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Emergency Medical Evacuation Travel Insurance - Review


We are going to look at the different types of emergency medical evacuation travel insurance, the different ways they work, the limits offered by the insurance companies and what to look for when comparing travel insurance plans.

What is Emergency Medical Evacuation?

There seems to be confusion when we speak to people about emergency medical evacuation insurance and we would like to clear up the mystery. To do this we must look at different definitions, scenarios, and the policy language of some of our providers’ plans.

Emergency medical evacuation insurance can be found in several types of travel insurance plans.

Comprehensive Travel Insurance

First, all comprehensive travel insurance policies should include an emergency medical evacuation benefit. The benefit limits can be listed at $100k up to $1m or more per traveler depending on the policy you choose.  A comprehensive trip insurance plan should also include emergency medical treatment, trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage loss or damage, baggage delay and trip delay.

Travel medical plans include emergency medical evacuation with benefit limits generally listed between $100k -  $1m.  In addition, a travel medical plan will cover emergency medical treatment, baggage loss and damage, and will include some limited trip interruption.

What does Emergency Medical Evacuation do?

Each trip insurance policy will define emergency medical evacuation in its own way, but below are some of the more common definitions from plans reviewed by AardvarkCompare:

Emergency medical evacuation means

  1. (a)Transportation from the place where the Insured is Injured or sick to the nearest adequate licensed medical facility where appropriate medical treatment can be obtained; and/or
  2. (b)Transportation from a local medical facility to the nearest adequate licensed medical facility to obtain appropriate medical treatment if the onsite attending Physician certifies that additional Medically Necessary treatment is needed but not locally available; and the Insured is medically able to travel; and/or
  3. (c)Transportation to the adequate licensed medical facility nearest the Insured’s home to obtain further medical treatment or to recover, after being treated at a local licensed medical facility, and the onsite attending Physician determines that the Insured is medically able to be transported.
  4. Emergency medical evacuation is a physician-ordered Transportation Expense which is arranged and approved by Our Program Assistance Provider. (An unscheduled return by the same or like mode of transportation as originally scheduled without additional transportation requirements is not a Medical Evacuation.)  We will pay the Usual and Customary level of charges for Transportation Expense for an emergency Medical Evacuation to the nearest Hospital or medical facility where suitable Medically Necessary treatment is available, provided:

    1. Your local attending Physician and We or Our Program Assistance Provider determine that Your condition is acute, severe or life threatening; and
    2. that adequate Medically Necessary treatment is not available in Your immediate area.
  5. If the local attending Legally Qualified Physician and the Program Medical Advisor determine that transportation to a Hospital or medical facility is Medically Necessary to treat an unforeseen Sickness or Injury which is acute or life threatening and adequate Medical Treatment is not available in the immediate area, the Transportation Expense incurred will be paid for the Usual and Customary Charges for transportation to the closest Hospital or medical facility capable of providing that treatment.

**Emergency Medical Evacuation - Example **

As you can see, the definitions are similar with small differences. But what they all do is get you from the original local facility that cannot treat your injury or illness to a facility that can treat your injury or illness.

A good example is you are traveling in France and after a fabulous dinner you feel chest pain and shortness of breath. An ambulance comes and takes you to the local hospital emergency room for examination.  The emergency room physician diagnosis a heart attack. This hospital is world renowned for bone surgery and their orthopedic department.  However, they have no cardiologist on staff and no cardiac department.  At this point you would have to be evacuated from that facility to the nearest hospital that does have a cardiologist and a cardiac department.  This could be a simple matter of another ambulance ride to the next town, or as complicated as being transported in a flying hospital to another country.

So, what happens once you are stable, and the physician says you cannot continue your trip and you need further treatment?

Medically Necessary Repatriation

Once you have been stabilized and travel would not put your health at additional risk, you can be brought back to your place of residence or to the hospital nearest your home for further treatment.  This is called medical repatriation. Again, mode of transportation depends on the severity of the injury or illness.  You may travel home with an economy airfare ticket or it could be that flying hospital we mentioned above.  In one of the policies reviewed by AardvarkCompare states:

“The company will pay for a Medical Evacuation to return You to Your point of origin, Your primary place of residence, or to a Hospital or medical facility closest to Your primary place of residence capable of providing continued treatment, if Your local attending Physician and We or Our Program Assistance Provider determine that it is Medically Necessary. “

So, if you fell in Tibet, hit your head and thought you broke your ankle, you could be evacuated to a facility for treatment. A day later the physician says you sprained your ankle and must stay off it for 7-10 days and have follow up treatment in 4 days, and your CAT scan showed no concussion.  The physician says you cannot continue your trip since there is a lot of walking and the terrain is too rough for a wheel chair and you may need surgery.  He recommends that you be repatriated home for further treatment and recovery.  In this case you would most likely fly home on a commercial airline without the assistance of a nurse.  However, since your ankle must be elevated, you may be flying first class where there is more room.

In the instance of a heart attack, the physician may say that a bypass surgery is necessary back home in the US.  If the physician can stabilize your condition and certifies that getting you back to the US will not cause further damage, you may be flown home in a medical jet with a nurse and physician on board to monitor your condition and to escort you to the hospital nearest your home.

If you want to be taken to a specific hospital that is not the nearest to your home, you may want to look into trip insurance that includes “Hospital of Choice” evacuation insurance.

Hospital of Choice Emergency Medical Evacuation Insurance

Hospital of Choice means if you are in a facility incapable of treating your illness or injury, you may choose the hospital you are evacuated to.  We like the idea of hospital of choice especially for senior travelers who are much more comfortable in a familiar setting. Keep in mind, if you are not stable, the medical evacuation will be to the nearest facility that can treat and stabilize you.  Once you are able to travel, you would be medically evacuated to the hospital of your choice.  This could be the hospital in your hometown, or the Mayo Clinic across the country from your home.

iTravelInsured LX emergency medical evacuation insurance states:

You may choose to be transported to a Hospital in a city within the United States of America other than Your primary place of residence, but the maximum amount payable is limited to the cost of transportation to Your primary place of residence.

What this means is you can choose to be transported to any hospital you choose.  However, if the hospital is further away than your home, you will be responsible for the costs incurred from your home to the hospital of your choice.

A few Medical Evacuation plans state you will be evacuated to the hospital of your choice anywhere within your home country.  If the hospital is away from the travelers home town and the traveler is released to return home, transportation will be arranged and paid for under the medical evacuation policy.

What happens to the traveling companions when a traveler is medically evacuated?

If your traveling companions have comprehensive travel insurance policies and they do not want to continue the trip without you, they can use their trip interruption insurance benefit to cut their trip short and return home.  If you are traveling with a minor child, the emergency medical evacuation benefit will pay to return the child to the US if you are hospitalized for 3-7 days, depending on the policy you choose.  In addition, if you are traveling by yourself and must be hospitalized for 3-7 days depending on the policy you choose, you can choose someone to come to your bedside and the costs will be paid for by the medical evacuation benefit.

Repatriation of Mortal Remains

On occasion, the unthinkable happens, and a traveler may die. No one can be prepared for this type of tragedy and it is especially hard for the traveling companions and family members. In addition to emergency medical evacuation, trip insurance also includes repatriation of remains.

One of the trip insurance policies reviewed by AardvarkCompare states:

  • Benefits will be paid for covered Repatriation Expenses incurred, up to the Maximum Benefit Amount shown in the Schedule of Benefits, to return Your body to Your city of primary residence in the United States of America if You die during Your Trip.
  • In the event of Your death during a Trip, the expense incurred will be paid for minimally necessary casket or air tray, preparation and transportation of Your remains to Your primary place of residence in the United States of America or to the place of burial.

That is to say, if you or a traveling companion dies while on the covered trip, the cost of the casket, the cost to prepare the body, and the cost to transport the body back to the US will be covered under the Repatriation of Remains portion of the travel insurance policy up to the limit listed in the schedule of benefits.

Pre-Existing Medical Conditions

A pre-existing medical condition is defined as

“an illness, disease, or other condition during the specified period immediately prior to the date Your coverage is effective for which You  or Your Traveling Companion, Business Partner or Family Member scheduled or booked to travel with You: 1) received or received a recommendation for a test, examination, or Medical Treatment for a condition which first manifested itself, worsened or became acute or had symptoms which would have prompted a reasonable person to seek diagnosis, care or treatment; or 2) took or received a prescription for drugs or medicine.

Item (2) of this definition does not apply to a condition which is treated or controlled solely through the taking of prescription drugs or medicine and remains treated or controlled without any adjustment or change in the required prescription throughout the sixty specified period before coverage is effective under this Policy.”

Pre-existing medical conditions are specifically excluded from coverage on comprehensive trip insurance plans and on travel medical plans.  However, some of the travel insurance companies do not apply this exclusion to Medical Evacuation or Repatriation.

In one of the travel insurance policies reviewed by AardvarkCompare the following exclusion is found:

Coverage is excluded due to a Pre-Existing Condition, as defined in the Policy. The Pre-Existing Condition Limitation does not apply to the Emergency Medical Evacuation or return of remains coverage.

We do recommend reviewing travel insurance documents prior to purchasing to determine which coverages you have and, more importantly, which you do not have. We know that travel insurance policy language can be difficult to read and understand so AardvarkCompare is available for all of your travel insurance questions. Our team is always available to talk with via email, chat or phone.

Travel Insurance - General Recommendations

Our travel and travel insurance experts recommend several things when buying travel insurance:

  • We recommend having at least $100k in emergency medical coverage if you are traveling outside of the US.
  • We recommend having at least $250k in emergency medical evacuation.
  • We recommend purchasing travel insurance right after or very soon after placing money on the trip in order to be eligible for time sensitive benefits such as a Medical Waiver.
  • We recommend comparing travel insurance plans prior to purchasing to get the best value for your travel needs.

For clarity, time sensitive benefits are those benefits only available during the 10-21 days (depending on the policy you choose) after you place your first payment or deposit on your trip.  These benefits include the pre-existing medical conditions waiver, Cancel For Any Reason, Cancel For Work Reason, and Interruption For Any Reason.

Will I get a better deal on the policy cost by going to the insurer directly?

No way!  We do not increase or decrease rates given to us by the carriers.  We can’t, no one can due to strict travel insurance regulations.  AardvarkCompare guarantees that you will not find a better price on the same plan anywhere.

Have questions?  Why don’t you call, chat or email?  We’re here for you and we would love to answer your questions.

Safe travels.

Recent AardvarkCompare Travel Insurance Customer Reviews


TP3 | AardvarkCompare.com

I Panicked When I Discovered I panicked when I discovered the Travel Insurance I had through Expedia had expired when I changed my flight reservation. When I went to renew I was told I couldn't. I discovered Aardvark on my AARP site and I was excited I could purchase a an even better travel plan with coverage starting with my trip departure, at a cost I could afford. I was confused with the initial site and was Mr. Breeze reached out to me for clarification. He explained the policy more thoroughly and addressed all my concerns, can't get any better then that! Thank You Aardvark and thank you Jonathan for your assistance. I can go on my trip now knowing I'll be covered for medical emergencies, and then some. _ _Barbara


Good Choices, Well Explained I liked the way insurance was explained. I had read an article your company had written explaining Expedia trip coverage versus other choices. I used this advice to make the best choice for me and my traveling companions. That choice was to take a policy that provided much better medical and evacuation primary care. Your site allowed comparisons, and I think I got the best value for my money. I don't like constant follow up emails. You could back off a bit!! Louise

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