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The Interview: Roy Berger, MedJetAssist


  If you become seriously ill or injured while you’re traveling – that’s ill as in requiring hospitalization – you’ll likely want nothing more than to be at home with your family and your own doctor in a nearby hospital.

    But guess who pays to have you repatriated on a medical flight?

    If you answered your health insurance policy, your travel insurance policy or a Platinum level credit card, you’re wrong. They won’t cover you. You’ll have to pay for it yourself  – and it will cost you a fortune. A one-way medical flight from Western Europe to the US runs $70,000 and up.

    Or you can purchase an emergency medical evacuation membership before you go from a provider such as MedjetAssist. If you’re hospitalized more than 150 miles away from home, they can provide you with a medically equipped and staffed aircraft to fly you free of charge to the hospital of your choice. MedjetAssist is based in Birmingham, Alabama and is the exclusive provider of worldwide air ambulance and medical repatriation services for AARP. I asked Roy Berger, President/CEO of MedjetAssist, to explain how it works and how it differs from travel insurance.

Give us an idea and a few examples of what a medical evacuation would cost out of pocket without benefit of coverage?

    Domestic evacuations from the continental US range anywhere from $8,000 to $25,2000, with Hawaii to the West Coast at $60,000 and to the East Coast around $85,000. International evacuations range anywhere from $70,000 from London to the US and $160,000 from Thailand to the US.

What is medical evacuation coverage?

    Traditional “medical evacuation coverage” is standard language in most travel insurance policies. Simply, it means if the insurer determines you are not getting the proper care at the medical facility in which you are admitted, they reserve the right to evacuate you to the closest appropriate medical center to provide you with proper care. It is not a repatriation plan.

    The MedjetAssist membership is a repatriation plan which means your membership benefit allows you to return to your home hospital (or any hospital of your choice) to conclude your in-patient stay among family and personal physician.


Roy Berger, MedJetAssist

How does it differ from travel insurance?

    Well, the evacuation provision of travel insurance gives the insurer the option of deciding where best for you to serve your in-patient stay. Medjet is not insurance, it's membership, and the benefit is that the member chooses their medical facility.

Is it only for those who are involved in adventure travel, or adventurous foreign travel?

    Your typical travel insurance policy certainly would be for that type of travel as long as there aren't exclusions to the contrary. The Medjet membership plan covers any type of travel — personal, business, vacation — anywhere in the world, international or domestic as long as our member is over 150 miles from home. Most people would be surprised to learn that about 60% of our member transports are domestic.

What are the key ingredients in an medical evacuation membership?

    That's simple. To make sure the member is in control of their evacuation/repatriation. You have the ability to dictate where you want to be taken for your continued care. The Medjet membership puts the member in charge.

Who makes the decision to fly me home?

    As a Medjet member, you make that decision in conjunction with the treating physician and your physician at home. If you are medically stable to fly and you meet the criteria, you make the decision to be transported back to your hospital of choice.

What is the actual flight like, in terms of aircraft and personnel?

    All Medjet affiliate aircraft are dedicated air-ambulances with two pilots and a minimum of a critical care nurse and paramedic. If medical condition dictates, a flight physician or respiratory therapist can also augment the medical crew.

What's the fine print?

    With the Medjet program, the only criteria is you must be admitted as an in-patient and be admitted as an in-patient on the receiving end. Our program is designed for in-hospital benefits, not to whisk you away from a posh hotel for an upset stomach. We allow the member to be taken back to comfortable family, friends and personal physician network. Also, you cannot enroll after your journey has started.

And what does it cost?

    The Medjet annual program is $250 for an individual and $385 for a family which includes spouse and up to five dependents under age 19 (or 23 if a full time student). The membership covers you wherever you travel, international or domestic, as long as you are over 150 miles from home. Medjet also has short term memberships ranging from 7 to 30 days beginning at $95. Full information can be found at MedJetAssist.

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