Medical Evacuation

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Travel writers talk about medical evacuation, but what does that mean?

You’re in Sochi, supporting the Jamaican bobsled team. As a tropical island dweller, you’re more familiar with the ice that comes in cocktails than ice on the pavement. You fall harder than tacky Tonya Harding after the Nancy Kerrigan scandal.

What happens next?

Local rescue services transfer you to a nearby hospital, where you get assessed and treated. Since you followed the advice travel writers constantly give, you have a copy of your insurance policy along with your visa and passport, so your insurance company gets notified right away. Your insurer dispatches the assistance company representative, who contacts the hospital, obtains relevant medical information and determines the course of future care. Your assistance guy will assess the local scene. If you need specialised equipment or caregivers, you may need to evacuate.  If you can get on a plane, great. If you’re too beat up to travel on your own, it’s time for a medical evacuation.

An air ambulance is exactly that. If you weren’t in such bad shape you needed one, you might find it neat. Don’t plan on bringing your bobsledders; with the staff, supplies, equipment and you taking up most of the space, there’s usually room for just one passenger.

You may not get all the way back to Jamaica in one trip. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may get to hang out in Germany until you’re in better shape to travel. If you’re in really bad shape, you may have to stay in Russia. In both of these cases, you will have visa issues.

A holdover of Communism is a passion for papers. Changing visas for any reason is best done with the help of someone who understands  Russian language and culture. Your policy should cover paper-wrangling, so let the local agents handle the paperwork, you just sit in the bed and look pretty.

Medical evacuation insurance doesn’t cost much; medical evacuations cost a fortune, up to 14 million Jamaican dollars (100,000 euros) in some cases. But it’s not just about the money. Agents track down your family members and navigate tricky travel and visa arrangements. They handle the bills and the paperwork, set up the medevac and do all the things that you can’t do.

As with any insurance policy, there are exclusions. Most policies have a Drunk and Stupid clause, which won’t cover injuries made while being, well, drunk and stupid. Watch the booze, and remember that the laws of gravity work exactly the same way in Russia as they do at home. Hitting the road is about seeing and doing different things. While rewarding, learning new things can be painful. Once the knee heals, I’ll bet you stick to water skis, eh?