What Does Medical Evacuation Insurance Cover?

Global Rescue

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Apr 7, 2011
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No traveler wants to envision a situation involving a hospital visit – especially one requiring a medical evacuation.

According to the Merck Manuals, when it comes to foreign travel, about 1 in 30 people traveling abroad require emergency care.

Whether you travel domestically or abroad, once a year or all the time, accidents and emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. A life-threatening illness or injury requiring a medical evacuation is not the time to be asking yourself “what does medical evacuation insurance cover?”

So perhaps the answer to easing the anxiety of worst-case-scenarios, is travel insurance with medical evacuation coverage.

Not exactly.

It’s no big secret that having travel insurance is important. So important that a recent Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection whitepaper estimates travel insurance sales to Americans traveling outside the U.S. will increase by nearly 4% in 2019.

The U.S. Department of State’s Traveler’s Checklist also urges those traveling abroad to consider purchasing emergency evacuation insurance.

Before you get started gathering travel insurance quotes, beware of making a potentially costly mistake. Don’t assume medical evacuation coverage is just another name for travel insurance.

What are the Differences Between Medical Evacuation Services and Travel Insurance?
In short, travel insurance and medical evacuation services are simply not the same thing.

Most travel insurance companies advertise that a typical policy includes coverage for financial loss, due to incidents involving lost or stolen baggage or travel delays.

Some travel insurance policies also offer medical evacuation coverage too, but as the Wall Street Journal points out, “travel insurers write a lot of gotchas in most policies, especially the inexpensive insurance sold through airlines and online travel agencies.”

Those “gotchas” can easily be erased with some added clarity surrounding our first question, “what does medical evacuation insurance cover?”

If you’re searching for medical evacuation coverage, begin by searching for a medical evacuation membership instead. Think of access to medical evacuation services as a membership with benefits, not travel insurance with a policy.

For example, if you break your leg on a skiing trip in Austria and you have a medical evacuation membership, you may be evacuated from the point of your injury to a location where you’d receive stabilizing care and then transported to another medical facility (depending on the severity of your injury), at no additional cost to you.

Some medical evacuation memberships even allow the traveler to select their hospital of choice for medical transportation.

On the other hand, a typical travel insurance policy generally covers only the cost of transport to the closest medical facility – which means it’s not up to injured travelers when it comes to where they go to receive care.

Travel insurance companies also operate reimbursements through a claims process, where medical evacuation memberships typically take care of medical transportation costs at no additional cost to members. It’s important to note that most medical evacuation memberships do not cover costs for medical bills.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to medical evacuation services, but a little planning and research can go a long way in keeping your trip of a lifetime what it was meant to be.

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