The Medical Evacuation Option—For Agents and Clients

by Harvey Chipkin

This is the first of two stories on medical evacuation insurance

Betsy Donley of Phoenix-based Camelback Odyssey Travel had been selling medical evacuation services since she started in business more than 20 years ago, partly because she sells a lot of adventure travel to out-of-the-way places.

But four years ago, Donley found herself on a private plane being rushed from a Utah ski resort to her home hospital in Phoenix to be treated for poisoning caused by a medication she had been taking.

“If it hadn’t been for MedjetAssist [the medical evacuation company she used] I might not be here today,” she said.

Kelly Shea, who owns Kelly Shea Travels in Carmel, Ind. was in Split, Croatia when she tripped on a cobblestone and crashed into the window of a jewelry store “pulverizing” the humerus bone in her arm.

She made her way to Dubrovnik where with the help of Medjet she was assigned a nurse who accompanied her all the way back to her home hospital in Indianapolis.

The medical evacuation option
For obvious reasons, these two travel agents are now passionate advocates of medical evacuation coverage, which is not actually insurance but is sold on a “membership “ basis.

The cost of being flown home either on a private jet or in a premium class with medical accompaniment is prohibitively expensive so the relatively nominal fees for medical evacuation coverage is appealing to many.

While selling trip insurance is a standby for many agents, the option of selling separate medical evacuation product is less common.

Medical evacuation is often part of a comprehensive travel insurance program.

But while many travel insurance policies offer medical treatment and/or evacuation as an option, that frequently involves medical care at the destination or transport to a nearby hospital.

“Most travel insurance programs have an evacuation assistance program that will move the patient to the nearest appropriate medical facility,” according to Phillip White, vice president-sales for MedjetAssist.

“Medjet goes one step further and returns the traveler to the hospital of their choice.”

Sales to agents
White said agents sell a significant percentage of its policies, especially to leisure travelers.

While a traveler has to be more than 150 miles from home to use the service, a full 50% of all transport is done within the U.S. While per-trip insurance is available, many travelers find it more economical to buy an annual policy.

Not every medical crisis involves a private jet – as Donley used. “If it is medically feasible for a patient, we might have a medical escort on a common carrier,” said White.

Considering the cost of medical evacuation, costs are reasonable, according to White.

“To bring somebody back from Africa is a six figure expense. The only thing a member pays is the membership fee -- $270 for an individual, $395 for families on an annual basis. The fee for an eight-day trip is $99,” he said.

Medjet has to be certain a bed is available at the hospital of choice before a plane leaves the ground, according to White.

That involves coordinating with the traveler’s local doctor, sometimes using a translation service. It’s “bed to bed service. We go to great lengths to make the travel agent who sells this look good,” White said.

Agent commission on the coverage is 20% (10% for renewals), which can add up if sold to a solid percentage of clients.

“Agents who sell this product,” said White, “usually have a high level of touch with their clients and want to take care of them. We have some agents who will buy this on their own for their best clients.”

Next time: Agents’ take on medical evacuation insurance

 

  3
  0
Tip of the Day

As travel advisors, we have to be curious. Curiosity leads to impactful connections that pave our road to success. - Jenn Lee, VP of Sales and Marketing, Travel Planners International

Daily Top List

Best U.S. Destinations

1. Charleston, South Carolina

2. Santa Fe, New Mexico

3. New Orleans, Louisiana

4. Savannah, Georgia

5. New York, New York

Source: T + L

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
To Help, or Not to Help? What Do You Do When a Client Sends Out a DIY SOS
To Help, or Not to Help? What Do You Do When a Client Sends Out a DIY SOS

Their online booking is in a state of emergency and they’re asking for your expertise. But the only reward for your time and effort might be a thank you. What do you do?

New ASTA Campaign Connects with Local Media for California IC Battle
New ASTA Campaign Connects with Local Media for California IC Battle

Amping up its advocacy portal, ASTA continues its grassroots effort to protect California ICs.

Who’s in Your Wallet? Credit Card Points Remain a Challenge for Travel Agents
Who’s in Your Wallet? Credit Card Points Remain a Challenge for Travel Agents

With more and more credit card holders earning points and redeeming them for travel, how and when an advisor supports these clients can be tricky.

Into the Home Stretch: Travel Agents Fill the Traditionally Slower Months
Into the Home Stretch: Travel Agents Fill the Traditionally Slower Months

Travel advisors across the country share their tips and strategies for bolstering their businesses during the second half of this year.

Offering Travel Insurance to Groups Can Boost an Agent’s Income
Offering Travel Insurance to Groups Can Boost an Agent’s Income

The law of numbers – more travelers on one trip means more commissionable sales – should work to an agent’s advantage. But offering insurance to group travelers isn’t so simple.

BNI is Networking on Steroids
BNI is Networking on Steroids

Considered by many to be the pinnacle of networking groups, BNI could be a travel agent’s strongest source for sales referrals – as well as personal and professional growth.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks