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rescue costs

Original Post
Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 180

so ive read a couple posts here on MP about the cost of getting flown out of a climbing location due to injury, with a high cost to be covered by the injured climber. this has been in the back of my mind since a fellow climber suffered a heart attack at 19.5k feet on denali and had to be air lifted off. luckily for him, it was in a national park so the government covered the HUGE bill.

i am curious if the people who have been caught in this situation and had to pay the bill themselves, did not have health insurance.

i just spoke with the local rep for my work provided health care plan. he said any emergency flight, ambulance ride and out of network emergency visit is covered the same as it would be if you were in a car accident or some other (non-risky) injury. for my plan, all ambulance rides are 100% covered and a heli ride would be also.

this really eliminates the need for accident insurance for my situation. hopefully other climbers with decent health insurance can look into whats covered and possibly eliminate the need for extra accident insurance.

Chris Walden · · Soldotna, Alaska · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 640

I am on the tail end of planning a big alpine trip to Africa and ran down all the beta on coverages and here is what I found. You may want to dig a little deeper into your insurance coverage finer points because on the surface I thought why bother with any rescue services as well.

Credit Card: My card (Merrill Lynch) includes a free $100K of Emergency EVAC/Medical coverage (however does NOT cover rock climbing), an additional $1 million of life insurance, $2,500 trip cancellation policy, and replacement value for lost or stolen luggage on trips purchased on the card.

Health Insurance: My personal health insurance covers EVAC, Helicopters, medical, surgeries etc. BUT all expenses incurred have to be paid out of pocket first and then they reimburse. So if the bills are $500K I would have to pony up front $500K and they would cut me a check. Representative I was talking to told me a story of a woman who injured herself in Italy and was stuck with a $40K bill because she couldn't pay for it first so insurance would not reimburse her. NOTE: Any health insurance coverage will most definitely fall into Out of Network and your coverages and deductibles will apply.

Global Rescue: I have Global Rescue (~$7,500 for International) through the AAC membership. The $7,500 is from anywhere on the mountain to the trailhead. They don't cover any expenses past the trailhead. You can upgrade for about ~$150 for a 14 day trip and that bumps it up to $500K and covers everything, even past the trailhead. So they would EVAC, stabilize and transport to the nearest home hospital back in the states up to a max of $500K.

We ended up getting the additional Global Rescue for this trip due to being out of country, remoteness of our objectives, and potential for hazard. YMMV but in some cases I think the additional Global Rescue service is a good supplement to all your other coverages.

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 180

Hey Chris. Thanks for the info. One thing I did confirm with my insurance company is that any emergency care is considered in network regardless of where you visit. They don't want someone to be in an emergency and not get care cuz they can't find an in network facility. He also let me know that many things would qualify for an emergency. It doesn't have to be life threatening. For instance, if you broke your leg but were completely stable.

SMarsh · · NY, NY · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 3

FYI, we had health insurance.

The variety of legally allowable policies in this country is wide.

Therefore, you cannot get one answer to the question of, "If I have health insurance, will a helicopter ride be covered?"

In many cases, the decision may be that the helicopter ride is an extraordinary expense, and that the patient could well have gone to a more local hospital (whether or not the care would have been equally good).

And the pricing of helicopter rescues is not as regulated as the cost of ambulance rides.

The helicopter rescue, in our case, was covered but not fully.

The air ambulance company, located in a far distant state, was perfectly happy to charge more than was covered and wasn't interested in negotiations. Just money.

Covered: Less than $10K. Charged: More than $30K.

Catie Beckman · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

Just had a situation like this last weekend. The CHP did an air lift from the wall to a nearby open area and my friend was not charged since it was covered by the California Highway Patrol. Could be useful info if climbing in California.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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