Health Matters

Health Insurance

The Social Security Medicare Program does not cover hospital or medical services outside the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs will only pay for hospital and medical service outside the United States if you are a veteran with a service-related disability.

When considering medical insurance, first find out how citizens of the country where you will reside pay their medical bills and if the same coverage is available to resident foreigners. Some countries have government-sponsored health insurance that may also provide coverage to foreign residents, while others have a dual system with national health supplemented by private insurance. In countries where many American expatriates reside, such as Mexico, you may find that local private international health insurance companies will offer coverage to U.S. citizen residents. Once you arrive, check with organized groups in the American community to learn about these companies.

Wherever possible, try to get the best medical insurance available. If good coverage is not available where you will live, you may have to rely on a U.S. medical insurance company. Before taking up residence abroad, learn which U.S. medical services or health insurance plans provide coverage for Americans living overseas. Check with the insurance company on whether the coverage offered abroad includes both routine and emergency medical treatment, hospitalization, and medical evacuation should it be necessary. Once you obtain health insurance, remember to carry your policy’s identity card and to keep a supply of insurance claim forms handy. The U.S. government cannot pay for hospital or medical services for Americans overseas and cannot pay to evacuate you for treatment in the United States.

There are a number of emergency medical assistance companies operating internationally who offer urgent medical treatment for their member travelers. Although the service is designed primarily for tourists who encounter a medical or personal emergency while on vacation, some companies offer yearly memberships which may be available to Americans residing overseas. Contact a travel agent to learn more about these emergency assistance companies.


For your protection, leave all medicines in their original, labeled containers. If you require medication containing habit-forming drugs or narcotics, carry a copy of the doctor’s prescription attesting to that fact. These precautions will make customs processing easier and also will ensure you do not violate the laws of the country in which you live.

If you have allergies, reactions to certain medicines, or other unique medical problems, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or carrying a similar warning at all times.


Under the International Health Regulations adopted by the World Health Organization, some countries require International Certificates of Vaccination against yellow fever from international travelers. A few countries still require a certificate of cholera immunization as well. Specific information may also be obtained from local and state health departments, physicians, or travel clinics that advise international travelers. You may also reach the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on (404) 332-4559 or via their Internet address at for immunization recommendations.

AIDS /HIV Testing

Many countries require long-term foreign residents and students to submit proof that they are free of the HIV virus. Some of the countries that require this proof may accept certified test results from the United States. Consult the embassy of the country you will be residing in on whether an AIDS/HIV test is required and if test results from the United States are accepted. If not, check on the type of test to be performed and if it is permissible to supply your own disposable needle. If you are overseas, consult the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for information and advice, keeping in mind that you are in a foreign country and are subject to its laws and requirements.

Glazed Ceramic Purchases

Be careful when purchasing ceramic tableware and clay pottery while overseas. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that there are dangerous levels of lead found in the glazes of some ceramic dinnerware and pottery sold abroad. Because there is no way of knowing whether a particular item is safe, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that you use such wares for decorative purposes only.