On a recent trip to Croatia, I had a medical emergency that made me realize that my refusal to buy medical evacuation insurance was probably a little bit naïve and a big bit stupid.
In the middle of a national park far away from home, I tripped and fell and watched in horror and pain as my knee swelled to the size of a softball. With no cell phone coverage and no doctor in sight, I worried about what to do. Thankfully there was a park employee nearby who had a radio and got me some assistance. At least a ride to our hotel.
But without a doctor on call, there was no help there. They did direct us to a small clinic about 10 miles away. But without an x-ray machine, there was no help there. The clinic doctor did send us to a small hospital about 50 miles away. But it was something from out of the dark ages, dingy, dirty and scary.
This is when I began wondering why I've never bought medical evacuation insurance. At the very least I could have talked to an English-speaking doctor on the phone who might have reassured me about my injuries. And, if necessary, would have evacuated me to a hospital that had high-tech equipment built later than the 1940s.
As it turned out, I was fortunate. It was only a bad contusion and hematoma caused by a broken artery, requiring nothing more than some heparin gel to help the body absorb the collection of blood, some tylenol and rest.
But what if it had been worse. Like a broken leg that required surgery. Without the insurance, I would have had to be treated there by what seemed like a third-world medical facility in a second-world country.
That's not to say they would have botched the job. But there is a comfort level in being treated at a hospital that at least appears modern and is located in what we term "a developed country."
Medical evacuation insurance, like OnCall International and Medjet, differ from basic travel insurance, like Travel Guard and Travelex, which is geared more toward trip cancellation reimbursement but also includes reimbursement for medical treatment.
Evacuation insurance is primarily what its name implies. In case of an emergency they transport you, usually by air ambulance, to the hospital of your choice, even if the facility where you are initially being treated is considered adequate for your injury or illness.
Every year my husband and I lead tours to France, a country ranked number one in the world for health care by the World Health Organization. Therefore we've never thought of getting evacuation insurance. Or even relying on our travel insurance to reimburse us for medical expenses. Doctors in France still make house calls, hospitals are top-notch and the cost to Americans is so low that it seriously makes us think the U.S. should totally abandon its own system and build one emulating France's, which has both the best and one of the least expensive health-care systems.
But this year, we decided to fly from France to Croatia for a two-week vacation. And never thought about getting the added evacuation insurance.
In hindsight the added cost would have been worth it. For about $225 to $260, the insurance covers a single traveler for any trip domestically or internationally over the course of a year. Should something seriously had happened to me during our Croatian trip, it would have cost me anywhere from $50,000 to over $100,000 of my own money to get evacuated by air ambulance to either Western Europe or back to the U.S.
This should have been a no-brainer. It wasn't this trip. But it will be from now on.
For information on OnCall International, visit www.oncallinternational.com
. For MedJet, visit www.medjetassist.com