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Don’t Leave Home Without It----Travel Insurance–Part 2

Non-Emergency Medical Evacuation Insurance
How To Purchase
Geographic Coverage of Medical Expense Policies
How Much To Purchase
Where To Purchase

This is a continuing series of articles with a number of "parts."  See Table of Contents and search for "Don't Leave Home Without Them" and "Don't Leave Home Without It"

Introduction: I wrote about Mark and Betty’s European vacation a number of months ago. You may recall that Mark became ill. Betty called down to the hotel front desk who summoned an ambulance. Next thing they knew, Mark was in a European hospital with pending surgery. Betty showed the hospital Mark’s Medicare and Medigap cards. The hospital wanted the money paid up front; they said they didn’t accept American insurance. How could Betty come up with $10,000?

I asked if that wasn’t what their medical insurance was for? That article then progressed into a discussion about travel insurance and concluded that the big concern was non-emergency medical evacuation, not travel interruption/cancellation. Or even emergency medical evacuation. (back to top)

Non-Emergency Medical Evacuation Insurance: Non-emergency medical evacuation is what occurs after an emergency caused by illness or sickness, once you have stabilized. Then it is time to get you home. If you are not well enough to travel in a commercial airliner or even if you are but you are going to need several seats so you and your medical escort (and all of the equipment) can be accommodated, this is the coverage that is going to pay for it.

For example, assume you are on that cruise going around Cape Horn at the bottom of South America. You have a serious medical emergency. The cruise ship is not equipped well enough to handle all serious emergencies. So you will probably be airlifted to a hospital in Argentina or Chile. That may well be covered by whatever insurance you have. Now you stabilize. How much is it going to cost to get you back to California. It could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. An expense of that size could bankrupt many people or at least put a serious dent in their retirement savings. (back to top)

How To Purchase: Fortunately, this coverage is not very expensive. It can be purchased alone or it can be purchased as part of a package (which would include trip interruption/cancellation, baggage loss, etc.). Typically the coverage is priced based on the age of the travelers, geographic region to which you are traveling, cost of the trip you are insuring, and length of the trip. (back to top)

Geographic Coverage of Medical Expense Policies: Things to look at. You need to be aware that not all policies are the same, so you need to at least look at the summary of coverage if not the policy itself. Many cover emergency evacuation to get you from a medical facility to another when the first is not equipped to treat your condition. As I said in Part 1, if your U.S. medical insurance covers you in the geographic area to which you are traveling, it will probably cover your transfer to another facility. But, remember, Medicare and some of the MediGap supplemental policies do not cover you out of the U.S. (except in very limited circumstances). And even those MediGap policies that do, have a lifetime maximum limit ($50,000, which I believe is standard for the ones that offer this coverage). Some Medicare Advantage plans do not provide coverage outside of the U.S. (each advantage plan is different). The same is true for private insurance or employer provided insurance–every plan is different.

Some medical evacuation plans also cover the non-emergency medical evacuation. These provide travel coverages in a medically appropriate means of transportation (think private chartered jet equipped with medical equipment) back to your place of residence or (up to the cost of getting you back to your place of residence) any hospital or medical facility you choose in the U.S. (back to top)

How Much To Purchase: So how much coverage do you need. It appears that, as you might expect, this depends. The more remote and distant the location, the more coverage you should have. If you are traveling in the U.S., industry sources suggest at least $50,000. If out of the country, but not on the other side of the world, maybe $100,000. If you are going to be taking that cruise to Antarctica or going to Asia, Africa etc. probably closer to $250,000. (And you should have at least $100,000 in medical expense insurance.) But don’t over buy. According to Squaremouth in 2011, “...it is rare for an evacuation to cost more than $100,000....”

Just to give a means of comparison, a package policy with $500,000 of medical evacuation insurance (emergency and non-emergency) for a couple, both in their 60's, for a two week trip in Europe could run around $130 depending on the cost of the trip being insured. (back to top)

Where To Purchase: Sites abound on the internet. In many cases you can purchase from the insurance companies directly. Two well known brokers on the internet are Squaremouth and Insure My Trip. Both have extensive websites and the ability to compare policies and purchase on the internet. (back to top)

This is a continuing series of articles with a number of "parts."  See Table of Contents and search for "Don't Leave Home Without Them" and "Don't Leave Home Without It"