Planning a trip outside of Illinois? As a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) member, you can rest assured knowing your coverage goes with you wherever you travel within the United States. BCBSIL has you covered through the BlueCard® Program, giving you access to care across all 50 states.
With BCBSIL and the BlueCard Program, you can travel with the peace of mind of having your health insurance benefits available while away from home. This article will explain exactly how your BCBSIL coverage works when traveling or getting medical care out-of-state.
How the BlueCard Program Works
The BlueCard Program is a partnership linking all 36 independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies across the U.S., including BCBSIL. This program gives BCBS members seamless access to healthcare while traveling.
With BlueCard, your BCBSIL plan is your coverage whether you need care in Chicago or California. Key features of the program include:
Access to in-network doctors and hospitals across the country. Over 90% of providers nationwide participate in BlueCard.
You pay any applicable in-network copays or coinsurance, just like you would in Illinois.
You don’t have to file claims when seeing BlueCard providers. They handle claims processing for you.
You receive the same benefits you would in-state. Any pre-authorizations or referrals still apply.
When you show your BCBSIL ID card at a participating BlueCard provider, they verify your eligibility and coverage. Claims are billed to BCBSIL, with the local Blue Plan negotiating pricing. You are only responsible for any in-network cost shares.
Finding BlueCard Doctors and Hospitals
The BlueCard Doctor and Hospital Finder makes it easy to find participating providers when traveling. You can:
Call the toll-free number on the back of your BCBSIL ID card for assistance.
Use the online provider finder through your Blue Access for Members account.
Download and use the BCBS mobile app to search for providers on the go.
Call BlueCard Access at 1-800-810-BLUE (2583) for help locating providers.
It’s a good idea to identify nearby in-network providers at your destination before traveling in case you need urgent care. Search by provider name, specialty, or other criteria to find one that meets your needs.
Your Coverage for Emergency Care
In an emergency, you should visit the nearest hospital or emergency room. All BCBSIL plans cover in-network rates for emergency care, even if the provider is out-of-network.
BCBSIL plans must also cover emergency services without prior authorization. Cost sharing will be the same whether in- or out-of-network. You won’t pay anything extra because it was an emergency.
If admitted to the hospital from the ER, your BCBSIL coverage will apply to the inpatient stay as long as the hospital contacts BCBSIL within 48 hours. In a true emergency, your top concern should be getting the care you need.
Seeing Specialists and Non-Emergency Care
The BlueCard Program also gives you access to specialty care like lab tests, imaging, outpatient surgery, mental health services, physical therapy, home health, and more. However, for non-emergency services, you’ll want to double check that the provider participates in BlueCard before your visit.
To find a specialist:
Use the BlueCard National Doctor & Hospital Finder on the BCBS website or mobile app.
Call the Member Services number on the back of your BCBSIL ID card.
Ask your doctor’s office to confirm the specialist takes BlueCard patients.
Getting pre-authorizations or referrals from BCBSIL works the same as in-network. Following proper protocols will ensure you receive your maximum benefits.
Prescription Drug Coverage
When traveling within the United States, you can use your BCBSIL prescription drug benefits at any participating retail pharmacy nationwide. Over 70,000 pharmacies take part in the program.
Through BlueCard, you’ll pay your standard prescription copay or coinsurance when filling medications on the road. One thing to note is that if your specific drug requires pre-approval in Illinois, you may need to get authorization again for out-of-state fills.
Save money on medications by using in-network pharmacies when traveling. Show your BCBSIL ID card and have the pharmacist submit the claim electronically to receive your benefits.
Verifying Your Coverage
Always call the BCBSIL Member Services number on your ID card to verify benefits and out-of-state coverage details before extended travel. Key things to ask:
Are routine and preventive care covered out-of-state or only emergency services?
Do any benefit limits, pre-approvals, or exclusions apply in other locations?
How does out-of-network care work if needed while traveling?
What numbers can you call if needing care while away from home?
Getting answers to these questions upfront ensures no surprises when medical needs come up on the road. BCBSIL wants you to understand your coverage so you can travel with confidence and security.
Traveling Outside the Country
Most BCBSIL health plans cover emergency and urgent care internationally. However, you’ll generally need to pay upfront when seeing an overseas doctor or hospital and submit claims to BCBSIL for reimbursement later.
For extended international travel, consider purchasing a Blue Cross Blue Shield Global Core plan through GeoBlue. These plans offer enhanced benefits for expatriates, international students, global travelers and more.
Key features can include:
Access to medical care worldwide.
Evacuation benefits to get you proper care.
Multi-lingual customer service.
Direct payments to some overseas providers.
Apps and tools for finding contracted doctors abroad.
Global Core plans fill gaps for travelers needing comprehensive overseas coverage. Check with BCBSIL to learn more.
How to Access Emergency Care Abroad
All BCBSIL members have access to emergency medical assistance services and doctor/hospital referrals when traveling internationally. If you need care while abroad:
Call the BlueCard Worldwide Service Center any time of day at 1-800-810-BLUE (2583) or collect at 1-804-673-1177.
Contact GeoBlue for help finding providers and arranging hospitalization if you bought a Global Core plan. Call collect at 1-610-254-8771 or call 1-800-257-4823 toll-free.
Seek care right away for emergencies – don’t delay treatment to call BCBSIL first.
Pay the bill and keep all receipts and records to submit a claim later.
Having emergency support worldwide can provide comfort and security for globetrotters. Reach out before embarking to understand services available through BCBSIL and BlueCard while out of the country.
Travel Coverage for Dependents and Students
Dependents maintaining BCBSIL coverage while away at school can also take advantage of BlueCard. Simply find in-network providers near campus through the BlueCard National Doctor & Hospital Finder and show your BCBSIL ID card when receiving medical care.
To coordinate ongoing care for dependents living away from home for an extended period, look into BCBSIL’s Away From Home Care® program. It lets dependents become “guest members” of a participating HMO plan available where they are going to school. This allows access to local in-network providers for routine treatment.
Check with BCBSIL to see where the Away From Home Care program is available and how it can provide care continuity for your covered dependents when they are away long-term.
Finding BCBSIL In-Network Providers
Don’t forget that as a BCBSIL member you have an extensive provider network right here in Illinois. You can search for participating doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and more using:
The provider finder at bcbsil.com
The BCBSIL mobile app
The Find Care tool on the Blue Access for Members portal
BCBSIL contracts with over 96% of providers statewide, so you’re likely to find the specialty care you need within a convenient distance. And any in-network care will cost less than going out-of-network.
Check your BCBSIL provider directory before selecting any new doctors to ensure you maximize your benefits and keep costs affordable.
Travel Worry-Free with Your BCBSIL Plan
One of the best parts of holding BCBSIL health insurance is that it goes with you anywhere nationwide, thanks to BlueCard. So when planning your next trip near or far, rest easy knowing your coverage and benefits can too.
Remember these tips for seamless coverage while traveling:
Find BlueCard providers for non-emergency care.
Use BCBSIL’s Away From Home Care program for dependents traveling long-term.
Confirm prescriptions are covered out-of-state.
Verify international emergency benefits.
Always carry your BCBSIL ID card.
Call Member Services with any coverage questions.
Your BCBSIL plan provides healthcare access across Illinois,
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