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Travel medical insurance should be at the top of your vacation to-do list if you’re traveling internationally. Your US health insurance plan may not have global coverage, or might have a high out-of-network deductible. And Medicare is not accepted outside the US in almost all cases.
Although international travel offers excitement, enrichment and enjoyment, there’s always the chance that you could become ill or injured. A comprehensive travel insurance policy will include coverage for medical expenses and emergency medical evacuation. The nominal cost of a travel insurance policy can save you thousands in out-of-pocket expenses if you need medical care while abroad.
And if your condition worsens and you need to be transferred to a higher-tier medical facility, your travel insurance plan covers that transport as part of medical evacuation coverage.
Related: Compare Travel Insurance Quotes for 2021
If your travels take you to a remote location, like a safari tour in Botswana or a private jeep tour in the outback of Australia, it’s smart to have an additional layer of protection in addition to travel insurance. It may be worthwhile to consider a medical transport membership such as Medjet, which will take you by private medivac or private air ambulance to your choice of hospital or even take you back to the US for medical treatment.
It’s important to note that this is a hospital-to-hospital transport only. The membership will not cover the cost of transport to take you to your house.
In addition to Medjet, other companies offering this type of membership and service are International SOS, MedAire, SkyMed and Global Rescue.
What Does an Emergency Transport Membership Cover?
A standard travel insurance policy will generally include emergency medical evacuation benefits that will get you to the closest facility that can “adequately” treat your medical problem. But the nearest adequate facility might not be a top-tier medical facility, or one to your liking. Here’s where a Medjet membership provides added protection.
“All Medjet memberships cover air medical transport to a hospital at home if you become ill or are injured, and are hospitalized while traveling, including for Covid,” says Mike Hallman, CEO of Medjet. “Nobody wants to be stuck in a foreign hospital, so we make sure that doesn’t happen.”
For MedjetAssist members, Medjet makes all the arrangements: ground transport, planes, pilots, and critical-care crew, and they stay in touch with your family and the receiving hospital. “We pay for all the expenses related to the transport,” Hallman says.
Medjet memberships also cover domestic travel: Any time you’re more than 150 miles from your residence, you are eligible for the same medical transport.
A MedjetHorizon membership takes service up a notch by adding 24/7 security and crisis response for a broad range of safety threats while traveling. Hallman says that this membership level offers expert advice and in-country response when you’re dealing with “violent crime, political threat, natural disaster, disappearance, terrorism, kidnapping for ransom, wrongful detention” and other issues that are big traveler concerns these days.
Medjet also handles the repatriation of mortal remains. “If someone passes away in a foreign country, many places can make it very difficult, and very expensive, to get the body back home,” Hallman says. “It’s a complicated process, and I wouldn’t wish it on any grieving family. It’s just better to have someone who knows what they’re doing handling it.”
How Companies Like Medjet Fill Insurance Gaps
Any medical evacuation coverage you have with your travel insurance, business travel benefits, credit card coverage or your personal health insurance (if you’re traveling in the U.S) remains valuable. But a membership like Medjet protects you even more.
“We always recommend that people have travel insurance for hospital bills and trip interruption. But the medical evacuation benefits of most travel insurance (or business insurance, or credit card benefits or health insurance) is strictly geared to get you to the nearest hospital in an emergency,” explains Hallman.
The shortfall of a travel insurance plan can be that it generally focuses on you staying in that hospital for treatment rather than bringing you home, says Hallman. “That’s where we come in. We move you to your home hospital even if the move is not ‘medically necessary.’ You get to make the decision instead of the insurance company.”
And medical repatriation (what Medjet does) is very expensive.
Because Medjet is a membership program, not insurance, there are no claim forms, no deductibles and no post-transport paperwork process.
“There are no mounds of paperwork or out-of-pocket expenses after a transport,” Hallman says. “We’ve had many members call after a transport, looking for the bill to include with all their other filings, and they’re always very pleasantly surprised to find out there isn’t one.”
Common Reasons for Using Medjet
Common reasons for using a Medjet membership can span from twisted ankles to heart attacks to allergic reactions to injuries from car accidents.
Hallman says one patient was a doctor who was doing volunteer clinic work in the Galapagos Islands and had a seizure. “Her husband was back in the US and just wanted her back home, so we had her transported back home,” recalls Hallman.
Another membership holder was a surfer who broke his neck in Nicaragua, where the hospital decided they couldn’t treat him and actually asked him to leave. “His brother arranged for him to be admitted to a top spinal center in Florida, so we got him moved there,” says Hallman.
Another member, a traveler in Egypt, slipped at the pyramids and ended up in (what her husband described as) “a hospital full of cats.” Hallman says she was very relieved when the transport crew arrived to take her.
Who Needs Medjet?
Hallman says anyone who travels could use a Medjet membership.
“Traditionally, our MedjetAssist membership appealed a bit more to the 50+ luxury traveler. Pre-Covid, they really were the demographic that was most concerned with their health and the ability to get home to their own doctors and families in the case of a medical emergency,” says Hallman. “But I think with Covid, even younger travelers are now very concerned about being stuck in a hospital somewhere, so our demographic numbers are definitely trending down a bit.”
With MedjetHorizon, which adds security services, Hallman reports that the typical customer falls between the ages of 35 to 55, especially those who travel alone frequently.
And he says families sending kids abroad also gravitate toward MedjetHorizon. “They want to be able to call someone for safety concerns and be able to get them moved home if they’re really sick or hurt,” explains Hallman.
What Does Medjet Not Provide?
Medjet does not provide medevac (medical evacuation) from the site of an accident. Your travel or health insurance “should cover getting you to the nearest hospital for stabilization in the case of an accident,” he says.
In addition, membership will not provide a ride home just because you’re not feeling well in your hotel room.
And if you go to the ER for, say, for a simple broken wrist or a cut, and are treated and discharged, you are not eligible—because if you’ve been discharged, you no longer need a medical transport, explains Hallman.
Unfortunately, you can’t buy a membership post-illness or post-accident. You must enroll prior to travel.
What Is the Cost of Medjet?
Short-term Medjet memberships start at $99. Annual MedjetAssist memberships, where you can travel as much as you want in a year, up to 90-consecutive days abroad on any one trip, cost $295 for an individual, $399 for a family (two adults and up to five kids).
MedjetHorizon memberships for a short trip start at $184 for an individual or $314 for a family.
There are special student and faculty memberships, expat memberships (for people who will be abroad for longer than 90-days per trip), diamond memberships for people over age 75, and a motorcycle membership, where you not only get home but also get your bike to a repair shop at home.
Erica Lamberg is a personal finance and travel writer based in suburban Philadelphia. She is a regular contributor to USA Today and her writing credits include NBC News, US News & World Report, Business Insider, Oprah Magazine and Creditcards.com.