Cathy Lizak
Contributing writer
last updated 11/02/2019

Young Or Old, Please Buy Medical Evacuation Insurance Before You Travel!

Travel Safely In The Event Of An Accident

PaymentAir AmbulanceMedical Escort

Most people think of recouping ticket or hotel costs when buying trip insurance. However, a much more costly expense looms in your future if you get sick or injured while traveling. That is the cost of getting home.

If you find yourself in a foreign hospital needing to be transferred to a hospital in your home country, the cost can be overwhelming. Medical evacuation from Europe to the United States by air ambulance can cost over $100,000, from Asia over $200,000. If you get injured or ill while visiting another country, you may be faced with the dilemma of staying in a foreign hospital with costs not covered by insurance or paying for an air ambulance to get you home. Either option would be very costly to you.

It is not just when you are traveling internationally that you need to be concerned. The cost of air ambulance within the United States can also exceed your ability to pay. The cost to be transported from one coast of the U.S. to another by air ambulance exceeds $30,000. Faced with this expense, many families are forced to leave their loved one in another state, and either move a family member to live temporarily near the patient or travel back and forth to visit the patient as they can. The stress that either of these options puts on a family can be devastating.

Some travelers take cruises, believing that the medical personnel on the cruise ship will take care of them in an emergency. Unfortunately, the cruise line does not have medical staff or equipment to handle serious medical emergencies. The cruise line will most likely drop you off at the nearest port if you require a higher level of medical care. An ambulance will meet the ship and take you to the best facility to handle your emergency. Often times this facility will not be adequately staffed with personnel or equipment to treat your emergency, so, they will try to stabilize you until you are able make arrangements to be flown to a facility that can offer a higher level of care. The cost of flying a patient by air ambulance from the Caribbean to Florida exceeds $20,000.

We often don't think that getting sick or injured while traveling is a real possibility. After working in the air ambulance industry for over 20 years, I can tell you that most people using our services after falling ill or being injured while traveling, never expected to be calling us. One of the first questions I ask is if they purchased a travel policy. My advice is that even if the risk is low, the price to cover the very high cost of medical evacuation is worth it.

Older travelers may feel that they are in relatively good health, yet they put their bodies through new stresses while traveling that sometimes put them in harms way. Eating new foods, even increased walking can exacerbate existing illnesses. Simply flying on a plane for 7-15 hours at an oxygen-deprived altitude can cause a stroke or heart attack.

Young people usually don't think they will need trip insurance. Even though they don't think they will get sick while abroad, they are in a foreign country and are susceptible to diseases that their bodies are not equipped to handle. Young people are also prone to experiencing new physical activities that can cause life-threatening injuries, and sometimes the stress of international travel causes emotional injuries. The bottom line is that travelers, young and old need trip insurance that covers medical evacuation back to their home country.

Many people have the mistaken belief that they don't need trip insurance because their medical insurance company will pay to bring them home if they are sick or injured during travel. Unfortunately, the vast majority of policies do not! Medicare does not pay for international travel (see Medicare guidelines), and most private policies follow Medicare guidelines. Perhaps 1-2% of private policies have travel insurance riders. Please check with your insurance company before relying on them as your trip coverage.

Some travelers have credit card benefits which includes trip insurance. This type of trip insurance often covers trip cancellation, lost luggage, and trip cancellation but does not cover the large medical expense of bringing the traveler back to their home if there is a medical emergency. Contact your credit card and understand the coverage before relying on this benefit.

There are several good travel insurance companies out there, even though we do not make endorsements. Be sure to buy your policy before your trip, for you will not be able to get coverage during the trip, and certainly not after an accident or illness requires it. When you purchase your policy, make sure that you get the upgraded version that brings you back to your country of origin and to your preferred facility if necessary. Many policies will state that they have $1 million in travel related costs, yet they only bring you to an 'Americanized' hospital, which could be in the country where your accident occurred. The upgraded policy should bring you back to your home and nearer to family who can give you the emotional support you will need to recover.

Finally, even if you purchase travel insurance and it includes coverage to bring you home to your preferred facility, the insurance company may disagree with the need to transport you. They may decide that you do not need air ambulance and can be transported by a lessor means. They may tell you that air ambulance is not available for several weeks. If you find that your insurance company is not giving you the answers that you are expecting, please call Global Air Ambulance at 800-948-1220 or email us at We typically can have an air ambulance in position to pick up a patient within 24-48 hours of being contacted. We have experience working with insurance companies and can also offer assistance in language translation, doctor to doctor consults, as well accepting hospital coordination. If you are traveling and find yourself needing an air ambulance please feel free to contact us for arrangement of services or just for advice on your situation. We have qualified personnel available 24 hours a day 7 days a week to help you.

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