By Chaitanya Bala
Anytime you look at a travel insurance policy, you may notice that the emergency medical evacuation travel insurance benefit amount is probably the one that sticks out the most over all the other benefits you see. While medical treatment benefits from different policies usually only cover up to $50,000, you may notice that emergency medical evacuation expenses cover significantly more money. And often times if you’ve been shopping for a policy and have been consulting with a customer service rep, they really stress the benefit of emergency medical evacuation. You may even have been urged to upgrade to a higher policy so you can get a better medical evacuation travel insurance benefit.
But, is emergency medical evacuation coverage really that necessary?
You think you’d probably only need it if you were going on a safari adventure in the jungles of Africa, or hiking up the Himalayas. And you certainly wouldn’t need it if you’re just exploring the Unites States, right? That’s what I thought before I sat down to speak with our customer service team and learned just how wrong I was. Here are three real stories, both in and out of our company that helped paint a picture of just how important the emergency medical evacuation benefit is.
The Cuban Crisis
This was a highly publicized event concerning a University of South Florida student. A girl named Barbara Jimenez had made plans to visit Havana, Cuba along with her boyfriend, John, to visit her extended family there. Before she left, she didn’t have any travel insurance or health insurance for that matter.
DUN. DUN. DUUUN….
Fast forward a couple weeks, and she’s cruising around Havana with her boyfriend when a military truck slams into them, leaving them both critically injured. John is able to get back to Miami and receive treatment. But Barbara is unable to because she has no medical insurance in the United States that would cover her treatment costs.
Unfortunately, the Cuban doctors couldn’t help Barbara’s critical medical case, and they were forced to send her back home to Miami on emergency medical transportation. In the end, medical transportation and treatment cost her and her family over $50,000, a price they’re still working to pay back.
If we think about this in retrospect, two things could’ve prevented the financial distress Barbara’s family is in right now: having proper health insurance to begin with, and investing in travel insurance for her trip. Why? Well, the insane cost incurred while Barbara was airlifted to Miami could’ve easily been waived had she just purchased a travel insurance policy before venturing to Cuba in the first place.
The French Fiasco
As I sat down to speak with Lisa Garrett, one of our customer service reps, I remembered that Juan, another customer service rep, had told me to bring up the story of her Uncle Frank. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. But as soon as I muttered “Uncle Frank”, Lisa lit up as she recounted the fiasco that had occurred in Paris 10 years earlier.
Lisa’s Uncle Frank, a 70-something year old man, had just gotten remarried after getting out of a 40-year marriage. He and his new wife had planned to go to Paris, France to celebrate their honeymoon. Lisa recalls her uncle was a huge art buff, and was ecstatic about visiting all the art museums in Paris. Despite being in his 70s, Uncle Frank was relatively healthy for his age, and so his doctor signed off on his trip to Paris.
However, just 2 days into his trip, Uncle Frank tripped and fell face-first into the ground. He was rushed to a local hospital where he wasn’t able to communicate what had happened to him, and inconveniently enough, there was no English-speaking staff available. The hospital officials sent Uncle Frank to an English-speaking hospital where the doctors ultimately decided it would be better that he be flown back to the U.S. to receive treatment.
Fortunately, Uncle Frank had purchased travel insurance before his trip. If he hadn’t, he’d have had to pay for the emergency medical evacuation out of pocket, which surely would’ve taken a huge chunk out of his retirement fund.
A Look Too Deep
After recalling what a relief it had been that Uncle Frank had purchased a travel insurance policy, Lisa pulled out a picture from her shelf. It was of a girl at the hospital with bruises and scabs up and down her arms, but she was smiling and showing two thumbs up. “Wow, who’s that?” I asked Lisa. That’s when she told me about Sarah’s near-death experience.
One of our past customers, Sarah, had gone down to Texas with a group of friends to go hiking along the local trails and camp out in the rural countryside. While climbing up one of the cliffs, Sarah peaked over the edge of a cliff a little too far, tripped, and fell 45 feet.
Sarah survived the accident and had medical insurance available to cover the treatment needed at the hospital. However, she still needed to be airlifted from the remote cliff to a local hospital in order to receive treatment. Since she hadn’t purchased travel insurance prior to her trip, her medical evacuation cost her $8,000.
The interesting thing to note about this case is that, unlike Barbara and Uncle Frank, Sarah didn’t even venture out into the unknown. She didn’t go halfway across the globe for her vacation. She literally traveled a couple hundred miles south of her hometown in Minnesota, and still encountered an accident grave enough that a travel insurance policy could’ve really benefited her.
Now, with all this said and done, is it likely you’ll face similar circumstances as these individuals who had to be evacuated to a hospital that could treat them? Well, we really can’t answer that – and that’s the scary thing. There’s absolutely no way of knowing for sure whether or not you’ll find yourself in a similar situation. But in the end, it’s probably safer to dish out a few hundred dollars on a travel insurance policy if that means you can potentially save thousands in the long run, and have peace of mind while traveling.