Should I Get Travel Evacuation Insurance?

Air ambulance evacuation from a remote location can get expensive very quick. Should I Get Travel Evacuation Insurance?

Are you planning an adventure trip or visiting a remote location? Have you thought about getting travel evacuation insurance? TravelBug Health addresses some questions you may be asking.

Is Evacuation Insurance different than Travel Insurance?

When planning your travels, navigating the world of insurance can be complex, with various options available that cater to different needs. One common question is, “Is Evacuation Insurance different than Travel Insurance? And the answer is yes. There are many types of insurance to consider including:

Traveler’s Insurance:

Covers flight and hotel costs due to trip cancellations or delays, as well as lost baggage. It may or may not include coverage for medical expenses.

Traveler’s Health Insurance:

Covers any medical care required overseas. This could cover the cost of routine medical services such as a doctor or clinic visit, emergency services, hospital bills, x-rays, lab work, or medications.

Medical Evacuation Insurance:

In the event of a serious injury or medical event, trip evacuation insurance covers the expense of transporting you from a remote location to the nearest medical facility that can provide the necessary level of care. In some cases, medical evacuation may require transportation back to your home country to receive care. Many policies also provide air evacuation in the event of a natural disaster or civil unrest. Having trip evacuation insurance will also ensure that, in the worst-case scenario, your bodily remains will be transported back home (repatriated).

Why Should I Get Evacuation Insurance?

Many popular tourist destinations these days are in exotic but remote locations, potentially far from higher level medical care:

  • Much of the interior of Africa
  • Adventure destinations in South America
  • Antarctica
  • Offshore islands (think Bali, Madagascar, Seychelles, The Maldives)
  • Mountain destinations
  • Ocean cruises

Medical or other emergencies usually need to be addressed immediately, and outcomes depend on how quickly you can access the proper level of care. In the case of a medical emergency, you need to be able to get to a facility that can take care of you as soon as possible. A serious illness in Bali may require transport to Singapore for treatment. An injury on safari in Africa could require air ambulance evacuation to a large center like Cape Town for the necessary care.

Risk of injury or death abroad:

Nobody plans to get injured or sick on their vacation, but even if you are just lounging at the swim-up bar, you are always at some level of risk. For instance, most travel medical emergencies abroad are the same ones that can happen at home. A heart attack, stroke, or a broken limb from a fall can occur anytime and becomes much more dangerous when you are far from medical help.

The incidence of serious injury or death from motor vehicle accidents is often higher in many countries, especially those with crowded public transportation, less strict safety regulations and vehicle standards, and less developed emergency response networks. Poor transportation infrastructure or greater distances may limit or delay your access to a trauma center.

You are also at an increased risk of rabies in many parts of the world, particularly Mexico, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, China, and Vietnam. Stray dogs, bats, and monkeys are the most common culprits, and a scratch or bite from one of these critters is a potentially fatal risk if not properly treated. A possible rabies exposure requires the immediate administration of Rabies Immune Globulin (RIG), which is not always available in many remote or resource-poor countries and usually requires emergency evacuation to a larger urban center where treatment is available.

Cover high expenses:

Evacuation services can get very expensive very quickly. For instance, airlift from a cruise is upward of $20,000, and evacuation from a remote location can cost anywhere from $15,000 to over $200,000 depending on the location. Travel evacuation plans usually cover anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million of medical expenses, depending on the plan.

You’ve already spent a lot on your vacation. Why risk potentially having to pay out several times the cost of your whole trip in the event of an unforeseen accident. Unless you’re traveling in your own private jet (yes, some of my travelers do), less than a few hundred dollars for trip evacuation insurance can at least eliminate that worry.

Peace of mind:

The last thing you want to do in a medical (or any kind of) emergency, is to be worried about costs and logistics. Having a travel evacuation plan in place will help keep what is already a very stressful situation as simple as possible for you and your loved ones. It takes literally only a few minutes online to sign up with one of the major travel evacuation plans. Once you have purchased evacuation insurance, you usually only need to call a dedicated 1-800 operator from anywhere in the world to immediately get access to the care you need. Companies that coordinate evacuations have highly trained air ambulance flight crews and aircraft on standby all over the world to get you quickly to the help you need.

Most people buy a policy that covers only the duration of their trip. If you are a frequent traveler, some plans include annual memberships that cover unlimited travel.

How Do I choose a Medical Evacuation Insurance Plan?

Asses your risks:

When deciding if you should include evacuation insurance, it is important to consider the location you are visiting as well as your activities. The more remote the location and the more adventurous the activities you have planned, the more likely evacuation insurance is a good idea.

Know the details of your plan:

Always familiarize yourself with the details and benefits of your insurance plan. Sometimes travel health insurance may include evacuation insurance, sometimes it may not. Read the fine print to determine whether your policy will cover transport only to the nearest medical center, or if it will cover transport back home to your country of origin, if necessary. You also want to be aware of any coverage for transport home after treatment if you are required to stay longer in a foreign country and consider any exclusions for extreme sports.

Options for Evacuation Insurance:

TravelBug Health partners with Global Rescue. I have purchased their coverage several times for my own trips and can attest to their value and outstanding customer service. Some other companies include MedJet, International SOS, and Travelguard. Most of these are not travel insurance companies, so will only provide coverage for medical evacuation, and should be supplemented with other travel insurance. If you purchase your travel with one of the top tier premium credit cards, such as American Express, medical and evacuation benefits may automatically be included, but make sure you still read the fine print.

You just never know…

Fortunately, almost all of our travelers return from overseas with only great experiences and exciting stories. However, I have been doing travel medicine long enough to have experienced patients trapped in China after an earthquake, who have suffered orthopedic injuries in Cusco, or need evacuation off of cruise ships.

That once in a lifetime bucket list vacation usually involves a lot of planning and expense. Just as you should prepare for your travel by getting vaccinations to prevent illness, the few minutes it takes to sign up for evacuation insurance will provide you reassurance that you will be taken care of should something happen to you overseas. It’s worth a little added expense for that peace of mind.

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