How to prepare patient retirees for travel emergencies

As Baby Boomers broach the threshold of retirement, fantasies of exotic and domestic travel venture forth from the mists of the unlikely into the beautifully probable realms of tickets and passports. 

It isn’t surprising that of all the desires prodding the hearts of a most seasoned generation, exploration and whimsy escapism rank highest on many to-do lists. But whilst caught up in the frenzy of marking maps and booking hotel suites, most retirees disregard the possibility of illness entering into their paradise as swiftly as room service. 

Although this fever pitch may never cross home plate for most travelers, Mark Wagar, president and CEO of Empire BlueCross BlueShield, proffered some health safety tips for the upcoming tomb raiders of retirement. These warnings should be administered to wayward patients by primary care physicians well before final boarding call as a means to maximize pleasure and health when docs are out of range.

The right plan goes a long way
If a patient plans on traveling in retirement and is on Medicare, the initial step he or she should take is choosing a plan that fits his/her lifestyle. Supplement plans are decent choices for most travelers, as they provide flexibility. Medicare Advantage plans are composed of provider networks, unlike supplement plans and include additional traveler benefits; preferred provider organization (PPO) and health maintenance organization (HMO) plans cover emergency services while traveling domestically.

Make arrangements for receiving and transporting your medication.
Stocking up on medication is a good practice - ordering a 90-day supply through mail order is a positive route to take when planning a trip, Wagar said. There is usually a number to call for this option on insurance cards.

"The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends that the prescription label match the passenger’s boarding pass and that the passenger bring supporting documentation. Large, national drugstore chains may be able to fill customers’ prescriptions when they’re away from home," Wagar wrote.

Always have medical documentation at hand.
If disaster strikes, it’s always nice for people to have health information and physician numbers to reference. An insurance card typically provides all this information.

Try to arrange a pre-travel exam.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says seniors should visit their doctor four to six weeks before traveling. They need to be honest about any limitations they might have. Additionally, vaccines may be necessary, depending on the destination. Doctors also might want to write prescriptions for malaria, altitude illness or travelers’ diarrhea, according to the CDC."

Consider buying additional travelers insurance, especially if going abroad.
"Companies like Empire offer additional travel insurance at a reasonable cost. Options include emergency dental services worldwide as well as help with lost medications and coverage of emergency medical evacuation. These expenses could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Up-front payment may be required by people who do not have insurance."

Always seek immediate care if emergency strikes.
Be aware of the facilities in the area so that if a medical emergency arises, the destination is already known.

"Traveling is a source of great joy to many of us," said Wagar. "But in the excitement of picking a hotel, booking a flight and planning your activities, please remember to devote some extra time to thinking about your health."