In an ever riskier world, emergency medical evacuation and repatriation insurance coverage is essential, for offshore workers, expatriates, business travellers and tourists, but why?
In a recent exclusive iPMI Magazine round table business forum, we asked those at the heart of global healthcare what they thought.
As always, the answers were extremely interesting:
Fiona Greenwood, ROWLAND BROTHERS INTERNATIONAL: National and international travel for work or pleasure is an accepted part of normal life in the twenty first century. With this increase in people moving around the world, there is a higher incidence of exposure to risk and untimely or unexpected deaths occurring. This is why it is recommended that independent travellers and businesses ensure that their employees are adequately protected with the right insurance policy to cover every eventuality.
Philipp Schneider, QUICK AIR: On the one hand no one is certain about his personal health. We see every day that healthy people fall sick or get injured in an accident and need medical repatriation. On the other hand also terrorism or the outbreak of an epidemic leads to unforeseeable situations. In these cases not only the financial suffer is covered by insurance. Also the whole organisation round the treatments and possible repatriation is covered. Medical contacts checking the correct treatment and progress of disease as well as status controls observing the best medical outcome for the insured person are the benefits of an insurance coverage.
Andrew Apps, BELLWOOD PRESTBURY: Emergency medical evacuation insurance is essential when sending employees to work in remote, underdeveloped or high-risk regions of the world.
From oil and gas workers located thousands of miles from the nearest medical facility, to administrators working in less developed countries, decent emergency evacuation insurance can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Local services can in these areas be lacking at the best of times and every employer has a duty of care to make sure that if the unexpected happens and it becomes necessary to get medical care for an employee, the support and expertise is in place to ‘make things happen’, quickly, efficiently and with the safety of the patient at the top of the list.
Of course, not all emergency evacuations are the same nor are the companies that provide this service. Some will have better helicopter support in certain regions. Some own their own high quality private hospital facilities, so have better control over the treatment provided from the very beginning.
Some, we know from experience, are less willing to authorise repatriation than others. Some will pay for dependents to travel with your affected employees. Others may not.
Our job is to help ensure the right emergency evacuation support is provided for our clients no matter where in the world their employees are located. From war zones and active terrorist areas, to offshore oil and gas facilities, we look to ensure that quality medical assistance, fully paid for, will never be far away.
Eva Kluge, AIR ALLIANCE: Medical infrastructure around the world is getting better, but at a different pace in different locations. Whereas an expat or corporate traveller is pretty safe in places like Singapore or the United States, an offshore worker in Algeria, Western Africa or Afghanistan will be in serious trouble if he/she suffers from a serious illness or accident and has neither proper coverage nor access to good assistance services. Few individuals, including tourists, will be able to organise medevacs on their own because this situation will be mostly a “once in a lifetime” experience. They are not prepared for it and they usually do not have the means to pay a larger amount out of their pocket. For expats, it is essential that their employer will offer them a comprehensive coverage prior to their mission abroad. This should not only include coverage of costs, but also preventive advice and access to high level clinical and aeromedical services.
In infant and emerging insurance markets, we observe rather conservative underwriting and lower coverage. This can make a repatriation very difficult once the patient has been in a
Hospital for a longer period and his coverage limit is “exhausted”. These policies, fortunately, are slowly changing though, to more comprehensive health plans with several options to choose from.
If an individual is properly covered, his/ her insurer will also partner with a reputable assistance company who is capable of organizing professionally evacuations and repatriations around the world. “Professionally” does not only mean excellent service when something happens, but also a serious vetting process for all their network providers in advance.
For an air ambulance company, the vetting process should include, among others:
- preference to air operators who have full control of their own aircraft
- adequate liability insurance for aircraft and medical teams
- qualified medical team and state-of-the-art medical equipment
- ability to evacuate from remote and crisis regions
- aeromedical accreditation
- certified maintenance of aircraft and top technical support
Irena Dimitrijevic, JET EXECUTIVE: In my opinion a decent medical travel insurance plan for tourists and business travellers has always been of high importance.
Especially young people love to travel far away and are very carefree and don’t think about any possible incidents that might happen. Before I started working in the industry I was the same. But when you read all these medical reports from patients we repatriate all over the world you are more aware of how quickly life can turn into a different direction.
Expatriates who live in metropolis will most likely have a very good local medical care. The local hospitals and medical facilities in South East Asia such as in Singapore and Bangkok for example, have very high quality standards; there is no real medical need for repatriations back to Europe or the USA. But these treatments are highly expensive for foreigners; therefore the own insurance coverage should be checked carefully. Medical expenses are incredibly cost intensive as everyone knows. People shouldn’t expect to get an all inclusive package if they buy a “20-EUR-insurance.” Unfortunately we expect in our modern world everything to be cheap and good at the same time.
In summary I wouldn’t necessarily say that today’s global risks are solved by insurance packages. Frequent travellers have to start evaluating their individual risk of certain geographical areas, either due to political issues or due to medical threats such as the current ZIKA warnings. Unfortunately the global media tends to dramatize global issues because they need headlines. Nevertheless people should use their own common sense. If you are pregnant don’t travel to the Amazon.
Adam Booth, MAYDAY ASSISTANCE: Coverage is essential as people are travelling further afield and becoming more adventurous, but with adventure comes higher risk, remote locations and reduced levels of healthcare. There appears to be an ignorance at times to the environment that they may be heading to, this can cause many complications with pre-existing medical conditions. Having a contact that is aware of the local policies and procedures is vital when a client is unwell or has an accident abroad; this is very reassuring at a highly stressful time.
High cost areas in the world such as USA, Canada and Asia require early intervention and management from an Assistance Company to ensure that the patient is getting the required treatment, but at the same time they are not getting unnecessary procedures which could increase the costs involved for them, but also the underwriters.
Claudia Schmiedhuber, TYROL AIR AMBULANCE: As we move towards a more globalized world, it becomes increasingly important for any individual to make sure that appropriate insurance coverage will be provided at any point during his/her absence from his/her home country. Factors such as companies’ expansion into even the remotest areas, an increasing pool of exchange student programs, as well as a growing backpacking population has increased the demand for global insurance and assistance services. Although in recent decades the issue of “worldwide coverage” was not as significant as it has become in the last couple of years, I believe that we have now entered a time of complete global mobility which allows the insurance industry to strengthen its international travel insurance products and for the client to profit from the seamless service and worldwide care this development brings with it.
I believe that it is part of every company’s duty of care to ensure the wellbeing and safety of their employees by supplying a tailor-made insurance package for their global workers. In addition, it should be on every family’s mind to purchase a suitable travel insurance package for their loved ones when they go on vacation – the same goes for the individual backpacker or the adventurers who want to conquer the Grand Canyon.
In countries like Austria, people tend to be over-insured due to the fact that most of our credit cards include a worldwide medical expense and repatriation insurance. In addition, most Austrians are also insured through our membership of a specific club – for example the “Alpine Club” or certain “Sport and Leisure Clubs”. Finally, on top of these “included” travel insurance options, Austrians can also purchase top-up packages with their flight tickets or go directly to one of the big health insurance providers.
iPMI Magazine top tip: Although medical evacuation and repatriation cover is included with many international medical, healthcare, expatriate and travel insurance plans - expatriates, business travellers and tourists are recommended to read the insurance plan small print. You may have cover for medical evacuation and repatriation, but what that cover means and provides, in the event of an emergency, can only be understood by reading the terms and conditions of your insurance policy.