• Study Abroad
  • Insights
  • Higher Ed
  • K-12

Preparing for Medical Evacuations Abroad

Joe Vossen, JD, CPCU
June 2021
To ensure you are prepared to evacuate students in international travel programs should they experience illnesses or serious injuries, purchase medical evacuation coverage and enlist outside assistance.

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.

Purchase Insurance

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.


More From UE
At Risk Abroad: Lessons From Higher Ed Claims
Additional Resources
State Department: Your Health Abroad
State Department: Insurance Providers for Overseas Coverage

Added to My Favorites

This content was added to My Favorites.

1 of 3 documents are ready for download

The document "Long document name goes right here" is ready. Downloads expire after 14 days. Your remaining documents will be ready in a few minutes. Lorem ipsum dolor, sit amet consectetur adipisicing elit. Quod deserunt temporibus qui nostrum aliquid error cupiditate praesentium! In, voluptatibus minima?

Go to the Document Center