National Geographic Traveler editor at large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips.
Here’s his latest advice:
Reader Question: My friend had a heart attack while vacationing. He had to be medevaced home, which cost him $30,000—even though he had travel insurance. What gives?
My Answer: Most travel insurance policies cover only what they say they cover—typically, transportation to the nearest available medical facility.
Read the fine print: Look for clauses that address hospitalization and evacuations, pay close attention to when they’ll kick in, and make sure you have enough coverage, says Linda Kundell, a spokesperson for the trade group US Travel Insurance Association.
Alternatively, a “cancel for any reason” policy allows you to call off your entire vacation and receive 70 to 80 percent of your money back. Alas, such policies can cost between 10 and 12 percent of the price of your trip, versus 6 to 8 percent for a garden-variety policy.
Or, if medevac bills are your top concern, you could buy a membership in a company like MedJetAssist; an annual $260 fee generally covers up to two evacuations a year, with some restrictions for travelers over 75.
Christopher Elliott is Traveler magazine’s consumer advocate and pens the “Problem Solved” column for the magazine (this exchange appeared in the February 2015 issue). Follow Christopher’s story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.
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