DEAR ABBY: I was very sorry to read of the tribulations of Judy Prince and her husband on their European vacation. I hope she and Mr. Prince have fully recovered from their ordeal, and that Mr. Prince's hip is now mended.
I would like to ask you to inform your readers that consular officers at U.S. embassies and consulates, and consular agents, are there to help Americans who encounter emergencies while they are out of the country. Consular officers provide assistance to Americans in need, such as those who have been robbed, are destitute or ill, have been arrested, or who are the victims of a disaster.
Consular officers overseas have lists of local doctors who speak English. In emergencies we can help locate family or friends in the United States who would be willing to send funds, or contact the traveler's bank to arrange for a transfer from their account. When necessary, we can assist in arranging the return of the ill or injured American to the United States by commercial carrier. However, payment of hospital and other expenses is the responsibility of the traveler.
Before going abroad, travelers should inquire what medical services their health insurance will cover outside the U.S. Although some companies will pay customary and reasonable hospital costs abroad, very few will pay for medical evacuation back to the United States, which can easily cost upward of $10,000. Travelers may want to consider obtaining special travel insurance for a minimal fee to cover such emergencies.
Travelers can find a complete set of Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs publications (including the flier "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad") to help them plan a safe trip abroad on our Internet Web site at http://travel.state.gov/ or by automatic fax at 1-202-647-3000. Country-specific information is also available by voice recording at 1-202-647-5225. -- RUTH A. DAVIS, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, OFFICE OF OVERSEAS CITIZENS SERVICES, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
DEAR MS. DAVIS: I'm sure that many of my readers who will be traveling out of the country in the coming months will be grateful for this valuable information. Travelers can vacation with complete peace of mind if they plan in advance for possible emergencies by contacting the Office of Overseas Citizens Services and their insurance brokers before they go. Thank you for the reminder.