Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

Originally posted: 7th Apr 2020

Falling ill, or suffering an accident abroad is far from ideal. Yet one in five Brits still travel overseas without cover.

It’s even worse if your illness, or injury forces your holiday to an abrupt end resulting in an emergency return back to the UK (which can be costly to say the least!). 

The good news is that most travel insurance policies will include cover for medical expenses  and repatriation, so you can get the help you need whilst away.

What is repatriation cover?

Repatriation cover is there to protect you should you ever need to be brought back home to the UK as a result of a serious illness or injury. 

If you have a family member supporting you abroad whilst you are being treated, cover may also cover them to come home with you. And, should the worst happen, repatriation cover also offers protection against the high cost of bringing a body home.

As part of your medical cover, your specialist medical assistance team will help to decide whether it’s best to repatriate you back home or whether it’s better for you to stay abroad for treatment. You may be brought home if:

  1. You can’t get the appropriate treatment or level of care where you are
  2. You need a long period of recovery, which will be more suitable back home
  3. It may be too costly for you to receive treatment where you are

Do I need repatriation cover?

You can never predict the unexpected and although medical repatriation is an extremely rare event, it’s wise to ensure you’re covered. 

The reason why it’s so important is that it can be so expensive. Repatriation isn’t always as simple as boarding an earlier scheduled flight back home. 

In more extreme cases, it might involve medical evacuation via an air ambulance, or even a private aircraft from a more remote location, such as if you were on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean.

Medical Travel Compared Helicopter

Does travel insurance cover repatriation? Is it included as standard?

Fortunately, most standard travel insurance policies will include this type of cover (but, be sure to double-check). 

In most cases this will be listed alongside any medical coverage listed in your policy - although some providers may list it as a separate item altogether.

If you take out specialist travel insurance to cover a pre-existing condition, you might find that there is more cover for medical-related areas including medical expenses and repatriation.

What’s typically included?

The first thing to bear in mind is that cover will vary from policy to policy.

However, broadly speaking you’ll usually find that repatriation cover includes: 

  • The cost of getting you home (once you’ve been cleared to travel)
  • Any accommodation and travel expenses for a companion to stay with you until you can travel home
  • Some providers will actually organise the trip home on your behalf
  • Emergency helpline assistance available 24/7
  • The cost of returning an insured traveller’s body in the event of a death

The following is typically excluded: 

Cover for pre-existing medical conditions - you’ll need a specialist policy to cover any medical conditions you have been diagnosed with. Failure to do so could invalidate your policy.

How much repatriation cover do I need?

As mentioned above, medical repatriation can be extremely expensive. Therefore, you’ll need to ensure that there is sufficient coverage included in your policy. 

Many travel insurance policies will cover up to £1million at the very least - while some providers have been known to cover in excess of £10million. 

This might seem like an eyebrow-raising amount of money to some people, but it’s a necessary buffer when you consider the high cost of emergency medical care in foreign countries.

Who decides if I need to be repatriated?

Your insurance provider is likely to have the most say as far as whether or not you get repatriated. 

Of course, they will work side by side with a medical assistance company who will directly speak with any doctors who are treating you.

This will help them come to a decision on whether or not to send you home based on your condition and the type of treatment you need. 

This decision will also be influenced by the level of medical facilities and resources available in the country where you have fallen ill. However, there may also be instances where you are deemed medically unfit to travel.

Where can I get the best deal on repatriation?

Not all policies will provide the same level of medical repatriation coverage, so it’s important to bear this in mind when comparing cover. 

To give yourself some peace of mind, you could find that it’s worth paying a few extra pounds on top of your premium to ensure you get the best protection. 

Medical Travel Compared makes it easy to compare quotes across a range of travel insurance providers who can offer medical repatriation cover.

Can you get repatriation cover with a pre-existing medical condition?

Yes - just like any standard travel insurance policy, a specialist policy covering pre-existing conditions should include cover for repatriation. 

In fact, if you ever need to be repatriated as a result of any pre-existing conditions you haven’t declared with your insurance provider the likelihood is that you probably won’t be covered for any costs.

Therefore, it’s important to declare any pre-existing conditions when purchasing travel insurance!

What should you expect if you need repatriation?

Should you, or a family member need to be repatriated - just be aware that the decision ultimately rests with the specialist medical assistance team working with your travel insurance provider. 

As outlined above, they will speak to the medical professional responsible for you following your sickness or injury abroad. 

They will then decide on the best course of action - whether that’s as straightforward as getting you on the next commercial aircraft out of there, or something more complex (like an air ambulance, or private plane, for instance).

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