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What is emergency medical evacuation insurance and why do expats need it?

Live or work overseas? Having an international health insurance plan which includes cover for emergency medical evacuation can give you extra peace of mind. Here’s how it works.

What is emergency medical evacuation cover?

If you became very ill or were injured when overseas, there’s always the chance that the treatment you need might not be available at the local hospital. This is where emergency medical evacuation cover – or medevac, as it’s sometimes called – can help.

This type of cover is included in many international health insurance plans. It means that if you have a life-threatening or limb-threatening illness or injury you will be safely transported to the closest hospital for urgent treatment. Knowing you have this cover may be particularly important if you live or work in a remote area with limited health facilities and transport infrastructure.

Medical evacuation insurance:

  • covers you for safe transportation to the nearest hospital
  • gives you and your family peace of mind
  • is usually included in your international health insurance, but levels of cover can vary.

Talk to us about making sure you have the right level of emergency medical evacuation insurance to suit you and your family.

We have been added to the medical repatriation companies on GOV.UK list by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

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Does medical evacuation cover come with travel insurance?

Medevac can be included with travel insurance. But you will need more than just simple travel insurance when living overseas. As well as cover for illness or injury abroad, our international health insurance gives you 24/7 access to our specialist support team who can help you navigate unfamiliar hospital settings and language barriers.

What is domestic evacuation?

In health insurance language, a domestic evacuation is when you are transported within the same country to an appropriate hospital or medical facility. This could be by road, sea or air with life-saving medical equipment in the vehicle. If you become seriously ill or injured while working on a remote island, for example, you may be flown by air ambulance or private plane to a hospital in the nearest city on the mainland.

What is international evacuation?

International evacuation is similar to domestic insurance, except you might be transported to hospital across national borders. International evacuation is not typically included in domestic health insurance policies.

How much does emergency medical evacuation cost?

With most international health insurance plans, including ours, evacuation is covered as standard. How much your international insurance plan costs will depend on your circumstances and the level of cover you choose. But not having medical evacuation cover can be very expensive. And of course, if you were not covered you would be faced with the practically impossible situation of organising a medical evacuation when you were seriously ill.

The table below gives a rough idea of what transportation by air ambulance could cost in some popular vacation destinations, although costs will vary depending on individual cases and needs.

Country Cost of air ambulance
Mexico $15,000-$20,000
South America $100,000
Germany, France or other EU members $50,000-$100,000
Russia $90,000-$150,000 (weather conditions can dramatically increase costs)
Asia, Australia, and the Middle East $220,000


What is repatriation insurance?

Repatriation insurance covers you for transportation back to your home country for ongoing or emergency medical treatment. It’s often an option to add it on to your international health insurance.

Medically necessary repatriation can vary in cost, depending on whether you are able to board a commercial flight, but – without cover – the average cost can be around $25,000.

Source: William Russell data

What’s the difference between emergency evacuation and repatriation?

The key difference is that with repatriation you are transported to your home country for ongoing medical care, rather than the closest hospital.

There are a number of reasons why repatriation could be necessary, with the key reason being access to specialist care that is not available in the country where you became ill.

Some people actually choose repatriation as they would prefer to be cared for at a familiar hospital with friends and family close by. If this sounds like you, make sure repatriation is covered as part of your international health insurance plan.

What should I look for in a medical emergency evacuation plan?

Medevac cover comes as standard with our international health insurance plan. You also have 24/7 access to our rapid response teams who are medically trained and available to help with all aspects of your claim including:

  • Organising the logistics of evacuation, alongside the medical teams on the ground
  • Communicating with our global network of medical teams
  • Dealing with any passport and visa issues
  • Making sure all bills are paid quickly
  • Translating any medical forms or claim forms into English, or your chosen language
  • Keeping you updated 24/7 with our personal, friendly service.

If you are looking for more cover, you might want to think about our Medevac Plus plan which includes:

    • repatriation to your home country, if within your area of cover
    • the cost of having a loved one with you for support
    • evacuation for cancer treatment and advanced diagnostic tests

Find out more about how we can help expats like you.

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Gretlin Aumre

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