What should you do if, while you're on vacation, your child develops an ear infection or breaks a bone? To find the right care:
- Before you go, familiarize yourself with your insurance provider's policies on emergencies, out-of-network doctors, and travel coverage, so that you understand your options and have a better chance of being reimbursed.
- If your child needs immediate medical care -- he's having trouble breathing, for instance -- go to an emergency room. If there's time, choose one at a children's hospital, says Marcy Ahrons, M.D., a pediatrician with the University of California at Davis Medical Group.
- Many insurance plans have a 24-hour hotline to suggest approved medical providers and, if necessary, to authorize treatment. If the situation isn't critical, call before seeking help. Keep a record of what was discussed.
- For relatively minor problems, such as a suspected ear infection, call your own doctor first. "She can sometimes handle the case over the phone, even calling in a prescription to a nearby pharmacy," says Dr. Ahrons. If she refers you to a local pediatrician, call your insurance company to see whether it'll cover the visit.
- If your pediatrician can't make a referral, ask friends or family in the area whom they use. Doctors in private practice may be reluctant to see you, but it helps if you know a patient of theirs, says Dr. Ahrons. Or check with your hotel for a recommendation for a doctor who's board-certified in pediatrics or family practice.
- If it's after hours or you can't find a pediatrician, try a walk-in, urgent-care facility. Many are open 24 hours, and you won't need an appointment. Check the yellow pages under medical or physicians.
- If your child receives treatment, request copies of the records and give them to your pediatrician when you return home.