Americans who test positive for Covid -19 overseas will be barred entry back to the U.S., which means possibly racking up hefty hotel charges and rebooking fees. Travel insurance has rarely seemed so attractive.



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Pete Ryan

IT’S THE TRAVELER’S WORST nightmare in 2021: What happens if you test positive for Covid-19 while you’re abroad? With the Delta variant continuing to surge, even many fully vaccinated travelers are asking that question. A positive test will bar you from your return flight to the U.S., but for how long, and under what conditions? That varies greatly by destination: There’s no one-size-fits-all quarantine plan. And, unless you bought the standard trip insurance that covers delays, you could be on the hook for hefty hotel bills and airfare rebooking expenses.

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How to get out of Dodge

For those who’d rather not risk tacking on a week or two in quarantine far from home, a number of travel advisers recommend trip evacuation coverage—membership plans that can whisk you back home on an air ambulance. And while most medical evacuation policies are designed for serious emergencies like a car accident or a heart attack, the Covid pandemic has given rise to a more flexible kind of policy. Newcomer to the field, Covac Global offers coverage for travelers who test positive for Covid and report at least one symptom, but don’t require hospitalization. Membership starts at $675 per person for 15 days of coverage. According to CEO Ross Thompson, Covac Global has evacuated around 60 U.S. travelers from foreign countries, including Croatia, Uganda, the Bahamas and Peru. These are not cushy private-jet jaunts, however. “These are registered air ambulances, with a doctor and full medical crew,” said Mr. Thompson. Re-entering the U.S. requires a set of steps the CDC oversees: Patients must, for instance, either go directly to a hospital or to isolation in accordance with their state’s health department rules.

Medjet, which has been operating medical evacuation flights for 30 years, recently expanded its Covid-related assistance to cover travel outside of North America. Memberships start at $99 a person for an eight-day trip, or $295 for a year of travel. Those with milder cases—even non-members—can arrange for an air ambulance on a “fee for service basis,” but the tab could run well into the five figures—more than most vacationers would want to spend.

Is it really worth the expense?

Many insurance policies that cover “trip delays” will reimburse you for hotel stays if you test positive for Covid. The pricier evacuation plans are for travelers who want added assurance. “Our members seem less concerned with travel delays, and more concerned with not getting ‘stuck’ in a hospital out of town,” said John Gobbels, COO of Medjet. If that’s your biggest worry, then an evacuation plan makes sense, but if you are healthy—and fully vaccinated—travel insurance with trip delay coverage will probably suffice.

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Appeared in the October 2, 2021, print edition as ‘The Calculated Risk of Travel Insurance.’

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