American Express has now decided to offer free medical transportation with some of their credit cards. A new benefit offered, termed the Premium Global Assist® Hotline‡, is designed to help travelers who may be if need of emergency services while traveling abroad. With this hotline, card holders are provided with medical assistance services which does include medical transportation.

When you travel more than 100 miles from home, you have 24/7 medical, legal, financial or other select emergency coordination and assistance services, including medical and legal referrals, passport replacement, cash wires and more. Card Members may be responsible for the costs charged by third-party service providers.

While this is a great concept and certainly one that can benefit some card holders in certain situations; it is important to ask the correct questions to be sure you know exactly what will be covered as well as what the specific terms and limitations of this offer has. When reading the fine print, we can gain a bit more insight into some of the key limitations which is outlined in this section of the terms:

Medical transport and evacuation will be provided, at no cost, to the covered Card Member or
family member, to another, more appropriate medical facility, or from point of origin back to a
hospital near their home, when the covered Card Member or family member is under the care of
a local medical service provider or facility and when the PGA designated physician, in
consultation with the local medical service provider or facility, determines that such transport is
medically necessary and advisable due to inadequacy of local facilities. Eligibility for medical
transport is contingent upon the covered Card Member or family member not 1) traveling against
physician’s advice, 2) traveling with a pre-existing condition*, or 3) traveling to seek medical
treatment. Decisions made by the PGA-designated physician and the local medical service
provider as to 1) the medical need for evacuation, transportation and/or repatriation services, 2)
the means and/or timing of any transportation, medical equipment and supplies and medical
personnel to be used in connection therewith and 3) the selection of the Card Member’s final
destination, are medical decisions based on medical factors, and as such, are beyond the control
of the PGA Program and shall be conclusive in determining the need for such services.

In this section of the terms, there are few key highlights that are important to think about:

1. Medical transportation will only be covered when a “PGA designated physician”, which is a remotely located physician with the Premium Global Assist Hotline, agrees in consultation with a local medical service provider that medical transportation is absolutely necessary. So it is important to note that the decision as to whether medical transport is even necessary will not be made by your own doctor and rather by that of two individuals that are likely less familiar with your individual medical history.

2. Additionally, this section mentions it will not cover transportation for any re-existing condition which they define as “any sickness, illness, or injury that has manifested itself, become acute, or was being treated in the 60-day period immediately prior to the start of a trip.” This is very important as you must ensure that you have no previous condition related to, or in cause of, your reason for medical evacuation. This may be often difficult to determine up front, in which case, you may not become aware of non-coverage until after you have already utilized the transportation services though American Express.

3. The terms also state that they do not cover “medical expenses (with the exception of approved costs incurred during transport) nor transportation of personal possessions including luggage.” With that, it is important that you are aware of anything additional that is done or provided during transportation; and this includes transporting any other belongings you may have with you.

4. The terms also state that you will be transported “to a more appropriate medical facility or to a hospital near the person’s home as determined by the Premium Global Assist Hotline designated physician.” In this section, the key is to understand that Hotline’s designated physician will be the person determining where you should be treated and that their recommendation may or may not align with where you are comfortable being treated and with existing doctors that may know you best.

A medical evacuation may be provided at no cost to the Card Member or covered family
member from point of illness or injury (when the Card Member or covered family member
is under the care of a local medical service provider or facility) to a more appropriate
medical facility or to a hospital near the person’s home as determined by the Premium
Global Assist Hotline designated physician.

All in all, this can be a great service that may work to your benefit in an emergency situation, but it is important that you fully understand all terms of the benefit before utilizing this service. Without clearly meeting all of the requirements outlined by American Express, it is possible you may be charged for things that you initially assumed were covered. Moreover, you may end up in a situation where you do not end up being treated by your preferred doctor or specialist. Do your research before traveling and ensure you know exactly what is covered with your credit card benefits should you ever need to use them in an emergency situation.

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