Do You Really Need Medical Travel Insurance?

Posted on Fri, Dec 08, 2017

This February, a 74 year-old woman from British Columbia was in a tragic car accident while on vacation in California. After her vehicle was struck, she was rushed to the hospital. During her time there she racked up 400 pages worth of medical bills, adding up to more than $500,000. Like many who travel, she was insured in her home country, and would have paid a fraction of that cost had she been injured there. However, very few basic health insurance plans will cover the cost of treatment abroad. This prompts many to ask the question: do I need medical travel insurance?

What is Medical Travel Insurance?

In the United States, conventional health insurance supports the medical costs that we incur in our daily lives and helps us cope with the high cost of emergency treatment if we become seriously injured. The National Institute of Health estimates that a single visit to the emergency room alone costs an average of $1,233. Keep in mind this number is an average, so it reflects the number of emergency room cases that are quick fixes. The cost is much higher for more severe health problems.

While domestic health insurance can help with the cost of treatment at home, things become much stickier abroad. One common myth about seeing a doctor in a foreign country is that the country’s universal healthcare will pay for your visit. Even in countries with robust, government-sponsored healthcare programs, this is simply untrue. As the CDC notes, no foreign government is going to cover the cost of your medical treatment while you are a guest in their country.

This is where medical travel insurance is valuable. A medical travel insurance plan will help to alleviate the cost of medical treatment abroad. As with domestic health insurance, there are a wide variety of plans available to cover a range of medical needs abroad. Unlike with domestic insurance, however, someone looking to purchase medical travel insurance may find themselves picking particular countries in which the plan will apply.

Who Needs Medical Travel Insurance?

So do you need medical travel insurance? It depends. Similar to the domestic insurance market, the reason for having a variety of plan options available is that no one plan will cover every person’s needs; different people have different things to gain or lose from a medical travel insurance plan. Here are some groups of people with more to gain:

  • Adventure Tourists: Adventure tourism is on the rise as young people start to make their way into career paths that provide sufficient income and time off to support incredibly active vacations. Thanks to safety advancements in extreme sports, and the advent of air ambulances, extreme sports are no longer as dangerous as they once were. Nonetheless, according to a 2013 report compiled by the EU, over six million people are treated for sporting-related injuries each year. The message is clear: medical travel insurance can be crucial for adventure tourists.
  • Frequent Fliers: Not many Americans travel overseas for business, but those who do can often spend a lot of time out of the country with clients. When you start to spend more time abroad than in your home country, your domestic health insurance plan starts to lose its value. Medical travel insurance can be a better investment than domestic health insurance for these regular travelers.
  • Medical Tourists: As healthcare costs in America rise, medical tourism is beginning to catch on. By traveling to countries where medical standards are high (but costs remain low), many such tourists are able to save big on otherwise costly treatments. A carefully crafted travel insurance plan could help to lower these costs even further, while providing peace of mind during the ensuing recovery vacation.

Medical travel insurance isn’t for everyone, but for those who could incur high charges for medical treatment abroad, they can be indispensable.


Getting Patients to the Care They Need

Posted on Thu, Nov 09, 2017

A young child is in dire need of heart surgery thanks to a rare congenital defect. Unfortunately, the only qualified and available surgeon is an ocean away. Without the care that she needs, doctors say that there is little hope for this child.  

Though it may seem like the stuff of movies or your favorite hospital show, situations like this come up more often than you may think. In February of 2017, a young Iranian girl named Fatemeh Reshad traveled to the United States for life-saving surgery. The operation to fix her twisted artery was much more likely to succeed under American scalpels, prompting her parents to decide to make the journey.  

The Need for Air Ambulances

Although Fatemeh’s case became news because of its connection to hotly debated political happenings, her circumstances are far from unique. In 2014, over 52,000 patients came to the US for medical care from Canada alone.   

In order to serve the needs of patients like Fatemeh, air ambulances for international travel are capable of supporting ill or injured patients on their way to the medical help they seek. Complete with mobile medical equipment to keep patients comfortable and room for family members to escort their loved ones, these air ambulances represent a growing trend of patients who don’t see borders as they look for the best care.   

One of the most pressing reasons for a patient to travel for medical care is that the very same care is either completely unavailable or relatively unreliable at their current location. This includes patients in need of highly qualified surgeons, such as Fatemeh, but there are other significant reasons why patients might travel.

Burn Centers

Among those reasons is access to specialized equipment. Hospitals and other medical centers often have limited space, so providers have to make choices about what kind of treatment they will accommodate in order to deliver the most effective care. For some places, that choice is to eliminate a burn center in favor of other forms of treatment as Mississippi did in 2006. Burn centers are rare enough that some states don’t have them at all. Burn victims in Delaware, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wyoming are referred to burn centers in nearby states.   

However, transporting a burn victim is no simple task. Often, these patients are unable to move on their own and are highly susceptible to contamination by bacteria that healthy skin would ordinarily provide protection from. For these reasons, conventional air travel is simply not an option. Instead, a patient can be kept in stable condition in a safe environment aboard an air ambulance bound for the nearest burn center.   

Organ Transplants

Availability of medical equipment is an important factor in regional medical care, but it’s not the only one. When doctors need to perform an organ transplant, they are often limited by the compatible organs on hand. Since organs can only last for so long outside of the body, it’s usually best to transplant them into nearby potential recipients rather than transport them across the country to a patient in need.   

For this reason, it’s not uncommon for patients requiring an organ transplant to travel to a city or hospital where they stand a better chance of getting the organ they need. This is where air ambulances come in. Often, the underlying cause of organ failure and the symptoms of the failing organ itself leave a patient in a precarious state. By travelling via an air ambulance that can respond to a patient’s needs, he or she can reach their transplant site safely.   

Medical Tourism

Not all international medical treatment takes place in such dire circumstances under such a pressing medical need. Instead, medical tourists will take the time to shop around for the best deal on a particular kind of treatment. Although no one knows how many medical tourists there really are, it’s estimated that thousands of Americans travel for the most affordable care every year.  
Faced with prohibitively high healthcare costs in their home states, medical tourists can often find providers abroad that offer the same quality of healthcare at a much lower cost. Take, for example, the case of Michael Shopenn, who saved over $86,000 by looking overseas for surgery.  
Medical tourists often turn some of their savings into a recovery vacation, enjoying tacos in Mexico or beaches in Thailand, while they wait until they are fit to travel again. When it’s time to return home, an air ambulance can help alleviate the risk of blood clots faced by those who travel after surgery. 

Highly trained surgeons, medical equipment and organs can be difficult to find near one’s home. However, thanks to state of the art air ambulances patients can get the care that they need.      


Travelling With a Chronic Illness

Posted on Mon, Aug 28, 2017

travelling-with-a-chronic-illness.jpgTravelling is a demanding task that often involves a great deal of physical exertion, and travelling to new areas can put even the healthiest immune system to the test. With this in mind, the stress is multiplied by tenfold for those travelling with a chronic illness, as many illnesses and treatments may lower the efficacy of the body’s immune system.

Travelling with a chronic illness requires a great deal of early preparation in order to ensure a safe trip. What will you need to bring? In case of an emergency during your trip, are you familiar with air ambulance transport services? These are questions that should be asked along the way. Thankfully, with careful planning, an individual living with an illness can still experience one of the many joys of the human experience – exploration.

We have put together a list of steps to take in order to make your trip as relaxed as possible.

Visit Your Doctor Before Travelling

It is highly important to visit your doctor and completing a pre-travel physical exam before you leave. We suggest doing this at least a month in advance, just in case you require any special treatment or medication to travel. This is especially important if you plan on travelling to a new country, because these trips often require specific vaccinations to prevent area-specific diseases from attacking your body. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 26% of travelers returned ill from Africa, followed by 17% returning from Southeast Asia. This is why it is important to ask your doctor about any travel-specific preventative measures that need to be taken before you begin your adventure.

Bring a Copy of Your Health History

It is recommended that you bring an up-to-date and signed copy of your health history information sheet (HHIS). This should include both personal and emergency contact information, as well as in-depth coverage of your medical diagnosis, previous treatments, and information regarding any medications you are currently taking. This document will significantly assist any care you may need in the event of a medical emergency.

Prepare the Medications You Are Taking

Of course, if you are currently taking medications, you should be sure to bring them with you on your journey. Yet, it is equally important to bring an extra supply of medication – enough to cover the necessary doses for your entire trip, plus two or three extra days to cover any unplanned delays. Furthermore, always bring signed copies of your prescriptions. This will help prevent any misunderstanding when it comes to flying with medication or syringes, as many airlines have very strict restrictions when it comes to what can be brought on an airplane.

Verify Your Insurance Information

Travel insurance is especially important for those travelling with chronic illnesses, because preexisting illnesses may require a last-minute trip cancellation or picking up an unforeseen illness during your travels may require an early trip home. With this in mind it is important to understand what most travel insurance providers cover. Here is a list of the most common coverage points:

Trip Cancellation Insurance

The trip is cancelled before departure due to personal illness, or illness within the party you are travelling with.

Trip Interruption

An illness caused the trip to end early, causing you to lose unspent travel expenses.

Emergency Medical Care

Covers medical treatment needed outside of your current health insurance network.

Emergency Evacuation

The country or area you are in cannot provide the necessary medical care, forcing an emergency trip home.

Most of the above coverage points are standard coverage items in travel insurance plans, but it is important that your travel insurance provider will suit your needs before you leave.


It is important to perform the necessary preparation. Doing so will significantly reduce the chances of any problems along the way. Afterall, travelling should be a fun and relaxing experience for anyone involved.


6 Common Mistakes When Searching for Medical Travel Insurance

Posted on Tue, Jul 25, 2017

travel-image-(1).jpgMedical travel insurance can provide great peace of mind for travelers of all types. Whether you are an adventure-seeking vacationer, an international student, or even have to travel for work, the hazards of the road (and seas and skies) can wreck havoc on even the safest travelers. However, getting the full benefit of any medical travel insurance requires a little extra effort on your part. The following list highlights six of the most common mistakes people make when selecting a medical travel insurance plan--and how you can avoid making them.

1. Thinking Your Primary Insurance Covers You

Unfortunately, most standard medical insurance plans are strictly domestic--in fact, it is not uncommon for provider networks to be limited to one state or even city. That means traveling--especially abroad--definitely puts you well outside of your normal insurer’s coverage area. Making it back home to receive the care you need very likely will not be covered by your standard plan, so medical travel insurance is definitely a worthwhile investment. Another important note: travel insurance is NOT the same as medical travel insurance. Buying travel insurance through an airline may cover cancellations and disruptions to your trip, but it provides no protection whatsoever for medical emergencies or air ambulance services.  

2. Pre-Existing Conditions

Travelers get exposed to all sorts of unusual diseases and injury risks; however, sometimes health problems crop up that aren’t the result of travel. The Affordable Care Act’s provisions don’t apply to this realm of medical insurance. That means, depending on the provider and plan, you may need additional coverage to ensure any pre-existing medical conditions will qualify. Whether you are managing a chronic illness or just have a history of a particular health problem, that may fall under the “pre-existing” category and be exempt from coverage, so double-check ahead of time, and select your coverage accordingly.  

3. Forgetting Prescription Drugs

Most of the time, taking your prescription medication with you is relatively straight-forward. However, there is no guarantee that you won’t run into trouble transporting drugs with you in your travels, or that you’ll be able to buy more locally should you run out of your supply. It pays to know in advance what the local laws are, as well as the pharmacy situation whatever your destination. You should also double-check what kind of prescription coverage your travel insurance offers, and whether it will help pay the local price to buy meds, or will deliver your prescription to you from a home pharmacy.  

4. Location-Specific Coverage

If you are going on an especially long trip, or to somewhere like Europe with many different cities and countries nearby, there is a good chance your plans will change to include multiple destinations. If you aren’t careful, you may end up with a medical travel insurance plan that only applies to your original destination, or won’t extend coverage when you fail to disclose a change of travel plans in advance. Updating your itinerary from the road or trying to get clearance before every new excursion can be a pain. To be safe, make sure your insurance plan makes allowances for multi-country trips, or doesn’t restrict coverage when there is even a slight chance you’ll be on the go while traveling.  

5. Emergency Transportation Services

Not every travel health insurance policy covers emergency medical evacuation. If you are going on an extended trip or working abroad, you may get a health insurance plan not unlike the one you have at home, which covers treatment at your destination, but not transportation. Should you require specialist care, or otherwise need an emergency ambulance service to get back home, you’ll need to make sure this is actually covered as part of your medical travel insurance. Some plans include ambulance or transportation services as a standard feature; others take a more a la carte approach, and you will have to personally elect to have this included with your plan.  

6. Counting On Someone Else to Cover You

This is especially common when your travel is for business purposes, but it can apply to anyone. Never assume that some third party--an employer, a travel companion, your destination host--has coverage for your emergency medical expenses. Liability in these cases can be tricky, and frankly, you’re better off having the insurance upfront than being able to sue for damages after the fact. Plan ahead, communicate, and determine for certain whether you must purchase your own insurance, or if someone else is taking care of it, exactly what plan they are buying. They could just as easily have missed any of the above steps on your behalf when choosing a medical travel insurance plan.


How to Prepare When Traveling for Medical Treatment

Posted on Tue, Jun 13, 2017

Not all travels are for pleasure. Unfortunately, some travels are made for dire, life-threatening situations. One of these instances is traveling for medical treatment; something that has become a growing trend in America. In 2009, Health Magazine estimated six million Americans traveled abroad for surgeries and medical services on a yearly basis.

Whether you have decided to search abroad for medical treatment, or whether you need a lift to the nearest specialty hospital; there are certain steps you should take as a patient to guarantee a fluid and safe transition between hospitals. Air ambulance services are there to ensure you have a safe journey, but how can you prepare for the trip?

Medical_Treatment_2648.jpgGetting Your Papers in Order

Before you leave the state or your home, do your best to collect all the necessary documents you’ll need for your travels.

International medical travel If you’re traveling abroad, you’ll need to make sure you have more than just your passport. For starters, air ambulance services will require some upfront information about the patient and any of the patient’s accompanying passengers. Namely, first and last legal name, passport information, date of birth, nationality, and any Visa information.

For other internationally traveling medical patients, they may need to bring a comprehensive list of all their symptoms, recent tests, family history, and blood work: also known as your Health History Information Sheet (HHIS). This will help the doctor you are traveling to have a full understanding of your needs.

Local medical travel If you are traveling locally - within the states - to another hospital that can better serve you, bringing an HHIS can also be beneficial. With our current state of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in the United States, not all hospitals are able to share patient information. Having a hard copy can help prevent that and save time.

Similarly, be sure to have copies of your medical insurance card, in case you need to check for coverage, and a signed copy of your prescribed prescriptions. Having a supply of your medication with you could also help in the case of the hospital not having it on hand, or issues with foreign medication. Be sure that you have more than a day’s supply of medicine, and consider having back up for after you arrive at the hospital.

Medical_Treatment_6716.jpgCover Your Bases

Getting from point A to point B is not always as simple as it seems. When considering transportation services, be sure to cover your bases. You’ll need more than transportation through the air, and checking the coverage of ground transportation is just as important. With AMR Air Ambulance, quotes for service cover both in the air and on the ground services, but not all organizations combine the two.

Make Arrangements for Family or Partner

Make arrangements with your air ambulance escort to allow room for your significant other, children, or travel partner. Most air ambulances have enough space to ensure the comfort of the patient and accessibility of the staff, but very little room is available for passengers or their luggage. Planning ahead will help prepare the service for an extra passenger on the flight.

Before you leave, you will need to make sure your travel partner has a comfortable place to stay while you’re in the hospital. Often times hospitals will partner with local charities or hotels to offer special rates and housing for those traveling with a patient. This is known as patient family housing; the Ronald McDonald house is an example. Call the hospital where you are staying to see if they suggest any local hotels or inns. If not, then look at the local listings for the most affordable and comfortable options for your travel partner.


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