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By DaVita® Social Worker Rob Ross, LSW
Traveling outside of the United States may be a daunting proposition when you start to think about scheduling your dialysis treatments and not being close to your home or by your familiar dialysis center. But there is no need to give up your dreams of vacationing or your plans of working abroad just yet. It can be done. Maintaining quality of life is an important aspect of living with a medical condition, and if traveling abroad is an important goal, you can make it a reality.
First, give yourself plenty of time to make travel arrangements. At least 10 weeks' lead time is recommended. A language barrier or other unforeseen issue may slow down your plans to get dialysis while you’re abroad.
The more you learn about your destination, the more confident you will feel about your trip. In addition to providing general travelers’ information, the Internet can help answer the big question that needs to be asked before buying a ticket: Do they have reliable treatment centers there? At Globaldialysis.com, enter the city and country you plan to visit to get information on clinics in that area. The site even features patient reviews of the clinics.
Another resource is Dialysis and Transplant magazine, which maintains a list of dialysis centers in the United States and abroad. It is referred to as “The List” and is often sent to dialysis centers. Ask your social worker for copies of this publication or similar ones that may be helpful in your search.
Now that you’ve identified a country to visit and a center to go to for treatment, what’s next? For people who dialyze with DaVita, our Guest Services group can assist with paperwork. Call 1-800-244-0680 and provide contact information for the overseas center you plan to visit. They will contact the dialysis center and fax your necessary paperwork, including:
Provide DaVita Guest Services with the name of more than one clinic if possible in case your preferred clinic is unable to accommodate you, because they are unable to recommend or locate clinics overseas.
If there is not a language barrier, you can call the facility abroad and request a spot for your treatments. You can then work with your facility to coordinate the transfer of records. If you’re on peritoneal dialysis (PD), you can also ask for help concerning the transfer of your supplies. Although this process is different due to the supplies involved, you can still travel overseas. Discuss any travel logistics with your PD nurse and the supplier.
When you vacation and have dialysis in another country, you have to consider that your health insurance may not cover your treatment costs. As a rule of thumb, Medicare covers only regular treatments within the U.S. and its territories. According to the pamphlet Medicare Coverage Outside the United States, published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: “Unless it’s an emergency in which you get dialysis at a hospital, Medicare doesn’t cover dialysis when you travel outside the U.S.”
There are some instances in which private insurance may cover foreign travel medical expenses. If you have private insurance, call your insurer directly and inquire about any foreign travel benefits. If it turns out that you’ll have to pay for treatments yourself, ask the center where you will be how much they charge. If you are a citizen of the country you will be visiting, ask if you can receive any sort of benefit or subsidy.
Patients on peritoneal dialysis (PD) can often have their PD supplies delivered to major cities in many parts of the world. This is something that DaVita Guest Services should be able to help you with. You can call them at 1-800-244-0680.
One of the joys of travel is the opportunity to try new and exotic foods. For dialysis patients, this can pose a problem since it may be difficult to know how much salt, phosphorus or potassium some new foods may have.
It may be worth doing some homework regarding the various foods that you are likely to encounter while traveling abroad, and then discussing them with your renal dietitian before leaving. This way you know in advance which foods are safe to eat.
The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) recommends that you also keep in mind the following regarding foreign travel:
Traveling outside of the U.S. when you’re on dialysis is possible. By researching your destination and relying on help from your DaVita social worker and Guest Services team, preparing for overseas dialysis treatment won't be the primary focus of your time away. Bon voyage!
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