Most travel insurance plans provide emergency medical evacuation coverage, and many travelers just don't realize how important it is.
Emergency medical evacuation is often abbreviated as "medevac" or "medivac." Emergency medical evacuation is the transportation from one hospital to another in the case of serious illness or an injury that requires urgent treatment. It occurs only when the local hospital can't provide adequate treatment. In other words, emergency medical evacuation is merely transportation — there is no medical coverage.
People travel internationally to many different parts of the world. In many places, medical facilities are not capable of providing proper treatment. The medical facilities may not have the technology or expertise to treat the patient properly. Maybe the quality of care is substandard. Therefore, emergency medical evacuation is critical.
Emergency medical evacuation may cost anywhere from $20,000 to $250,000 and most people simply cannot come up with such a large sum of money. Even if someone has the money, he or she will simply be unable to make the complex arrangements necessary to execute a medical evacuation.
In the United States
Many people that visit the United States wonder whether emergency medical evacuation coverage is necessary. They mistakenly think that anywhere in the U.S., they can just call 911 and get treated at a nearby hospital. Even though that is true in many parts of the country, it is not the case everywhere. What if you are injured in a road accident on a highway in a remote place? What if there is a traffic jam on that highway, and you cannot be quickly transported? What about when you are touring the mountains? What about on the way to Niagara Falls? What happens if you take a cruise to the Caribbean, and you have a heart attack onboard?
Therefore, emergency medical evacuation is a necessity even when visiting the United States. Fortunately, emergency medical evacuation is already included in most visitors' insurance plans.
Of course, emergency medical evacuation only transports the person to the nearest place where adequate care can be given and not to the home country, as per the insured's wishes. In other words, emergency medical evacuation to a particular location must be medically necessary.
Emergency medical evacuation typically occurs in an air ambulance, which is a private aircraft or helicopter. It is usually equipped with a nurse, a physician and EMTs, as well as oxygen, medications and other appropriate emergency treatment materials. The patient is strapped to a stretcher. As the air ambulance is not large, typically there is room only for one companion and minimum carry-on luggage.
However, depending on the location and the circumstance, evacuation may even occur by ground ambulance, jeep or even yak.
In addition to transportation via air ambulance, the emergency-assistance department of the insurance company also makes arrangements for:
- Ground transportation coordination on both ends of the evacuation
- Identifying an appropriate air-transportation company and medical escort, as appropriate
- Immigration and flight clearances
- Coordination to get the patient admitted into an appropriate medical facility
- Travel arrangement assistance
Once the patient is stable enough to travel a long distance, emergency medical evacuation benefits also include repatriation back to his or her home country, usually in a commercial airline.
To avail emergency medical evacuation coverage in travel insurance, all arrangements must be coordinated directly through the insurance company. The insurance company must make all the arrangements and make direct payments. You cannot make your arrangements and expect the insurance company to reimburse you later.
It is important to keep in mind that emergency medical evacuation does not include the initial rescue from the point of injury.
Some travelers simply don't want to get treated in a foreign country and demand that they be returned home to even start the treatment. That is not feasible financially or medically. Emergency medical evacuation usually occurs if recommended by the attending physician.
Emergency medical evacuation coverage is an important part of travel insurance.
Additionally, stand-alone medical evacuation and repatriation insurance plans are available as well. Such plans are especially useful in meeting the J visa insurance requirements set by the U.S. State Department.