a foreign country.
Earlier this month on a spring break trip to Mexico City Zachary Newell suffered a seizure and fell. Zach had insurance through a state of Minnesota plan administered by Blue Cross Blue Blue Shield of Minnesota. Zach and his family thought his insurance covered overseas care. It did not.
“The most important thing I could beg, beseech and implore people: Find out, know what coverage you or a family member has before going,” Zach’s dad Michael Newell said.
Zach’s dad started a GoFundMe that has raised more than $14,000 to help with expenses. Zach even had a small additional travel insurance policy. But Michael Newell still has spent about $100,000 out of his own retirement savings to pay for care and an air ambulance to bring Zach to the University of Minnesota Hospital.
“It’s such a horrible thing to be alone, injured,” Michael Newell said.
Michael Newell has been getting advice from Sheryl Hill who lost her 16-year-old son Tyler in an overseas youth trip in 2007. Hill has founded a nonprofit called Depart Smart which has advice and warnings for anyone traveling overseas.
“Nobody wants to stop and think about this when they are planning that awesome trip,” Hill said. “We want to have the time of our lives on vacation and we never think it can happen to us.”
Zach, a 30-year-old grad student at the U of M, is expected to eventually recover.
Blue Cross Blue Shield ensures 2 million Minnesotans and a company spokesperson told WCCO the vast majority of their plans do include coverage for overseas medical expenses but that you should always check your policy before you travel.