Medical Evacuation Insurance – How it Works

You think it won’t happen to you when you are traveling overseas, when suddenly you find yourself needing to be evacuated for medical reasons. Medical evacuations occur more frequently than we think so getting travel insurance that covers medical evacuation is important. One international medical evacuation service performed over 14,000 missions in just one year. That averages out to about 35 evacuations per day!

Let’s look at the cruise industry. Most travelers – and there are more than five million of them each year taking cruises from U.S. ports – do not have medical evacuation coverage on their health insurance plan. The American Medical Association conducted a study several years ago and found that on average 20 passengers die each year aboard cruise liners. If these passengers had been able to get to superior medical services quickly via air evacuation, many of their lives would have been spared.

How does medical evacuation insurance work?

Generally insurance companies subcontract companies that focus only on medical evacuation. To determine if medical evacuation is warranted, the insurance companies seek counsel from the medical doctors that work at their agency, from their own personnel that specialize in this field, from the injured party or his/her representative, and from a medical professional on the ground who is caring for the patient. The insurance companies provide the client with a call-collect number in order to discuss and coordinate medical evacuation.

In all cases insurance companies will not pay for medical evacuation that is not coordinated through and by the insurance company. This makes things awkward sometimes, but the insurance companies are concerned about keeping costs down and also providing medical evacuation when it is not necessary. If the insurance companies handle the medical evacuation, this will also keep the costs down for the insured. Keeping the costs down helps all the insured because it enables the insurance companies to keep from raising the health insurance premiums unnecessarily.

In cases where necessary the insurance company will send in a plane to evacuate an individual. In other cases they will pay for several seats on a civilian carrier. Sometimes they will send along medical personnel with the individual being medically evacuated. Be assured that insurance companies are well aware of what is involved. Their staff works with medical evacuation situations from all over the world twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They have a pretty good understanding of every situation.

How much coverage is needed?

How much medical evacuation coverage is necessary? This depends on the locale of your international workers. If Americans staff your agency and all are working in Mexico, $25,000 of medical evacuation coverage should be adequate. On the other hand, if you have workers in Central Africa or Papua New Guinea, it would be wise to have a plan that provides $100,000 in coverage.

On the average, international health insurance companies charge $12-$15 a month for medical evacuation coverage. Obviously, you will pay more for $100,000 than you would for $25,000. You can avoid over-insuring in this area by always considering the countries where your employees are working when purchasing medical evacuation coverage.