Discover how travel insurance medical billing works abroad

Planning to travel this year? Wherever you’re headed, you’ll want to be prepared for any adventures or misadventures along the way. If you or a loved one ever ends up in an emergency situation, it’s important to understand your travel insurance policy, as well as who handles your medical billing abroad.

In a claim situation, your travel insurance provider might not be the only party involved. Depending on the emergency, your provider will coordinate between various parties, including provincial healthcare plans, doctors, hospitals, clinics, other insurance providers, etc. Direct billing isn’t always possible, and up-front payments for treatment are sometimes required.

Below, we fill you in on medical billing practices in the US and beyond.

Medical billing practices vary from country to country

United States of America

Heading to the US? Even if it’s just for a day, the Government of Canada suggests getting travel insurance before you leave. If you’re hospitalized, most US hospitals will bill your travel insurance provider directly, but they may request a deposit. Often, your insurer will arrange to have the deposit returned after billing arrangements are made.


In Mexico, medical billing practices vary from place to place. In major tourist destinations, hospitals are more likely to bill your insurer directly. Alternatively, in rural locations, they’re more likely to bill you and require payment up front. Many hospitals will charge a deposit, so again, it’s best to be prepared.

Note: The Government of Canada advises that “the quality of medical care varies greatly throughout the country.”  And although good healthcare is available in private hospitals and clinics, it’s often expensive. They also suggest getting travel insurance coverage that includes medical evacuation and hospital stays. Learn more about what to expect in some Mexican hospitals.


If you’re hospitalized internationally, you may need to pay small medical bills up front. Be sure you have enough funds available or a credit card handy.

Planning to travel with a credit card or two? Be sure to read up on safety tips for using credit cards outside of Canada.

Present your travel insurance information, but be prepared to pay medical fees up front

Many travellers assume that if they present their travel insurance to a hospital or clinic, their insurer will pay for their bill up front. But this isn’t necessarily the case. Some clinics and hospitals will require a deposit or full payment up front for smaller invoices.

 We suggest saving your policy and keeping it handy in your email inbox and/or downloading the TuGo Wallet App. While we can’t speak for other insurers, our policy and digital wallet card contain our contact information, letting our customers know who to call in an emergency.

We always recommend calling us immediately if you or a loved one is admitted to the hospital so that our dedicated emergency assistance team can coordinate care and treatment.

Making a travel insurance claim? Read our tips on how to speed up the claim process. 

Always keep your itemized bills and receipts for your claim

When submitting your claim, your travel insurer will require claim forms and itemized bills to complete the claim process. Non-itemized bills like till receipts, credit card receipts or credit card statements are not sufficient. Your provincial health care plan also requires itemized bills.

Travelling prepared will serve you in the long run. Be sure to have your travel policy and/or digital wallet card handy and contact your travel insurance provider as soon as you can to ensure you’re getting the best care possible.
Questions? Pop them in the form below.

Happy travels,

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated for freshness and/or accuracy.

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