Travel Insurance Advice

An overseas dream vacation that turned into a medical crisis prompted one reader, a licensed MD, to offer the following travel insurance advice.

| March/April 1981

Travel Insurance Advice

According one expert's travel insurance advice, you should have a policy that covers transportation costs to a medical facility near your vacation site and to a hospital near your home.


The following information and travel insurance advice was sent to us by Greggory R. DeVore, M.D., of the Yale University School of Medicine.  

A $20,000 Nightmare

It's estimated that 30 million Americans will travel abroad for business or pleasure during the coming 12 months," Dr. DeVore writes. "Of these, 12,000 will probably die, one million will suffer some illness or injury, and some will require emergency medical evacuation back to the United States. Without proper insurance, any such event can be a financial, as well as an emotional, disaster.

"I discovered this fact when my father had a massive heart attack while on an overseas 'dream vacation'. I immediately flew to his bedside, and — finding the only available hospital somewhat primitive and dirty (and my mother barely able to communicate in an unfamiliar language) — I decided to have him flown back to the States right away. However, because of bureaucratic red tape and outrageous prices (from $10,400 for a two-day flight on a propeller-driven air-ambulance to $72,000 for direct jet transport), it was 30 days before I was finally able to arrange — for $8,000 — his return home on a stretcher (minus cardiac monitoring or resuscitation equipment) by commercial airliner. The total for hotels, phone calls, transportation, hospital, and doctors: about $20,000!

"In order to help you avoid such a harrowing experience, I've compiled the following advice, which I feel is of utmost importance to anyone purchasing a travel insurance policy.

"You get only what you pay for, so beware of coverage that's too 'inexpensive'.

"Make sure your policy pays not only for transportation to the nearest medical facility abroad, but also to a hospital near your home, so you can return — with medical assistance — as soon as possible. (This will insure that you won't have to settle for medical care inferior to that available in the U.S. and will eliminate the possibility of having to look after a loved one, over an extended period of time, in another country while awaiting clearance of a flight on a commercial airliner.)

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