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Emergency medical evacuation insurance

What is emergency medical evacuation insurance and why do expats need it? If you live or work overseas, having an international health insurance plan which includes cover for emergency medical evacuation can give you extra peace of mind.

What is emergency medical evacuation insurance?

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 – medevac or repatriation insurance, as it’s sometimes called – can help. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about emergency medical evacuation insurance if you work or live abroad.

Emergency Medical Evacuation - Ambulance | William Russell banner
Emergency medical evacuation team strapping patient in | Getty Images

What does emergency medical evacuation insurance include?

Having emergency medical evacuation insurance 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. Read a story from our member about how emergency medical evacuation helped their child in Mauritius.

Emergency medical evacuation insurance is included in many international health insurance plans. Talk to William Russell about making sure you have the right level of emergency medical evacuation insurance to suit you and your family. Our 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
Did you know that we are on the official list for medical repatriation companies in the UK

Does medical evacuation insurance 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.

Read about the difference between international, local and travel health insurance.

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.

I can say with certainty that if William Russell had not supported in evacuating my husband to The Nairobi Hospital when they did, he may not have survived his terrible illness. We owe William Russell a huge debt of gratitude.
Pakpong Hassen - Malawi
William Russell Member
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How much does emergency medical evacuation insurance 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 US$15,000-US$20,000
South America US$100,000
Germany, France or other EU members US$50,000-US$100,000
Russia US$90,000-US$150,000 (weather conditions can dramatically increase costs)
Asia, Australia, and the Middle East US$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 US$25,000.

What’s the difference between emergency evacuation insurance and repatriation insurance?

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.

Map showing how much emergency medical evacuation costs can vary depending on location
Source: William Russell data

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

Medevac cover comes as standard with our international health insurance plan. Read more about what we cover. 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 gives you the following benefits, in addition to the standard benefits for emergency medical evacuation:

  • Lower threshold for evacuation – We’ll evacuate you if you need advanced diagnostic tests or cancer treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy that cannot be provided locally
  • Advanced repatriation – We’ll repatriate you to your country of residence, or your country of nationality if within your area of cover
  • Additional costs for a companion – If you don’t have anyone to accompany you on your evacuation, we’ll pay for someone to fly from anywhere in the world to be with you. We’ll also pay US$250 towards the cost of hotel expenses
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