How to avoid a $100,000 airfare

George Hobica, June 12, 2009
Fares from Washington DC:

    Think airfares are high? Well actually, they're not really, adjusted for inflation anyway. But if you think it costs a lot to fly from Boise to Juneau (and it does), you haven't seen how much it costs to fly in a medical evacation jet. "Fares" can easily reach $100,000 one way from some remote locations.

    That's why joing a medical evacuation program could be a nest egg saver.

    Several companies specialize in emergency medical air charters and annual memberships are surprisingly inexpensive considering the potential losses.

    The best known are two Birmingham AL-based membership programs: Medjet Assist and AirMed As long as you're 150 miles or more from home, once you're medically stabilized either will fly you to whatever hospital you or your family request at no cost.

    MedJet charges $250 per year for a single membership for individuals up to 75 years of age or $385 for a family of up to two adults and five minor children.  Coverage for individual trips is also offered starting at $95. AirMed charges $250 per year for single travelers up to age 75 or $350 for a family of seven. One distinction between the two firms is that AirMed owns and operates its own fleet of three custom-designed aircraft whereas MedJet charters aircraft from air ambulance firms as needed.

    Both companies are careful to state that they do not provide "insurance": rather, they are membership programs, in much the same way that the AAA offers services for its members. As such, neither company will pay for medical bills. For that, there is standard travel insurance, from companies such as TravelGuard (www.travelguard.com), which also bundles in evacuation coverage in some plans. But some travel insurance policies do not provide medevac flights back to the hospital of your choice; rather, they send you to the nearest appropriate medical facility at their discretion. So read the fine print.

    Many health insurance policies, such as those issued by Blue Cross or Aetna, will pay for emergency medical care overseas, but there still may be standard deductibles and copayments, and the insured may have to pay costs out of pocket and get reimbursed later. (Medicare and Medicaid will not cover you overseas, however, unless you've bought supplemental coverage.) But they will not pay for medical jet transportation back home. Something to think about next time you travel.
     

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