Medical Evacuation Health Travel Coverage: To Purchase or Not

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Aug 13, 2020

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The world is an interesting place with an infinite array of adventures to be experienced, but it can also hold some incredible dangers. Travel should involve planning for the best, but also being prepared for the worst. To that end the first step you want to take is a visit to the United States Department of State web site to review the country specific information, travel warnings and alerts about your destination. This will give you an idea of what type of medical evacuation coverage you might need.

In addition you may want to review information on the Center for Disease Control’s web site on medical afflictions which might be an expected part of your travel. This will give you an idea of the likelihood of your needing medical evacuation services and how much coverage to purchase.

There are some sources of medical evacuation coverage that may be available to you without purchasing a separate policy.

  • your individual or group health insurance plan may have a medical evacuation benefit built into the plan’s coverage, and may even afford worldwide protection
  • the credit card on which you book your travel may include travel benefits, which provide some medical evacuation coverage, for travel you charge on the card
  • your auto club may have medical evacuation coverage, as part of the emergency transportation benefits, that come with membership, and coverage may be worldwide

If you decide to rely on these sources of coverage, be sure to obtain the policy brochure, to ascertain exactly what coverage amounts, limitations and exclusions apply.

There are many different types of medical evacuation policies that you can purchase to assure that you are protected for the most costly probable scenarios. Here are some considerations to take into account in purchasing your coverage:

  • Is there an age restriction on coverage? Some policies do not cover anyone over 65 years of age. Confirmation of age can be required before any payment is made.
  • Does the premium cover you for a single trip, number of days per trip, all trips during a policy period? Or if part of a student policy, for the entire enrollment period?
  • Pay attention to the inception and termination dates of the coverage.
  • What is the coverage limit? Is it enough to cover the costs of evacuation from an area you will be visiting or residing in? What type of transportation will be needed and what is availability?
  • Where is it that you might need to be evacuated to? What is the quality and locale of medical services? Will you need an accompanying interpreter?
  • If you will be engaging in sports on your trip, be sure that the activity is not excluded from coverage. Adventure sports and hazardous activities are commonly excluded.

Almost all policies have a pre-existing conditions clause, and do not cover travel for the purpose of seeking medical treatment.

If you decide to use a combination of policies to cover an evacuation, be sure to be aware of any clause in the policies making them secondary to other insurance coverage. This is very common.

There are generally very strict notification requirements as part of providing medical evacuation coverage. Make sure they are followed and realize that failure to do so can mean no reimbursement. Direct payment to the providers is the exception. Payment is generally limited to reasonable and customary charges.

Realize that the necessity for medical evacuation and the location you are evacuated to may be contingent upon the decision of a local attending physician and/or case manager working for the medical evacuation insurance company.

Travel assistance services, such as help with lost/stolen travel documents or luggage, are not generally covered under a medical evacuation policy. You may want to secure separate coverage for these services.

Before purchasing a medical evacuation policy you may want to ask for a copy of the policy to review the provisions in relationship to your specific travels. How much time you spend on your coverage planning should be dependent on the nature and extent of your travel destinations and anticipated risks, especially if you are roaming around a high risk or remote geographic area where emergency evacuation is a high possibility. Purchasing coverage for travel within the developed world will certainly not be as involved, as planning for travel within developing nations. The Department of State’s web site should give you a good idea of the level of infrastructure within the nations you plan to visit. It is updated constantly to keep abreast of the current status of all the world’s nations on a number of different levels.

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