Shawn Young expected a call from his mom and dad to let him know they had arrived safely in Italy for their vacation. When his father called, it was for a different and unsettling reason.

“He was frantic,” Shawn Young says. His mother, Maggie, had suffered an aneurysm the morning after their first night there. She needed emergency surgery. At the hospital, the information was coming at his father fast — and mostly in Italian.

He needed help making decisions. He wasn’t sure how his health insurance worked in another country. Would he have to pay everything in cash? How would he know if she was getting the care she needed? 

People who travel abroad often don’t think to prepare for a medical emergency, says Kevin Brosnahan with the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. They will plan for being away from home by doing things like stopping mail delivery. But many don’t plan for the possibility of getting sick or injured, he says.

And health plans may have a separate system and way for authorizing and paying claims from another country. Members of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, like the Youngs, have access to Blue Cross Blue Shield Global® Core, a worldwide assistance program that helps handle care approvals and assures payment of doctors in other countries.

Of course, the Youngs had concerns that went beyond the financial and bureaucratic challenges of getting Maggie’s care approved.

Her aneurysm was believed to be life-threatening. She was transferred to a hospital in Milan that was equipped to do complex surgery. Her Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan helped arrange her care and keep the family informed.

On Maggie’s third week in the hospital, the team at Blue Cross Blue Shield Global Core and care coordinators with her health plan worked with the Italian doctors to plan for her needs after discharge. They found a neurologist and a neurosurgeon in her plan’s network to carry on her care when she came back to the states.

After nearly a month, Maggie’s doctors in Italy said she was safe to fly home.

“Somehow this all worked out,” Shawn Young says. “My dad told me that he couldn’t have done this without me coordinating stateside, but it made me realize that it takes an army. It takes a lot of people to see somebody through something like this.”

icon_shoePack your member ID card.

For help from Blue Cross Blue Shield Global Core, call the customer service number on your member ID card. Your customer advocate will help coordinate your care needs with Blue Cross Blue Shield Global Core. Be sure to take your ID card with you the next time you travel abroad.