When thinking about study abroad insurance, I didn’t put much thought into it. I didn’t want to think I would ever have to actually use it, but today I get to be the chosen one to tell you how it works. All in all, it was definitely different than how things work in the United States, but wasn’t too bad.
Let’s start at the beginning:
I made a little mistake this week…I landed incorrectly in a gymnastics class I was taking and managed to dislocate my knee. After a lovely trip to the hospital and 4 hours later, I’m dropped off at my dorm with a pair of crutches, a full-leg brace, a useless leg, and a lot of paperwork.
Now here’s what happened:
After I injured my leg and sat with cold paper towels on it (ice doesn’t really exist over here) I didn’t quite know how to seek medical help. My city is a hugely bus-dominant area with no Uber or any sort of online car pickup service. So, unless I wanted to hobble to the bus and cram my dead leg next to some old lady reading a newspaper, I needed an ambulance.
The first thing the ambulance EMTs did after strapping me into a stretcher was figure out insurance. I had my insurance card on my phone as well as a picture of my passport (they required official identification) and off we went to the hospital, sirens and everything.
Once in the hospital, there was a seemingly unorganized system. I was wheeled into a hallway in front of a door, straight past the waiting room, and just waited for the doctor to open the door. Not sure why I didn’t have to register with the front desk, maybe it was because I was an “emergency situation” or the ambulance EMTs talked to them for me.
Also, note that no one thus far spoke more than 5 words of English. Thankfully, I was with my gymnastics coach who translated.
For some reason, the ambulance ride and the x-ray and the small operation they did were all free. Not sure why, definitely not complaining. I did pay full price for everything prescribed, kept every single piece of paper given to me, and filed a health insurance claim the VERY next day. (I highly recommend keeping any sort of paper possible and sending them to your insurance ASAP, while everything is fresh in everyone’s mind).
Once with the doctor, I was X-Rayed and poked, then a few hours later was sent away with a PRESCRIPTION for crutches, a brace, and some drugs. Let me highlight that they did not provide them for me. So, being unable to walk, my coach took the prescriptions, and me on the stretcher, and ROLLED me down the road until we found a pharmacy that could fulfill the prescription (paying full price, out of pocket). Then, after I had gotten the goods and could finally stand, we hauled the stretcher back to the hospital.
Overall, the process wasn’t terribly painful (my leg, however, is a different story). If you are in a situation similar to mine, here’s my advice:
- Have someone who can translate for you. The doctor spoke English, but the nurses, EMTs, and radiologists didn’t. If you aren’t fluent in the local language, find someone who is.
- Don’t be afraid to call an ambulance. I was really worried an ambulance would
clean out my entire study abroad allowance, and almost didn’t go to the doctor because of it.
- HAVE YOUR INSURANCE INFORMATION WITH YOU. I didn’t have a physical insurance card printed out, nor my actual passport with me. Try and always carry them with you, other places might not be nearly as flexible about this and might refuse digital copies.
- Be aware that hospitals are different than in the United States. Not everything is as convenient and you might have to work to get necessary supplies for your injury (AKA bring someone with you!!)
- Keep absolutely everything you are given, and try to get originals. File your health insurance claim as soon as possible!
- Try to be positive. My European lifestyle was definitely not made for those on crutches. My dorm is at the top of a hill and half a mile from the nearest bus stop. Injuries aren’t easy or convenient, but positive attitudes and optimism won’t hurt anything!
Stay tuned for either a how-to guide on navigating a city on crutches, or (hopefully) a look into the Czech physical therapist department!
CZECH REPUBLIC – MASARYK UNIVERSITY, 2018 FALL
Hannah Langford is taking a break from studying Integrated Sciences at DU to study history and culture at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She’s looking forward to exploring the unique geography and outdoor opportunities in the area and the surrounding countries. She’s also looking forward to eating a lot of chocolate.