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Travel insurance: An ounce of prevention?

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Entrepreneur magazine, April 1999

Traveling overseas is challenging enough, with language and cultural barriers to overcome at almost every turn. Add a debilitating illness or injury to the equation, and you could be in serious trouble.

Unfortunately, this happens more often that you think. By some estimates, four in every 1,000 business travelers become so ill they have to return home.

"If you're in a hospital, you want a doctor who speaks your language," says Donna Murrell of Birmingham, Alabama, MedJet Assistance LLC, which operates a fleet of flying ambulances.

MedJet charges individuals $150 per year for its coverage and maintains a 24-hour emergency phone number travelers can use to consult with U.S. medical professionals. It also refers members to an international network of English-speaking physicians for less serious emergencies.

So who needs travel insurance? If your business takes you to dangerous places or locations with substandard medical facilities, chances are you'll benefit from a policy. If you're not sure, check out the U.S. State Department's Travel Warnings, Consular Information Sheets and Public Announcements page at http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html.

Even if your destination isn't on the government's black list, you may still want to consider insurance. Mark Sobsey, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, recently tested the sewage tanks on airplanes and found they contained viruses linked to a number of deadly infections, including neurological diseases, and gastrointestinal illnesses.

Contact Sources

Medjet Assistance LLC, (800) 9-MEDJET, http://www.medjetassistance.com

Christopher Elliott is a writer in Los Angeles and a columnist for "ABC News Online."

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