Is There Such a Thing as Guaranteed Cashless Visitor Insurance?

While doing your research to find a visitors insurance plan for your trip to the United States, you may come across claims that a plan is a cashless or direct billing visitors insurance plan. Surely, this is a visitors insurance plan benefit that would be attractive for a traveler because they wouldn’t have to worry about paying out-of-pocket for a doctor’s visit. However, can a visitors insurance plan guarantee that it will be cashless? The truth is, there is no guarantee that a visitors insurance plan will ever be cashless or always offer direct billing.

What is Cashless Visitors Insurance?

Cashless visitors insurance is a plan in which you wouldn’t need to pay upfront at the healthcare facility such as hospital or doctor’s office that you receive a treatment or service at. The hospital or doctor would bill your insurance company directly to pay the bill. This prevents you from having to pay-out-of-pocket, however, you may still have to file a claim with your insurance company due to procedural reasons.

The phrase ‘cashless’ is generally not employed within the context of the US insurance healthcare service sector, but is frequently utilized by international insurance companies, particularly in Asian nations. In the United States, a more prevalent term for this concept is ‘direct billing’. When researching visitor health insurance, you will encounter the phrase ‘direct billing’ more frequently to describe this payment procedure.

Does Visitors Insurance Offer Cashless or Direct Billing?

Yes, some visitors insurance policies do offer cashless or direct billing when it comes to paying for your services or treatments. However, it is important to note that while this is often advertised and offered for policies, there is no guarantee that every doctor’s office or hospital you visit will directly bill your insurance.

When it comes to the billing process of your visitors insurance plan, it really depends upon the provider you visit. Every hospital or doctor may have a different preferred method, and at the end of the day, it is up to your provider how they decide to bill you. Most larger doctors and hospitals do offer direct billing, but some may not.

Typically, a treatment or service that is higher costing, such as a hospitalization or a surgery, will be billed to the insurance company directly. When it comes to outpatient services like doctor visits, you might be required to pay upfront whether in full or a deductible or coinsurance.

Why Isn’t Cashless Pay Guaranteed in Visitors Insurance?

There are a few reasons why cashless pay or direct billing cannot always be guaranteed when it comes to travel medical or visitors insurance:

  • A hospital or doctor’s office may have different practices when it comes to billing, and may not work with all insurance companies.
  • Travel medical insurance plans only cover specific treatments and services, so claim submission and reimbursement is necessary to receive eligible coverage.
  • Some hospitals or doctors may not be familiar with all visitors insurance companies and therefore don’t do direct billing because it requires more effort on their end to find out who and where to bill.

Is Cashless or Direct Billing Important in a Visitors Insurance Plan?

While you may be tempted to try and find a plan that claims to offer guaranteed cashless payment options, the truth is that a cashless or direct billing plan isn’t really an important aspect when it comes to visitors insurance, and here’s why.

Regardless of whether or not you pay upfront or your insurance company is directly billed, it doesn’t change whether or not your insurance will cover eligible expenses. The end result will still be the same, whether your expenses are deemed eligible or not. The process will also be the same - you’ll need to submit all required documentation and a complete claim for any services or treatments you are seeking reimbursement or coverage for whether you paid upfront or the insurance company was directly billed.

After you submit your claim and it is reviewed by the insurance company, you’ll receive a report of what expenses were eligible for coverage. If you paid upfront, eligible expenses will be reimbursed to you if applicable. Directly billed charges will be covered by the insurance company if they are eligible and approved. Don’t forget, even if a doctor or hospital directly bills your insurance company, you still are responsible for the terms of your policy including any deductibles or coinsurance.

What to Do if You Paid Upfront for Medical Expenses

If you have a visitors insurance policy and have to pay upfront for your medical expenses at the doctor’s office or hospital you visited, make sure you:

  • Ask for an itemized bill of services/treatments received
  • Save your receipt or proof of payment from the hospital/doctor
  • Keep your financial records of the payment
  • Save any doctors notes or prescriptions

This information will be required when you submit your claim to your insurance company, which will be the next step in getting reimbursed for your eligible upfront costs. Remember, for all visitors insurance plans, filing an insurance claim is required whether the doctor or hospital bills the insurance company directly or asks you to pay upfront.

It's important to know that once a claim is filed, the insurance company reviews and verifies the claim with the doctor or hospital the insured visited, then makes any reimbursement for eligible medical expenses. The claims process may take 4-6 weeks, since it is a manually administered task.

Learn more about how to file a visitors insurance claim.

Protect Yourself By Staying Informed

The best thing you can do when purchasing a visitors insurance plan is to carefully and critically read the plan’s description of coverage and exclusions. Armed with this information, you’ll better understand what treatments or services will likely be covered under your visitors insurance plan, which can help you avoid denied claims later on.

Whether cashless or not, reimbursement or coverage still comes down to the claims process and whether or not your expenses are eligible under the terms of your plan. As a rule of thumb, make sure you keep a record of all doctor visits, proof of payments, itemized lists of services, and prescriptions receipts so that you can file a complete claim with your insurance company.

When you purchase from an online visitors insurance marketplace such as VisitorsCoverage, you’ll have access to clear and concise plan information and 24/7 support. Additionally, you can compare plans and benefits to choose the policy that is right for your needs.

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