Helicopter/Rescue Insurance

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June

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Nov 5, 2017
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Any suggestions on insurance for backcountry rescue? I've looked into AAC and USARA (which isn't insurance but supports SAR). May 5, 2019, backpacking in Bears Ears (Grand Gulch) I broke my leg, activated my ACR PLB, and via helicopter, was taken to Moab Regional Hospital ER. The airlift bill is $51,000. Hopefully health insurance will consider it medically necessary :) So I'm looking for insurance for the future. If I can find some decent photos, I'll do my first trip report.
 

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Wanderlust073

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AIG Travel Guard. Per trip travel insurance and they’ll cover up to a million for evacs depending on plan. I’ve bought their plans, but never had to make a claim.
 

fossana

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If you have a GEOS-compatible personal locator beacon (InReach, Spot, etc.) they offer an inexpensive add-on SAR insurance. Depending on where you recreate there's also Reach airlift membership. It doesn't cover southern UT, but does northern and places like the Sierra and Tetons/Winds.

Curious who did the airlift. Typically if it's the park service, sheriff's office, or military if they charge at all, they bill your local government and you'll never see it.
 

June

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If you have a GEOS-compatible personal locator beacon (InReach, Spot, etc.) they offer an inexpensive add-on SAR insurance. Depending on where you recreate there's also Reach airlift membership. It doesn't cover southern UT, but does northern and places like the Sierra and Tetons/Winds.

Curious who did the airlift. Typically if it's the park service, sheriff's office, or military if they charge at all, they bill your local government and you'll never see it.
Classic Air Medical did the helicopter evac. They were fabulous but so is that bill.
 

June

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AIG Travel Guard. Per trip travel insurance and they’ll cover up to a million for evacs depending on plan. I’ve bought their plans, but never had to make a claim.
I've used Trip Mate for travel insurance trekking in the Huayhuash in Peru but never considered it for a backpacking trip. Lesson learned.
 

Bob

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Fremont county Idaho offers insurance as do a few helicopter companies in Idaho.. pretty reasonable
 

Carcass

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InReach offers "rescue" insurance, but the fine print says you have to be over 100 miles away from home. 100 mile radius, not 100 road miles. Big difference.
 

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June

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Fremont county Idaho offers insurance as do a few helicopter companies in Idaho.. pretty reasonable
Thank you. I just discovered Classic Air Medical has a membership program too.
 

June

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InReach offers "rescue" insurance, but the fine print says you have to be over 100 miles away from home. 100 mile radius, not 100 road miles. Big difference.
Good to know, because I spend alot of time in Uintas and am well within 100 miles.
 

Bob

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It's not insurance....basically a donation to the search and rescue operation..
 

Titans

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Has anyone had any experience with, or purchased the USARA card?
It is for UT only.
I have contemplated, but never pulled the trigger.

https://secure.utah.gov/rescue/index.html
Thanks @ ugly - Seems like a no-brainer to support them (for people who hike a lot in Utah), though it won't cover medical cost, like an airlift of an injured person. It looks like it's a donation to USARA and that "fewer sheriffs will be back-billing victims (for non-medical cost) if they have this card": "If you have a valid USARA card and are in need of rescue, the county with jurisdiction will be eligible to apply to the Utah Search and Rescue Board for reimbursement of the non-medical expenses incurred for your rescue.

In the FAQ section, https://secure.utah.gov/rescue/learn/faq.html:
  • Isn't the USARA card a form of insurance?
    "No, the USARA card is NOT insurance and the card holder or individual being rescued is solely responsible for all health care and medical costs associated with a search and rescue. When you purchase a USARA card, and you are in need of rescue, the non-medical costs that are incurred by the search and rescue (SAR) team on your behalf are eligible for reimbursement.
    The cost of planes or helicopters used in the SAR operation - for an aerial search, transport of rescuers and equipment, and the like - are eligible for reimbursement to the county entity.
    Medical transportation to medical facilities is considered a health insurance expense. Check with your health insurance to see if medical transport, such as a life flight or ground ambulance, is adequately covered in your health plan."
 
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SteveR

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Hmmm...something to consider for our trips south from Canada. Here, backcountry rescues are usually handled by local search and rescue (often highly qualified volunteers), or professionals in most national or provincial parks. Typically they contract to use local heli companies, that they work and train with regularly. Costs are covered by government for rescues, but often not for medical transport from a staging area or helipad to a medical facility. That's usually done by ground ambulance which can be pricey enough (but nowhere near 51K! ). For truly life threatening situations in Alberta and BC- there is STARS air ambulance which is largely funded by government and donations / fundraising.
Looks like we will be looking into some kind of insurance then, for our fall Utah-Arizona desert trip- $51,000 US would be a huge blow to our retirement fund.
 

Titans

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Classic Air Medical can bill you or your healthcare insurance company $51,000... but it doesn't mean they are going to get paid $51,000. Not by you and not by your insurance company. All those bills are negotiable. And if your healthcare insurer initially declines the airlift bill, then I would challenge the decision and appeal. A healthcare insurance should cover any medical emergency (medical emergency transport) like you had.

@June - What exactly does a Classic Air Medical membership give you? It seems to me that by having a membership the company provides the member with a "waiver" for the healthcare insurance company's co-payment and deductibles. It's not an insurance contract, they state.... and the rescue team on the ground or the dispatch center may call another company for an airlift:
https://www.classicairmedical.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Frequently-Asked-Questions-about-Classic-Air-Medical-Membership.pdf
 
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Bob

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Thanks @ ugly - Seems like a no-brainer to support them (for people who hike a lot in Utah), though it won't cover medical cost, like an airlift of an injured person. It looks like it's a donation to USARA and that "fewer sheriffs will be back-billing victims (for non-medical cost) if they have this card": "If you have a valid USARA card and are in need of rescue, the county with jurisdiction will be eligible to apply to the Utah Search and Rescue Board for reimbursement of the non-medical expenses incurred for your rescue.

In the FAQ section, https://secure.utah.gov/rescue/learn/faq.html:
  • Isn't the USARA card a form of insurance?
    "No, the USARA card is NOT insurance and the card holder or individual being rescued is solely responsible for all health care and medical costs associated with a search and rescue. When you purchase a USARA card, and you are in need of rescue, the non-medical costs that are incurred by the search and rescue (SAR) team on your behalf are eligible for reimbursement.
    The cost of planes or helicopters used in the SAR operation - for an aerial search, transport of rescuers and equipment, and the like - are eligible for reimbursement to the county entity.
    Medical transportation to medical facilities is considered a health insurance expense. Check with your health insurance to see if medical transport, such as a life flight or ground ambulance, is adequately covered in your health plan."
SAR does not usually bill people anyway...if they do they do not usually expect payment. There has been talk of charging though with the onslot of dumb people going where the shouldnt be or umprepared
 

Titans

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If you have a GEOS-compatible personal locator beacon (InReach, Spot, etc.) they offer an inexpensive add-on SAR insurance. .
I just talked with GEOS about their SAR and MEDEVAC plans :

SAR PLANS ( @Carcass the 99 miles is NOT a restriction for GEOS' SAR plans) - and yes @June it does pay for rescue cost and air lift to the local hospital, as long as you have 1) purchased the SAR plan ahead of time and 2) the rescue is INITIATED/ACTIVATED on your GEOS approved device. If you have NOT purchased a SAR plan and you activate the beacon on a GEOS device, then everything is out-of-pocket seen from GEOS' perspective. (I personally think your private Healthcare insurer might see the airlift itself it as a medical emergency and pay.)

MEDEVAC PLANS (restricted, it must be more than 99 miles from home). This other additional plan is used for safe medical evacuations from the local hospital to a final hospital of your choice. That might be relevant for us and @SteveR and others who hike out of state and need safe medical transport back to their home state. This I know isn't covered in normal health insurance plans, but the MEDEVAC plans do cover it.

PLS NOTE: GEOS has plans per person, per couple or per family. Someone injured, who is not on a pre-paid GEOS plan, does not receive the benefits, if the GEOS device is activated.
 
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