Insuring for Medical Evacuation When You Travel

SikorskyS-76AC-GIMMDo you really need it? And, if so, how much coverage do you need? 

If you haven’t experienced it first hand, you’ve probably heard a story or two…or maybe even three. A person is on vacation, perhaps in a wonderful, exotic place far off the beaten path. Then there’s an incident. She falls while jogging and breaks a couple of bones. Or he has a heart attack while on a cruise. The person has to be evacuated. And, depending on all the variables, the evacuation can typically cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. If the person isn’t already covered for such emergencies, or does not have travel insurance with medical evacuation (evac) coverage, then he or she must pay for everything.

Now, this doesn’t happen very often. But, when it does, it can be the single most expensive claim an insured traveler can file. And, if the traveler isn’t insured for medical evac, the result can be financially devastating.

Here are some things I’d urge you to consider:

Do you need medical evac coverage when traveling within the U.S.?

Generally, you don’t. As long as you are in the U.S., your regular health care coverage will take care of many (if not most or all) of your emergency medical needs.

Do you need medical evac coverage when traveling outside the U.S.?

Because nearly all U.S. health insurance plans cover people only when they are in the U.S., I would highly recommend getting at least $50,000 and preferably $100,000 in coverage.

Hopefully, you will never have to file a claim for medical evac. But, if you ever have a need for it, you won’t be hit with a bill of up to $100,000 to be transported back to a hospital in the U.S.

Different kinds of policies also offer some additional benefits you might want to consider. If a broken leg makes it particularly uncomfortable for you to fly in coach on your way home, for example, the insurer can make arrangements for you to fly in first class. Or, if the hospital nearest your home is not the best equipped to handle your particular medical issue, the insurer can make arrangements to transport you to another U.S. hospital that is. The specifics in different policies and levels of coverage vary (and are worth looking at closely), but, depending on the circumstances, some of these “extras” can make a world of difference.

Often, too, young travelers dismiss medical evac as coverage intended mainly for older travelers more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, diabetes-related problems, or other major health issues. But, one of the ironies I’ve found is that these younger travelers often take much more physically demanding vacations than their older counterparts and that this activity can sometimes increase their chances of serious injury. Often, too, younger travelers haven’t had the years to save that older people have had, and the $50,000-to-$100,000 cost of a full-scale medical evac becomes an enormous—if not prohibitive—financial burden. So, even though they are less likely to have heart attacks or strokes while on vacation, I encourage young people traveling overseas to take a close look at medical evac coverage too.

While medical evac is not a subject people enjoy talking about, it is a reality people traveling outside the U.S. need to think about. We encourage you to do so. And, if you want to learn more about your medical evac options, feel free to call or email. We won’t try to pressure you in any way. We’re just happy to share our thoughts and help.