Getting ED Treatment When It’s Not Available in Your Country

Woman struggling with depression

There are various ways to get health coverage overseas for the treatment of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder. First, know your options on how to plan for health coverage while visiting for an extended time or as part of an exchange program.

If you require ongoing medication and eating disorder treatment while abroad, it is important to know what your coverage limitations and abilities are.

Looking into Available Health Insurance

If you have a primary insurance plan from your country of origin, it most likely will cover you overseas. You may need to pay out-of-pocket costs or additional costs for being out-of-network.

Some insurance plans might also require you to pay for your treatment up front, then seek reimbursement upon returning to your home country. You can call your insurance company to find out the details of your plan.

Another option is to purchase individual travel/health coverage before going out of country. Travel insurance can cover emergencies and can be bundled with short term duration health insurance for a more complete coverage.

You can also look into the health plans offered within the country. If you are a university student or exchange student on a work program, you might be eligible for the national health service. If you are within the U.S. and are an international student seeking a health plan, it must comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), regardless of citizenship.

The only exception to this rule for U.S. citizens is if you are out of the country for 330 consecutive days in a given year. For foreign J visa holders, there are minimums for insurance coverage and repatriation that must meet the ACA minimum health benefits [1].

It is important to remember that international student insurance plans are intended to cover new illness or injuries while studying abroad. It is likely that wellness or preventative care, such as yearly checkups, mostly likely won’t be covered. Typically, pre-existing conditions may be covered after a waiting period of six months to one year. Mental health coverage can vary greatly on student health plans, and often has a very low plan benefit.

Cost of International Eating Disorder Treatment

Typically, hospitals overseas can charge lower prices due to medical staff being paid at a lower rate, and they may not carry the same medical malpractice insurance [2, 3]. Seeking treatment overseas can be a challenge due to language and access barriers, culture shock, and lack of standard safety practices.

Woman on the lake shore behing her eating disorder treatment centerMedical complications insurance can be purchased, which can cover the cost of follow-up care if your treatment results in complications, but typically traditional travel insurance does not cover this.

It is important to remember that upfront payments can be costly and should be taken into consideration when making plans to travel abroad. Also, be aware that credit cards, especially U.S.-based cards, may not be accepted as payment in some foreign areas.

Being able to research treatment facilities that work with international patients and are accredited facilities is important. Knowing if there are staff members who speak your language, or have professionally trained interpreters, is essential.

There are medical tourism agencies that can help with coordination of trips and have established relationships with specific doctors and hospitals [2, 3]. You can also look at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see whether the agency is rated highly.

Consulting with your primary doctor prior to seeking treatment overseas is important. You may need medical records, or consultation with your international team. You may be also following up with your provider after returning home. Being able to talk with your doctor about ongoing treatment, consultation, and services you are seeking can be extremely helpful.

If your trip is short-term, it may even be possible to set up a virtual session with your current mental health provider. Some providers may be willing to meet via skype or telephone on an intermittent basis, for their clients traveling abroad.

Eating Disorder Treatment Options Overseas

There are numerous well-respected treatment centers dedicated to eating disorders around the world. Many of the residential international centers have bilingual staff, and have experience treating a diverse population.

In the U.K., there are 18 eating disorder treatment centers, with most based in the London area. Throughout Europe, you will find a variety of eating disorder treatment centers in Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Italy.

Woman on dockIt is important to remember though, these centers may be part of a national network for citizens of that country, and may have varying rules for seeing patients who are are not residents. When looking at other international treatment areas, such as Russia, Asia, Middle East, South America, and Africa, the availability of eating disorder treatment providers varies.

The best resource for finding treatment overseas is speaking with your primary care provider or reaching out to a national eating disorder organization that can provide a referral.

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1]:  (n.d.) Retrieved May 10, 2017, from
[2] (n.d.) Retrieved May 10, 2017, from
[3] (n.d.) Retrieved May 10, 2017, from

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 4, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 4, 2017.
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