Preparing for Medical Evacuations Abroad
Thousands of students participating in international travel programs suffer serious injuries or illnesses each year. In fact, a United Educators (UE) 2015 claims study found that 22% of study abroad claims stemmed from an injury or illness. In serious incidents, students may need medical evacuation from remote locations or require advanced medical facilities.
Prepare your K-12 school, college, or university by purchasing medical evacuation coverage and enlisting outside assistance.
Medical evacuations abroad can cost several hundred thousand dollars. If your institution purchases insurance to defray costs, understand that the breadth of coverage differs greatly. When evaluating a carrier, address these questions:
- Does the policy limit who can perform evacuations? The State Department recommends evacuation providers accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Services (CAMTS). CAMTS responds to questions about evacuation providers and lists accredited providers on its website. Enlisting a non-covered provider may not be covered.
- Where will travelers be transported? Some policies evacuate sick or injured travelers to the closest advanced medical center, not necessarily the U.S. For example, following an emergency in central Africa, an insurer may only pay for transport to a hospital in South Africa. But in a health crisis, travelers often insist on returning to the U.S., and this conflict can put your institution in a difficult position. For recommendations on how to accommodate ill or injured travelers, review At Risk Abroad: Lessons From Claims.
- Does the policy also cover hospitalization? Hospitalization and medical costs can be expensive. Most U.S. health insurance plans don’t cover expenses incurred abroad. Negotiate with travel insurers when possible to cover hospitalization costs.
- What exclusions apply? Read policy exclusions carefully. Epidemics may not be covered due to the expense and risk of transporting patients. Policies may exclude certain countries or regions. If medical evacuation coverage is unavailable for a certain location, consider whether travel to that area is consistent with your institution’s risk tolerance. For more information, review When to Cancel or Alter Study Abroad Programs .
Seek Other Sources of Evacuation Help
Insurance is only one component of risk management. Consider consulting other resources to prepare for medical evacuations abroad, such as:
- Experienced brokers. Insurance brokers with experience in international travel policies know what to ask insurers and how to negotiate on an institution’s behalf. They also know which insurers and providers offer quality customer service and a robust crisis management plan.
- The U.S. State Department. Local medical and emergency information is available on the website of the embassy or consulate closest to the travel location. An officer from a U.S. embassy or consulate can help locate medical services. Remember that the State Department only assists in an emergency; it doesn’t pay hospitalization or evacuation.
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About the Author
Joe Vossen, JD
CPCU, Resolutions Counsel
Joe is a member of UE’s Resolutions department, where he handles bodily injury and education liability claims. He is a former member of UE’s Risk Research team and, prior to that, practiced insurance defense law. His areas of expertise include LGBTQ protections, use of force by campus police, athletic injuries, and study abroad.