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Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, 13 American cruise ship passengers were evacuated from Japan back to the U.S. this month. The passengers were quarantined for two weeks and have tested positive for the deadly virus. They are currently receiving treatment at the University of Nebraska medical center.

Because there is certainly no quick flight from Japan to Nebraska, amidst the chaos of this deadly outbreak, it’s time to talk about the insurance of Med-Evac coverage.

What Having Med-Evac Coverage Means

Med-Evac coverage, or medical evacuation coverage, will foot the bill if you need to quickly get off a cruise ship or shore excursion and seek care. Many travelers believe that med-evac coverage is tucked away into their standard travel insurance policy. That is rarely the case.

Go over the fine print before you get travel insurance and consider a med-evac add-on if you are not satisfied with your current policy. Med-evac coverage could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses if you travel far and frequently overseas.

When Cruise Ship Passengers Need Medical Evacuation

If you are injured or fall ill on a cruise, you may seek treatment onboard with the cruise doctor. More serious injuries may require outside help and medical evacuation to get you there.

Medical evacuations are more common than you think. Over two million travelers require medical evacuation each year. Not all of these evacuations transport people to care for an injury. Travelers may also need medical evacuation after:

  • Weather emergencies
  • Political crises
  • Illness outbreaks

A lot of these evacuations involve a helicopter. Others don’t. The cruise ship passengers who were evacuated from Japan took airplane flights back for treatment. Boat travel may also bring people to the hospital. For many passengers, the place where you can receive treatment isn’t up to you – it’s up to your insurer.

What Travel Insurance Typically Covers (and What It Doesn’t)

The place where you receive treatment for injuries or illnesses may depend on the type of insurance you have and what you can afford. Standard travel insurance may cover the costs of treatment – at a nearby medical facility.

But the nearest “acceptable” medical facility on your Carribean cruise may not provide the same quality of care that you expect from medical facilities back home. Depending on your plan, only the treatment may be covered. The cost to get you there is probably not included. The language in travel insurance policies can be vague – and that’s not an accident.

If you are not happy with the care you receive or would like to travel home for treatment, you might have to foot the bill for getting home.

Only with medical evacuation insurance can you rest easier about where you might receive care after an evacuation and how you will pay for getting home safely.

The Costs of Medical Evacuation

The risk of not getting medical insurance could quickly reach six digits. A commercial medical evacuation starts at around $10,000. Even if you are being transported within the country, (half of all emergency medical evacuations are domestic) you could still face these high costs.

The distance from home, the care you receive, and the length of your stay at a hospital may all factor into the costs you have to foot without med-evac coverage. Traveling from countries affected by Coronavirus could easily reach $250,000.

Don’t Rely on Your Credit Card Insurance, Either

Just because you have travel insurance from multiple sources does not mean you have med-evac coverage. The CDC lists med-evac coverage, or medical evacuation insurance, as a policy separate from travel insurance. Alternatively, while your insurance may cover medical evacuation, it might not cover as much as you need to be transported safely home in an emergency.

Make Sure You Have the Coverage You Expect

Often, getting proper medical evacuation coverage requires more than just an extra charge to their current plan. Evaluate your current medical evacuation coverage and seek an additional policy. Travelers can easily find a sufficient plan that costs less than $400 each year. These costs certainly look more appealing than the tens of thousands of dollars that you could rack up in an emergency.

Travelex and Medjet are two places to start if you are looking for med-evac coverage. Shop around and see what policy covers the countries you will visit on your cruise and the costs of care in facilities that you trust.

Florida Travel Insurance Lawyer

Shopping for coverage is just one way to stay safe on your next cruise. The more you prepare for your trip, the easier it will be to sit back and relax.


About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.