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FAQ: What Is Repatriation Coverage and Who Needs It?

Wondering how to plan for the worst-case scenario on your international trip? This guide to repatriation coverage will help.

Published on June 24th, 2024 in Travel Assistance

There’s nothing quite like an overseas vacation …

You dream about beaches or history or exotic food for months or even years before it happens. The planning alone could take several months, but of course the anticipation is a big part of the fun.

And with an international trip, planning is crucial, and it can be quite extensive.

Flights, hotels, rental cars, documents, outfits, souvenirs …

There are a ton of details you need to plan. When it comes to planning, we tend to plan for the outcomes we expect to happen, but how do you plan for something unexpected?

Have you planned for the worst-case scenario?

It’s no fun to think about, but the worst-case scenario when traveling abroad is serious injury, illness, or death. If you want to be prepared for everything, this is part of it.

Luckily, planning for these scenarios is fairly painless.

What you’re looking for is repatriation coverage.

What is repatriation coverage?

Repatriation coverage, sometimes called repatriation insurance, is a type of coverage that is typically included as part of travel insurance policies. It is designed to cover the costs associated with returning a traveler to their home country for medical treatment in the event of injury, illness or even death while abroad.

There are generally two situations when you might need this type of coverage:

1. Medical repatriation

Imagine you’ve been injured or fallen seriously ill during your overseas trip. The local healthcare facilities may not be equipped to provide the care you need, and you may need to be transported back to your home country for treatment.

This is where medical repatriation comes in.

Insurance companies may cover the cost of medical repatriation if the transport is deemed ‘medically necessary’ or ‘medically reasonable’.

For those who can’t travel on their own, air ambulance is a common method of transport. For non-critical patients, travel via commercial airline may be used, when accompanied by an appropriate medical escort. Even road ambulances equipped with intensive-care capabilities can provide long-distance transportation.

The cost of medical repatriation is influenced by various factors, including distance, urgency, the patient’s health status, the number of accompanying persons, and the need for specialized transportation. And of course, the type of insurance used and the specific policy details (deductibles, out-of-network services, etc.) will have a significant impact on cost.

2. Repatriation of remains

In the unfortunate event of a death abroad, repatriation coverage covers the costs associated with returning the insured person’s body to their home country. It’s a sensitive topic, but one that’s important to discuss.

The specific expenses covered by repatriation insurance for preparing and transporting the deceased’s body can include embalming or cremation, with international shipping costs generally ranging from $3,000 to $20,000.

In cases where professional funeral services or international assistance is needed, especially in remote locations, repatriation insurance can facilitate and cover these specialized logistics. It’s about providing peace of mind and support in a difficult time, ensuring that your loved one can be returned home with dignity and respect.

How do you get repatriation coverage?

Most people do not buy standalone repatriation coverage; it’s typically offered as part of additional services. That said, there are two primary ways you can find repatriation protection.

1. Travel insurance policies

Repatriation insurance generally covers the necessary and reasonable costs of transportation, which may be determined by the medical necessity and the urgency of the situation.

The decision to repatriate a patient often involves consultation with medical professionals and is influenced by the ability of local medical facilities to adequately treat the condition.

So what can you expect from a typical repatriation insurance plan? At the core, most plans offer benefits for the two situations listed above: Emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains.

As per all insurance plans, the customer will need to make all the necessary arrangements in their time of need, file a claim with their insurance provider after the fact, then wait to be reimbursed for the costs incurred. How much the insurance provider pays out will be determined by the details in the policy.

Note: Most insurance companies will impose a cap on costs.

Much of the claims process comes down to what is deemed “medically necessary,” which is a notorious gray area in travel insurance policies.

2. Travel assistance memberships

A second (and lesser-known) option for repatriation protection is through a travel assistance membership.

Travel assistance services play a crucial role in managing repatriation, providing comprehensive support that extends beyond just the financial aspects. These services typically involve coordination and logistical planning to ensure that travelers receive timely and efficient help when they need to be repatriated due to medical reasons or in the event of death.

For example, here’s how travel assistance from Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+) can help with repatriation:

  • Coordination of medical care: Travel assistance services include arranging and providing necessary medical care before and during the repatriation process. This means assessing the patient’s condition, consulting with medical professionals, and determining the safest and most appropriate method of transportation. For example, they may decide whether an air ambulance is needed based on the traveler’s health status and urgency for medical treatment.
  • Logistical support for medical repatriation: If a traveler needs to be returned home for medical treatment, travel assistance services handle all aspects of arranging the transport. This includes securing seats on commercial flights with necessary medical escorts or arranging for an air ambulance. They take care of complex details, ensuring that the traveler receives continuous care throughout the journey.
  • Repatriation of remains: In the unfortunate event of a traveler’s death, travel assistance services manage the process required for the repatriation of remains. This process involves a lot of coordination with local authorities, funeral homes, and airlines. Services include obtaining necessary clearances, preparing the body according to legal and health requirements, and arranging transport to the traveler’s home country.
  • Legal and administrative assistance: Travel assistance often includes help with the legal and administrative paperwork that is necessary for repatriation in both medical and mortal scenarios. This can involve navigating foreign legal systems, communicating with consulates or embassies, and completing required documentation.
  • Support for family members: Travel assistance services may also extend support to family members traveling with the patient or those who need to join the patient urgently from another country. This includes logistical support for emergency travel arrangements and accommodations.

Travel assistance services, such as Emergency Assistance Plus, can enhance the repatriation process by providing a seamless, efficient, and personal approach to managing complex situations in foreign locales. These services ensure that all necessary medical, legal, and logistical issues are professionally handled, relieving significant stress from the patient and their family during difficult times.
Repatriation coverage: Travel Insurance vs. Travel Assistance

Learn more about the differences between travel insurance and travel assistance.

Which type of travelers should consider repatriation coverage?

Repatriation coverage can provide peace of mind and substantial financial relief during emergencies, making it a wise investment for these and other travelers venturing away from home, especially where quality medical care is a concern.

These groups should strongly consider repatriation coverage:

  • International travelers: Anyone traveling internationally, where they may be far from home and potentially exposed to unfamiliar health risks, should have repatriation coverage. International travel can involve unexpected health emergencies that require transport back to the traveler’s home country for treatment.
  • Travelers to remote or rural areas: Those planning to visit remote or rural areas where medical facilities may not meet the standards they are accustomed to should consider repatriation coverage. This ensures they can be transported to a location with adequate medical care if needed.
  • Travelers with pre-existing medical conditions: Those with known health issues should ensure they have repatriation coverage, as they may face unexpected medical complications while traveling. Access to preferred medical facilities and doctors in their home country can be crucial.
  • Elderly travelers: Older travelers, who may be more vulnerable to health issues while traveling, should have repatriation coverage to ensure they can receive care in their home country if needed.
Who needs repatriation coverage?

Next steps

Understanding and investing in repatriation coverage is essential for anyone traveling far from home, especially in scenarios where accessing familiar, high-standard medical care is critical.

Repatriation coverage is not merely an insurance formality but a lifeline that ensures peace of mind and security in emergencies, whether it’s receiving the necessary medical care or managing the details surrounding the repatriation of remains with dignity and care.

Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+) offers specialized travel assistance services that go above and beyond to provide comprehensive support in the event of medical emergencies or death.

EA+ stands out by not only protecting you against the financial costs of repatriation, but also managing all aspects of repatriation—from logistical arrangements and medical coordination, ensuring that every step is handled quickly with sensitivity and expertise.

Choosing EA+ means opting for a robust safety net that allows travelers to explore the world with confidence, knowing they are protected in the most challenging situations.

If your adventures take you across borders or into remote corners of the globe, let EA+ be your trusted companion, ready to assist you when you need it most.

Learn more about how EA+ can safeguard your travels and provide indispensable assistance in times of need by visiting our website. Your journey deserves the peace of mind that only comprehensive repatriation coverage can provide.

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