How This Membership Saved One Traveler $199,000.

And it's a travel product you've probably never heard of.


Originally published October 6, 2022 on Travel & Leisure

By Stefanie Waldek 

If you've purchased travel insurance, as many have amid the pandemic, how closely have you read your policy?

It turns out that many travel insurance plans, as well as insurance provided by credit cards, only partially cover medical transportation. Your transportation to the nearest acceptable medical facility is typically covered, but if you want to fly to any other hospital — say, one closer to home or one that's well-regarded for a certain specialty — you're on the hook for the bill.

That's where an emergency medical transportation plan comes in, as travel advisor Carol Oken of Duffle and Compass learned when she was transported from Malawi, in southeast Africa, to Chicago for surgery. The medical transportation would've cost her just shy of $200,000, but with Medjet air medical transport coverage, her out-of-pocket costs were $0. Oken's transportation was the most expensive airlift Medjet has ever facilitated and covered the costs of.

Medjet goes a (considerable) step beyond the average travel insurance; the medical transportation company says that "one in 30 trips end in a medical emergency," per its website, and membership essentially gets travelers airlifted out of their destination and to a medical facility. Annual membership is available, but short-term membership can be used to cover specific trips.


Carol Oken hiking in Africa and with a meerkat friend

                            COURTESY OF CAROL OKEN

"While staying at Kaya Mawa, a beautiful property on an island in Lake Malawi, I missed a step in my room and fell. I fractured my hip and was unable to stand or walk," Oken told Travel + Leisure. Oken was initially admitted to a hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi, but the facility was unable to perform the surgery she needed on her hip. 

Her Medjet coverage facilitated an air ambulance from Lilongwe to Chicago, her home city, where she could see a specialist for the medical procedure. As an African travel specialist, Oken has had short-term Medjet coverage at various points over the past 15 years.

"Medjet took a lot of information from me and talked to my attending physician in Lilongwe. They also coordinated with my husband, who was in touch with an orthopedic trauma surgeon and hospital in Chicago where I was expected," Oken explained. "Once Medjet had the evacuation plans in place, they communicated with everyone. The next day, I left Lilongwe on an air ambulance with a doctor, a nurse, and two pilots."

The total bed-to-bed cost of that transportation was $198,989, all of which was covered by her membership. For comparison, the cost of an entry-level Medjet Assist membership, which includes all-expenses-paid medical air transport all over the world and allows members to select their destination hospital, is $99 for an eight-day plan. An annual plan costs $295. There are no pre-existing exclusions for members under 75 years old.

Like traditional travel insurance, Medjet has a variety of membership plans that range in both coverage type and duration of coverage; the idea isn't that Medjet replaces traditional travel insurance but supplements it. The premium membership, Medjet Horizon, includes access to a 24/7 security network that can assist with evacuations for a range of safety threats, including natural disasters.

"After missing one step with a terrible result, I’m the first to say it is totally worth it," Oken said.

Learn more about Medjet membership here and travel insurance here.