Medical evacuation insurance coverage isn't something I thought about in college when I was traveling abroad. But with a family, it is something I now care about. There are a lot of options out there, so I thought it would be helpful to provide some tips to help you choose which plan is right for you.
1. Why Worry About Medical Evacuation Coverage?
Let's distinguish between regular medical insurance when traveling abroad vs. medical evacuation. For medical care abroad, your regular health plan may cover it (many U.S. plans do, although Medicare does not), although you'll still have the inconvenience of having to pay out of pocket, then get reimbursed.
Medical evacuation, on the other hand, covers the expense of getting you to either the nearest medical facility where you can receive care, or even to your hospital of choice in your hometown. This is almost never covered by your regular medical insurance plan. And while you may go your entire life without needing it, if you do, it can be incredibly expensive. If it's an emergency such that you can't take a commercial flight and a private jet is needed, you could be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars just in the transport cost alone.
2. Who Should Get Medical Evacuation Coverage?
If you travel, and particularly if you travel to non-urban places or even urban centers that have poor medical facilities and hospitals, you should likely have medical evacuation coverage.
3. Are You Already Covered by Work?
Especially if you're an expatriate working abroad, your company may already pay for a medical evacuation plan–be sure to check with your corporate HR to see what, if any, your company already provides in the way of medical evacuation, and if it's solely for work travel or also covers leisure travel.
4. What Medical Evacuation Coverage Does Your Credit Card Provide?
With American Express, it really depends which country's AMEX Platinum card you hold. For U.S. AMEX Platinum card members, there is no built-in medical evacuation coverage that comes with the card, although there is Global Assist, which can help arrange and coordinate medical transportation, doctor referrals, English-speaking lawyers, etc. You are responsible, however, for all expenses incurred.
If you happen to have a Latin American, Caribbean or Bermuda issued AMEX Platinum card, however, you're covered for an emergency medical evacuation up to $100,000 and emergency medical services up to $20,000. But note that this is not necessarily medical repatriation to your home country in Latin America, the Caribbean or Bermuda; it may only be to the nearest facility providing adequate medical care.
Make sure to check with your credit card provider what medical evacuation coverage, if any, your card provides, and get a copy of the terms and conditions.
5. Medical Evacuation vs. Medical Repatriation
Medical evacuation policies typically only provide for evacuation to the nearest medical facility that provides adequate care. But the plan's definition of adequate medical care and your definition of adequate medical care could be quite different. If you want to have coverage for medical repatriation, which will transport you to your hometown hospital or a hospital of your choice in your home country, make sure you seek out a policy that provides for medical repatriation, not just emergency medical evacuation.
6. What Coverage Level Do I Need?
It depends on your level of risk tolerance. As I noted earlier, in the unfortunate event you require private jet transportation, you'll want coverage of at least $1 million. But many medical evacuation policies only cover up to $100,000. This may be enough for most medical evacuations by a commercial airline, but it won't be anywhere close to covering private jet medical evacuation.
7. Don't Forget Supplemental Medical Insurance Coverage for Adventure Sports
It stands to reason that if your ideal vacation involves bungee jumping, hang gliding, scuba diving, parachuting, or other adventure sports, regular medical insurance generally excludes these activities, so you'll need supplementary medical insurance, to complement your existing medical coverage and medical evacuation coverage.
8. Medjet Assist: When You Want Medical Repatriation
If there's no question you would want medical repatriation and to be treated at your own local hospital rather than a foreign facility, you should strongly consider Medjet Assist, which offers these benefits:
- No Medical Necessity: as long as you are hospitalized as an inpatient somewhere in the world, you can choose to be transferred to another hospital in your home country. You don't have to have an insurance company determine there's “medical necessity” for the transfer. Most other medical evacuation plans require there to be “medical necessity” for such a transfer to your home hospital, and evacuation is only to the nearest hospital that provides adequate care.
- No Cost Limits: There is no cost limit for the medical transfer (although it is, of course, coordinated by Medjet Assist)
The cost of the regular Medjet Assist membership plan is
9. DAN (Divers Alert Network): When You Want Simple Bare Bones Medical Evacuation Coverage
Prior to the current trip I'm on, I did purchase a family membership to Divers Alert Network (DAN) which includes Travel Assist. It provides up to $100,000 in medical evacuation coverage, coordinate by DAN, for trips that are at least 50 miles from the member's home. Unlike MedJet Assist, medical evacuation is to the “nearest appropriate medical facility where appropriate medical treatment can be obtained.” Also see full DAN membership benefits in the Dan Membership Handbook.
The cost is just $35 per year for an individual, and $55 for a family, so there's really no excuse not to get at least this basic coverage if you're not otherwise covered, even if you're not sold on the more expensive Medjet Assist medical repatriation coverage.
Do you have any medical evacuation insurance coverage tips or experiences to share?
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