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Travel Insurance and Aeromedical Evacuation

Despite an improved understanding of serious injury and illness during travel, accidents, near accidents, and maladies continue to befall tourists. With knowledge of these risks, travellers should be armed with preventive strategies, emergency treatment supplies, a working knowledge of first aid, and appropriate travel insurance coverage. Travellers should know how to access appropriate care at their travel destination, ideally through the emergency assistance service of their travel insurer.

The traveller should understand the indications for and logistics of emergency assistance and aeromedical evacuation. Travel insurers normally underwrite travel, medical, and dental expenses incurred by travellers abroad, who take out “travel insurance”, and provide emergency assistance and arrange aeromedical evacuation of travellers under specified conditions. Medical and dental claims make up more than two-thirds of all claims (Leggat & Leggat, 2002).

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Travellers should be advised to read their policies carefully to see what is covered, the level of the excesses, and to check for any exclusions. In particular, those travellers who have known pre-existing conditions, who are working long-term overseas, or who are going to undertake any form of hazardous recreational or occupational pursuit may need to obtain a special travel insurance policy, and this may attract a higher premium. In addition, travel insurance companies normally provide a service, usually through their emergency assistance contractors, to assist travellers abroad.

This may include assisting with medical care while overseas, including aeromedical evacuation. Use of the emergency telephone service provided by the travel insurance company was reported in almost one-fifth of claims in a recent study of general claims in Australia (Leggat & Leggat, 2002).

In a recent Swiss study, more than two-thirds of claims made through the travel insurer’s assistance centre were for illness, while the remainder were due to accidents (Somer Kniestedt & Steffen, 2003). The risk of severe injury is thought to be greater for people when travelling abroad (Bewes, 1993). This chapter reviews the general nature of travel insurance and the mechanics and practical considerations of emergency assistance and aeromedical evacuation.

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