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Travel Insurance - cost of emergency evacuation from ship to hospital


ghstudio
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This is a very specific question about the cost of being evacuated from the ship to a hospital given an emergency medical condition. This is NOT a question about how you get home from that hospital once you get better (or not).

 

It's my understanding that in the US, their is no charge by the US Coast Guard for emergency evacuations...in fact that part I am quite sure of. If you need to evacuated from a ship off Miami or Puerto Rico, the coast guard will pick you up and there will be no charge.

 

I believe there is a general agreement (not sure if it's in writing) that all countries will provide emergency evacuation from ships at sea at no charge as well. Again...that's picking you up on the ship and taking you to a hospital. I am unable to confirm this on the internet...I find lots of insurance companies saying they'll pay for this, but I don't think they actually get a bill....if so, it's a sham feature used to scare folks into buying insurance.

 

Does anyone have any experience or know what the policy is for other countries? If there is a charge by some country, does anyone know the approximate cost.

 

(Note: I know that in the swiss alps, they do charge for search and rescue..but that's very different).

 

 

As I said...the cost of flying from a remote hospital to one that can really help you (or home) can be considerable...I know that....but that's not what I'm looking for here.

Edited by ghstudio
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You are presuming that the evacuation is automatically done by the government of the country the patient is evacuated to. That may not be the case. The nearest government medical helicopter may be too far away to arrive in time so a private company would then be the one to conduct the evacuation. It isn't just the helicopter or boat needed for the evacuation but the skilled medical personnel to care for the person during transport.

 

I did some quick research and there is a company in Panama that does emergency evacuations at a cost of approximately $4500 which includes one paramedic. Specialized care is extra and "international" evacuations start at $15,000 and go up from there. Their site is here: http://www.aircharterpanama.com/html/medical_evac.html

 

I have never heard of any general agreement to evacuate ill passengers from a cruise ship at no charge. Especially considering that this kind of service is not readily available in many Caribbean countries that are struggling to provide basic medical services in many areas.

 

While the US Coast Guard does not charge for MEDEVAC services, whether another country would do so is going to depend on the availability of the military to provide the service and the cost involved. Considering that most if not all foreign hospitals will not even treat a patient without payment it stands to logic that they would charge for emergency evacuation that occurred at significant cost to them for doing so.

 

One last reason to have the insurance: if you need emergency medical evacuation off the ship it is very likely that the nearest medical facility may not be able to provide the care needed and they automatically transfer you which will most likely be at a significant charge. I have encountered patients MEDEVAC transported back from the Caribbean who encountered bills as high as $25,000 or more for the service. I for one don't have that kind of liquid cash laying around. I carry trip insurance for that very reason.

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I was on a cruise two years ago with several friends and one had to be evacuated back to Miami the first night of the cruise. One of the nurses told her before she was transported it might cost up to $60,000. I nearby when she called her husband that night and told him, she was in tears. Coast Guard did picked her up, so indeed there was no cost but she recently told me if the Coast Guard had not been available at the time a private company would have been used and it would have cost her. She had not purchased travel insurance, but will never cruise without it again! Small price to pay for the piece of mind.

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For the UK, sea search and rescue is the responsibiity of the Coast Guard service [on behalf of the Government]. Civilian search and rescue is carried out by the Coast Guard [a Vounteer Service], search and rescue helicopters under contract to the Maritime & Coast Guard agency, the Royal Navy, the RAF and the RNLI [Royal National Lifeboat Institution] who are a charity manned, primarily, by volunteers and independent of the govenment. So, it is a mixture of charity, government organisations and private businesses. Although I cannot find any reference to charges during a quick Internet search, I think that I have heard that the MCA reserves to right to charge in certain circumstances. News reports sometimes mention the cost of rescue operations [usually when someone has been reckless] which are in the high tens of thousands of pounds sterling.

 

The UK has a clearly defined area of responsibility. I am sure that this is the same for all national agencies. Transatlantic, transpacific and other cruises probably pass through areas where there is no direct responsibility by any national agency.

 

However, my private medical insurance in the UK does NOT cover any overseas travel BUT does include evacuation at sea and, therefore, I am fairly certain that it is rare for charges to be made for this service.

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Whilst medical evacuation may be free, don't forget that any treatment on board will be charged for. Whilst I was having treatment for a badly cut toe ($400!), I had an chance to see the 'price list', I might be wrong, but I think whilst in port, an escorted transfer to a local hospital would be in the region of $2000. I cannot believe that people would travel without insurance!

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Don't forget to check your own health insurance policy first to see what, if any, emergency evacuation and medical coverage you already have when traveling.

 

Some people have been intimidated into throwing away their money to buy unnecessary additional travel insurance that only duplicated coverage they already had.

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Too much of a gamble for me, knowing a medevac easily runs into the tens of thousands of dollars. To say nothing of how in countries outside the US, they may require payment up front of the bill before being willing to treat.

 

Trip insurance covered treatment for my son when he had a bad asthma flare up, he did not require to be taken off the cruise ship - but our health insurance denied reimbursing the cost. The treatment was medically necessary, but done by a provider outside our network. Not an ER so not covered. With trip insurance being a relatively nominal charge compared to the rest of the expenses of the cruise, I can't imagine taking the chance. I don't want to be having chest pain in my cabin one night, and have my available options be death or bankruptcy.

 

I found this article on medevac / trip insurance; it doesn't mention other countries footing the bill for emergency transport off ship. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/19/us-travel-insurance-idUSTRE80I1VE20120119

Edited by CanWeGoYet?
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Many countries cannot even provide the most basic medical services to their indigent citizens. I doubt that their military will provide medevac services gratis to foreign nationals on vacation -- for peace of mind, we always buy the insurance ...

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It's my understanding that in the US, their is no charge by the US Coast Guard for emergency evacuations...in fact that part I am quite sure of. If you need to evacuated from a ship off Miami or Puerto Rico, the coast guard will pick you up and there will be no charge.

 

 

Yes and no; IF the Coast Guard is the one dispatched for the evacuation there is no charge - but that is a big if. Often private companies are dispatched (all depends on who is available and closer to the emergency). Costs ran reach six figures.

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I heard of a British passenger this week on a Caribbean cruise. They had a heart attack. They were taken to a hospital in Barbados for a few nights. Then flown by air ambulance to Miami where they spent a further couple of nights before being flown back to the UK Hope he had travel insurance.....

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Too much of a gamble for me, knowing a medevac easily runs into the tens of thousands of dollars. To say nothing of how in countries outside the US, they may require payment up front of the bill before being willing to treat.

 

A friend of ours, a US resident who travels extensively, had a major medical emergency overseas last year. His own health insurance policy covered everything but the copay.

 

The way he describes it, if he bought additional travel insurance for each trip just because some people on a message board claim that you should, to him it would be like flushing money down the toilet.

 

In your son's case, on the other hand, it was smart to buy additional travel insurance because his own existing insurance coverage was inadequate.

 

 

As for countries that require payment up front, our insurance plan has a number to call collect from anywhere in the world in such a situation and they will cover any payment that is required up front.

 

 

Some plans provide much better and more extensive coverage than others.

 

Also, some credit card companies include additional travel insurance coverage at no charge when you pay for your trip with their credit card.

 

Each person's situation is different and we each need to evaluate our own coverage and our own travel plans, as this is not a case of one size fits all.

 

Edited by varoo
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Let me further explain the original question since some have apparently not actually read it.

 

I always buy travel insurance to cover loss of baggage, trip interruption, trip cancellation insurance.

 

1)Note: I did not include medical...my medigap plan gives me what I consider adequate coverage for foreign medical. Of course, some medical coverage comes with any travel insurance policy...but I don't really even look at it as a consideration.

 

2) I am not concerned about travel from the original hospital to one at home...We carry an annual MedJet Assist policy to cover that....and it's far better than most policies for this coverage. Fundamentally, if I'm stable enough to survive a trip home or to a hospital of my choice, they will fly me there at no cost with doctors/nurses if required....on my request. Translated that means that the only thing a doctor has to agree to in that remote hospital in bhutan is that I am stable enough to fly....not that flying is medically necessary or that the hospital can't handle my medical issues. Read your policy....99% of you don't have that option.

 

My question was how much insurance is really needed for "medical evacuation" from the ship....assuming something happened that required me to be evacuated to a shore facility. I don't have a good feel for how much this could really cost....other than the scare marketing blurbs by the insurance companies, insurance sales sites/people.

 

The answers have been helpful....it certainly appears that I had some bad information and that there can be a cost to get me off the ship....so I'll now care a bit more about that coverage....but I would like to size the exposure because policies have different limits on this.

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My question was how much insurance is really needed for "medical evacuation" from the ship....assuming something happened that required me to be evacuated to a shore facility. I don't have a good feel for how much this could really cost....other than the scare marketing blurbs by the insurance companies, insurance sales sites/people.

 

 

Unfortunately this figure can vary a great deal; a large variable is how far from land you are and what region you are in. For a Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska cruise if you are evacuated by a private company and not Coast Guard somewhere around $10,000 to $50,000 would be a rough estimate as typical - but it would be prudent to have coverage up to about $100,000 just in case. Whereas for a transatlantic cruise or cruise to a region such as Africa it might be wise to have $250,000 in coverage as longer flights can be significantly more $$$$.

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Not that this answers the question but...

 

As far as passengers from the UK are concerned, it is part of the terms and conditions that all UK passengers have travel insurance. Celebrity do ask for insurance details at the point of registration.

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Unfortunately this figure can vary a great deal; a large variable is how far from land you are and what region you are in. For a Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska cruise if you are evacuated by a private company and not Coast Guard somewhere around $10,000 to $50,000 would be a rough estimate as typical - but it would be prudent to have coverage up to about $100,000 just in case. Whereas for a transatlantic cruise or cruise to a region such as Africa it might be wise to have $250,000 in coverage as longer flights can be significantly more $$$$.
These numbers look like they came straight out of a Squaremouth promotion. ;)
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My question was how much insurance is really needed for "medical evacuation" from the ship....assuming something happened that required me to be evacuated to a shore facility. I don't have a good feel for how much this could really cost....other than the scare marketing blurbs by the insurance companies, insurance sales sites/people.

 

The answers have been helpful....it certainly appears that I had some bad information and that there can be a cost to get me off the ship....so I'll now care a bit more about that coverage....but I would like to size the exposure because policies have different limits on this.

 

As has been said: where you are and how far from land are variables that can add to the cost but the one that will add as much as those two combined is how sick are you? The more specialized or critical care you require the higher the cost. While some numbers you read seem to be promotional for the company's insurance product they don't pull them out of thin air.

 

I personally ensure that I have at least $100,000 in evacuation coverage. If you are going to be traveling in Asia or Africa $250,000 might be more appropriate. The key would be to look at the cost difference. If $250k is only $50-100 more well a saw buck is worth it to me to ensure I am not stuck in the Sahara because I only have half the fee to get out should the emergency arise.

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Unfortunately this figure can vary a great deal; a large variable is how far from land you are and what region you are in. For a Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska cruise if you are evacuated by a private company and not Coast Guard somewhere around $10,000 to $50,000 would be a rough estimate as typical - but it would be prudent to have coverage up to about $100,000 just in case. Whereas for a transatlantic cruise or cruise to a region such as Africa it might be wise to have $250,000 in coverage as longer flights can be significantly more $$$$.

 

A helicopter only has a relatively short range. If you are in the middle of the atlantic and need medical evacuation, you are far beyond being reached by air...so the "much longer flight" really does sound a bit like a sales blurb. Again, if I have to get from the azores to the mayo clinic, I'm already covered and I don't care about that cost.

 

Similarly, flights in africa, even emergency flights are actually pretty reasonable and they will get you to a hospital...perhaps not where you'd like to be, but one that can provide enough assistance until you can get out of there on MedJet.

 

I guess I should say that I don't plan on being on the south pole or other really remote, impossible to get to spot like a crevasse in the Himalayas. We're talking normal cruises here (although I did just return from the antarctica).

 

Yes, this is somewhat of an academic discussion...but if folks are buying insurance, they should know the real need and they shouldn't buy based on fear. That's my real goal with this thread. Will a policy with $50K evacuation coverage really cover all one reasonably needs (assuming a separate medjet policy which I consider basic for anyone in the US who's travelling overseas.

Edited by ghstudio
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These numbers look like they came straight out of a Squaremouth promotion. ;)

 

 

This is reply from a thread from last summer from when a woman's father had a heart attack on a tour while at Juneau. He was taken to the hospital in Juneau and airlifted to Ankorage (a one and a half hour flight) Where he died 3 days later. A very sad story:( 25k coverage on their credit card would not have gone too far!

 

"The Medivac from Juneau to Anchorage was $56,000 -- that doesn't include the nurses or the mileage, which I don't remember right now. At least another few thousand, I think. We're hoping my parents' medical insurance will cover a lot of that, and the Celebrity policy will cover what's left at least".

 

Full thread here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1884090&highlight=ulu

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We were on the Summit Sept 29th when my husband went into Congestive Heart Failure on the Ship. First he started with Braca Caridia (a low heart rate). We were on the way to Quebec City. The dr and his staff stabilized him and in the morning we were sent by ambulance to the local hospital. We were assigned a Port Agent who helped us get to and from the hospital to the ship. The ship was staying overnight and the hospital kept him overnight.

We had taken travel insurance from the TA. It was Travel International. I called them right away and they assigned us a Ref # and checked in with us the next day.

My husband was watched overnight and we were allowed to go back to the ship and pack up and fly home to Philadelphia the same day. Guest Services got us a flight back to Philadelphia late in the afternoon. We were given a dr staff member to stay with my husband the whole time we were on the ship. My daughter was also with us and we left her with most of our luggage and she did the rest of the cruise. She had met people from Cruise Critic and someone from Philadelphia and she was not alone. Also the staff kept asking how we were.

The dr's bill was put on our sea pass, the ambulance and hospital charges and airplane chargee were put on our credit card. Fortunately the amounts did not exceed our CC limit. I was able to email all the bills and charges to Travel International. And they paid everything. I also had a wonderful agent who took care of us.

In the meantime when my husband and I got home he was told he needed a pace maker. One was put in a week later and he is doing ok since. He had a major heart attack December , 2013 and was given a clean bill of health to go on the cruise. Obviously the trip was too much for him. But he did have a week of New England and places that he likes.

I know this is not like getting sick in another part of the world, but I hope this helps. One of the things (and I know it's hard) you must make sure you have all your information handy and make sure you keep the receipts from anything you pay. Also the insurance paid us back for the week we were not on the ship. If any one has any questions, I can answer them. It was a very scary time for me and glad I had our daughter with us.

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I'm already covered and I don't care about that cost.

 

What coverage people have varies WIDELY and to make a blanket statement that you are covered and don't care about the cost will be the exact opposite for a LOT of people.

 

Similarly, flights in africa, even emergency flights are actually pretty reasonable and they will get you to a hospital...perhaps not where you'd like to be, but one that can provide enough assistance until you can get out of there on MedJet.

 

"Pretty reasonable" is a subjective term. What price point is pretty reasonable to you may be outrageously unreasonable to someone else. Not everyone has MedJet coverage either.

 

I guess I should say that I don't plan on being

 

I made this a partial statement because I would venture a hypothesis that 100% of the passengers on a cruise don't plan on being so ill that they need to be medically evacuated off the ship.

 

Yes, this is somewhat of an academic discussion...but if folks are buying insurance, they should know the real need and they shouldn't buy based on fear.

 

The problem is there is NO way to predict the need or the cost. Unlike car insurance where there is an intrinsic value to the car and what is covered you cannot anticipate that for an unplanned emergency on the ocean. You could get lucky and the Coast Guard is able to come to your rescue at no charge. However, what happens when it isn't at no charge? It isn't about purchasing coverage out of fear but out of protection for income and assets while preserving life.

 

I can't speak for all passengers but I for one would not want my significant other risking their own health worrying about mine because we could not afford to get me off the ship or out of some foreign country because of the cost. If a few hundred dollars takes that risk off the table then I don't have to worry.

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What coverage people have varies WIDELY and to make a blanket statement that you are covered and don't care about the cost will be the exact opposite for a LOT of people.

 

 

 

"Pretty reasonable" is a subjective term. What price point is pretty reasonable to you may be outrageously unreasonable to someone else. Not everyone has MedJet coverage either.

 

 

 

I made this a partial statement because I would venture a hypothesis that 100% of the passengers on a cruise don't plan on being so ill that they need to be medically evacuated off the ship.

 

 

 

The problem is there is NO way to predict the need or the cost. Unlike car insurance where there is an intrinsic value to the car and what is covered you cannot anticipate that for an unplanned emergency on the ocean. You could get lucky and the Coast Guard is able to come to your rescue at no charge. However, what happens when it isn't at no charge? It isn't about purchasing coverage out of fear but out of protection for income and assets while preserving life.

 

I can't speak for all passengers but I for one would not want my significant other risking their own health worrying about mine because we could not afford to get me off the ship or out of some foreign country because of the cost. If a few hundred dollars takes that risk off the table then I don't have to worry.

 

I was not trying to discuss travel insurance in general, protection of assets, credit card limits etc.....I was (and am) looking to understand one part of travel insurance. Many should be concerned with the amount of medical coverage or pre-existing conditions...travel insurance is not as simple as "I buy from my TA because I trust that they have the best policy" or "I'm sure celebrity offers what I need". You are absolutely correct, everyone's needs are different....everyone's credit limit is different and so on.

 

When I say africa is reasonable...I didn't qualify it, but many policies give at least $50K coverage and that's probably enough for africa. It would have been almost enough for the alaskan evacuation someone mentioned...with a little (subjective) self insurance. So the question for everyone should be....do I need a policy with $250K evacuation coverage?

 

No, I've found that very few have medjet...and I've found very few who understand that you can't just call your insurance company and say I want to go to the mayo clinic...it must be medically necessary. Do you want an insurance clerk (not a doctor) talking to the doctor in a remote hospital who is proud that they can handle anything and you are actually a paying customer so they don't want you to leave....and the two of them have to agree before you go anywhere. That's why MedJet exists...to avoid that difficult situation.

 

I'm not trying to cover every aspect of travel insurance in this thread...it's actually complicated with fine print (even though the fine print is actually readable these days)...but most don't read it. Heck...I assumed that when our ship broke down and they cancelled a 14 day cruise on day 1..it was covered in full as trip interuption. I wasn't alone...everyone on the ship assumed that...and almost no one was covered...including those who insured with Celebrity.

 

So I'm trying to home in on what evacuation cost might be....and since I asked the question as the OP, I suggested that the answer I'm looking for assumes that the expenses of being medically transported home or to long term care (or to what I decide is the quality care I want) is covered by some other policy (medjet). I'm looking for the approximate cost to get me to that first hospital where I can be treated and stabilized...because in my case, that's the coverage I need.

 

Your needs may be very different....and I encourage you (and others) to ask whatever questions you need to understand which insurance you really need, to understand pre-existing conditions, etc. Many overbuy...but don't understand that what they are buying may not provide the coverage they need...and a less expensive coverage or combination of coverages might be better.....but perhaps that's a different thread....

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Costs of getting off the ship may involve more than just the helicopter. In high seas, I've heard of cases requiring a spotter plane to assist the helicopter.

 

I actually found the post I had read years back - likely the current cost would be higher.

 

Medical Evacuation: I was once on the QE2 Eastbound when a gentleman had a heart attack a couple of days out from Boston. He was not covered by insurance, but the ship’s doctor had no recourse but to call for an emergency evacuation in order to limit the cruise line’s liability in a wrongful death lawsuit. If the gentleman died and they had not made every effort to save him, virtually every attorney would hold the cruise line responsible for the client's death. His wife pleaded for the doctor to just let him stay in the infirmary, but the doctor had no choice. The seas were running about 40 feet and the QE2 changed its course to head to within helicopter range of Newfoundland. After three hours or so in heavy seas, a helicopter arrived to pick the guy off the top deck of the ship. Because of the movement of the ship in the heavy seas, the helicopter was unable to pick the fellow up and called for a single winged aircraft to act as a spotter plane so that the helicopter could get into the proper position. It took almost an hour after the second aircraft arrived, but they successfully rescued the gentleman from the deck of the ship. It was estimated that the cost of the rescue was in the range of $40,000. Of course the gentleman and his wife were responsible for the expense, not to mention the rest of the medical expenses once he was delivered to the hospital in Newfoundland.

If you are at any risk whatsoever, you should make sure that you are covered by medical evacuation insurance to resolve such a tragedy. If you are traveling internationally, I would strongly suggest medical evacuation insurance in the amount of $50,000. To travel without this is absolutely foolish. I have seen medical evacuations on virtually every cruise I have taken (and that’s a lot.)

Edited by CanWeGoYet?
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A helicopter only has a relatively short range. If you are in the middle of the atlantic and need medical evacuation, you are far beyond being reached by air...so the "much longer flight" really does sound a bit like a sales blurb. Again, if I have to get from the azores to the mayo clinic, I'm already covered and I don't care about that cost.

 

A few months ago there was a radio programme, in the UK, about container shiping and the question was asked about medical emergencies when long distances from land. The interviewee described such a situation. They radioed for help and were told to go to a certain grid reference - miles from anywhere. Shortly after arriving at the spot, a nuclear submarine surfaced next to them. They had been sent to provide assistance. If you had to pay the cost of this service, I imagine it would be extremely high but I doubt that there would actually be a charge.

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