When you’re buying a travel insurance plan, one number always jumps out: the emergency medical transportation benefit (which some call medical evacuation insurance). The benefit limit can be as high as $500,000 or $1 million, depending on which plan you choose.
Travelers sometimes wonder why these limits are so high. The answer is that emergency medical transportation overseas can be extremely expensive. To find out why, we sat down with Kimberly Seay, RN, BSN, who is the Director of Assistance, USA for Allianz Global Assistance. Seay oversees a team of 25 Assistance Coordinators who work closely with 25 registered nurses and six doctors. In 2016, the team arranged emergency medical transportation for more than 500 U.S.-based travelers.
Fractures, heart attacks, strokes, trauma and pulmonary problems are all common reasons travelers need emergency medical assistance. If you’re traveling overseas and you suffer an illness or injury serious enough to need immediate, emergency treatment, the first thing you should do is call local emergency services. Notice we didn’t say “call 911”; every country has its own emergency numbers. The best way to make sure you can get help in a hurry is to download the free TravelSmart app from Allianz Global Assistance before you go. The app makes it easy to call the right emergency number, whichever country you’re traveling in. Good Morning Washington reviewed it as one of the six travel apps to score a last-minute deal and explain some of its key functionalities.
The very next thing you need to do is contact Allianz Global Assistance’s emergency hotline. When you’re traveling overseas, you can call collect from anywhere in the world: 1-804-281-5700. From the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, call this number toll free: 1-800-654-1908. Or, open the app and hit the button for the TravelSmart hotline.
Here at Allianz Global Assistance, our Assistance team (based in Richmond, Va.) will review your case right away. Our six medical directors are all emergency room physicians at the University of Virginia who can communicate directly with the doctor who’s seeing you overseas. The main question we ask is, “Does the local hospital have the capabilities to treat our member like they would be treated in the United States?”
If the answer is no, the team leaps into action to arrange emergency medical transportation, with the help of local Allianz Global Assistance personnel. The nearest appropriate facility could be down the road, or it could be in a different country. Wherever it is, we’ll get you there.
Every situation is different. The cost of a medevac flight or ambulance depends on where you’re located, what resources are available, the severity of your medical emergency and the location of the nearest medical facility that can treat you. That being said, emergency medical transportation is almost never cheap. Here are estimates of the cost of a medical evacuation in some popular vacation destinations.
• Mexico: $15,000-$20,000
• South America: $100,000
• Germany, France or other developed European nations: $50,000-$100,000
• Russia: $90,000-$150,000 (weather conditions can dramatically increase costs)
• Asia, Australia, and the Middle East: $220,000
Keep in mind that these estimates are just the cost of transporting you to the hospital — not treating you. (The emergency medical benefits in your travel insurance plan can cover the treatment you receive for a covered serious illness or injury.) If you’re in a remote area of a developing nation, or if your injuries are particularly severe, these costs could double or triple.
Emergency medical transportation benefits also can cover the cost of getting you home following a covered injury or illness. Depending on your condition, you may travel home on a commercial flight with a medical escort, called a stretcher flight. The nurse escorting you can administer an IV or oxygen and monitor your condition. This can cost $25,000-$30,000, on average, plus the cost of purchasing eight seats on the flight (to accommodate the stretcher). If you require an air ambulance, it can cost up to $50,000.
Unless you have unlimited funds to pay out of pocket for emergency medical transportation, you need travel insurance. Seay herself purchases the AllTrips Executive Plan, which covers you for multiple trips over 365 days and includes up to $250,000 in emergency medical transportation benefits. “If you travel a lot, it’s to your benefit just to get a yearly policy,” she advises. Buy it once and enjoy peace of mind for an entire year.
If you’re traveling to a remote area or a developing nation, it may be wise to protect yourself with the highest level of coverage: the OneTrip Premier Plan, which includes up to $1,000,000 in emergency medical transportation benefits.
Allianz Global Assistance is truly committed to caring for our customers. Seay, who is a former emergency room director, says her team is like a virtual emergency department; everyone works rapidly to obtain the best possible care for insureds who are suffering a medical crisis. “We do this every day,” she says, “and we’ll get you through it.”