What is Medical Evacuation?

We get this question all the time: What exactly is medical evacuation? And how does it work, and why or when do I need this coverage? Today, we’ll help you understand this technical term and why this life-saving benefit should matter to you.

So, what is medical evacuation (sometimes also referred to as “med evac” or “medivac”)? It’s transfer from one hospital to another for emergency medical treatment. Medical evacuation doesn’t happen when you break your leg and just want to come home. Rather, it’s coverage to get you to a better hospital or to your hospital of choice back home when you need ongoing, inpatient care for a serious illness, injury, or other medical condition.

Sometimes, we travel to amazing places off the beaten path where the medical care isn’t always great, meaning: lack of proper medical specialist for your condition, insufficient equipment, or substandard quality of care. When that happens, medical evacuation moves you from a facility that is inadequate to a hospital that is better suited to give you the most appropriate care.

loading patients into air ambulance

How does On Call medically evacuate someone? It typically happens via private air ambulance, often a Lear 35 or 36 jet. This isn’t your typical corporate jet with cushy seats, meal service, and warm chocolate chip cookies. Remember, medical evacuation is for those with a serious medical condition and who are hospital inpatients. This is a true ambulance with wings. The patient is usually strapped to a stretcher with a nurse, EMT, or physician attending to any IVs, medications, and other appropriate treatments to keep the person’s condition stable for the flight. Because these planes are small, there’s usually only room for one of the patient’s traveling companions to accompany him or her on the plane, and there usually isn’t room for more than the bare minimum of carry-on luggage. The more weight on the plane, the more fuel stops it requires and the slower it arrives at the receiving hospital where the patient needs care.

Why do you need medical evacuation coverage? Sure, we all expect our trips to go off without a hitch, and most times they do. However, if you experience a serious illness or injury away from home, especially if the medical care is not adequate to treat your condition, having a medical evacuation service is critical to ensuring you get to better care and/or home to your own doctors.

Additionally, medical evacuation coverage not only protects your health and well-being, but also your family’s finances. For example, an air ambulance from Europe could cost more than $50,000, and up to $100,000 or more from China. Would you have that kind of money available, on short notice?  Making sure this benefit is included on your upcoming travel plans will cover those unexpected emergency transportation costs and leave you at ease knowing you’ll be covered.
Do you have other questions about medical evacuation? Share with us in the comments below.