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What is emergency medical evacuation insurance and why do expats need it? Having an international health insurance plan with emergency medical evacuation cover can give you extra peace of mind if you live or work overseas.

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Lee Doran

Underwriting Manager Download Contact
Authored by

Lee Doran

Underwriting Manager

What is emergency medical evacuation insurance?

If you become very ill or suffer an injury when overseas, you may not find the treatment you need at the local hospital. This is where emergency medical evacuation cover – also known as medevac insurance or repatriation insurance – can help. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about emergency medical evacuation insurance if you work or live abroad.

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Why is medical evacuation insurance important?

Emergency medical evacuation insurance ensures safe and efficient transport to the nearest suitable hospital if you have a life-threatening or limb-threatening illness or injury.

Who needs medical evacuation insurance?

Expats, digital nomads and those working abroad may need medical evacuation insurance. This can be especially true if you’re in a country where the healthcare system doesn’t offer the best quality. 

Medevac insurance may also be important if you live or work in remote locations with limited healthcare facilities and transport infrastructure. Read a story from our member about how emergency medical evacuation helped their child in Mauritius.

What does emergency medical evacuation insurance include?

Many international health insurance plans include emergency medical evacuation insurance.  Medical evacuation coverage is part of every international health insurance plan here at William Russell, but levels of cover can vary. Even our most basic medical evacuation service:

  • Covers you for safe transportation to the nearest hospital
  • Gives you and your family peace of mind
  • Includes the cost of transportation of a companion or family member (accompanying dependents or friends can’t travel with you during your emergency medical transport)
  • Pays for return airfare to your country of residence after your medical evacuation

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

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?

Travel insurance plans may include medevac. But you may need more than just international travel insurance when living overseas. As well as insurance coverage 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 have emergency transportation to an appropriate hospital or medical facility within the same country. 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 like domestic insurance, but you’ll cross national borders to access the best hospitals. Domestic health insurance policies don’t typically include international evacuation.

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?

Most international health insurance plans, including ours, offer medical evacuation as standard cover. 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. Without insurance, you could face the practically impossible situation of organising a medical evacuation when you have a serious medical condition or critical accident.

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 repatriation insurance covers your transportation to your home country, whether you finished your treatment in the location we evacuated you to or you still need ongoing medical care.

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 you choose an international health insurance plan that covers repatriation.

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 our plan covers). You also have 24/7 access to our rapid response teams who are trained professionals available to help with all aspects of your claim, including:

  • Organising the logistics of evacuation, alongside the medical professionals  on the ground
  • Communicating with our global network of medical teams
  • Dealing with any passport and visa issues
  • Paying  all medical expenses  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 a medical escort of your choice to fly from anywhere in the world to be with you. We’ll also pay US$250 towards the cost of accommodation expenses

Frequently asked questions about medevac insurance

It may make sense to have medical evacuation insurance if you’re:

  • Taking a trip to remote areas, far from medical facilities
  • Engaging in extreme sports outside your home country
  • An expat in a country without quality healthcare or up-to-date medical equipment

For travellers on short-term trips, you may want to have a travel insurance policy with medical evacuation cover. 

For anyone planning to live or work overseas for 6+ months, you may want an international health insurance plan that covers medical evacuation. 

It depends on your travel insurance company or your international health insurance provider. If your insurance policy covers evacuation, in many cases, it’s the insurance company’s decision. They will base their judgement on the medical information you provide and your unique circumstances. A licensed doctor can also make the request, but the final decision may lie with your insurer. 

It will usually be your insurance company’s medical team who will evaluate your unique medical circumstances. They will find the best and closest medical facility that’s reachable by air or ground transport. They will also collaborate with the medical facility they choose for your medical needs before your arrival. This way, a specialist medical team will be ready upon your arrival. 

It will always depend on your specific insurance policy, with its unique coverage and exclusions. 

With William Russell, if you have Covid-19 and, as a result, develop a life-threatening condition requiring urgent care that you can’t receive in your local area, then you’ll have coverage for medical evacuation.  

Look for full coverage for transportation costs to the nearest medical facility in even the most basic travel or international health insurance policies. 

Extra coverage may include:

  • A 24hr emergency hotline
  • A specialist medical team 
  • Repatriation costs
  • Coverage for a family member or companion to accompany you
  • Natural disaster or catastrophic coverage
  • The cost for repatriation of remains