American Express Emergency Medical Transportation Explained

What's the going rate fora ride in one of these nowadays?
What’s the going rate for a ride in one of these nowadays?

Medical evacuations are expensive. See how American Express can help.

When might this be useful?
Am I covered?

How does this work?
Is this the same as travel or medical insurance?

If you ever get injured or sick while traveling, American Express’ Premium Global Assist (PGA) services can provide and pay for a medical evacuation to get you to adequate care.


When might this be useful? 

I’ve fortunately never had to use this benefit myself, but I can see how it would come in handy when traveling to a remote area (including on cruise ships) or anywhere that might not have adequate medical facilities.

One cardholder on The Points Guy shares his story:

“My wife broke her shoulder while we were visiting the Isle of Elba. I called the Platinum number for help and they flew us to Rome by helicopter. There, they arranged for my wife to be admitted into the hospital while I was booked in a first-class hotel …” – Milton V, Card member since 1971

Read Milton’s full story on The Points Guy.

Milton’s story is an amazing one, but the specific terms of this benefit may have changed since his trip to Italy. Read on to find out if you’re covered and how the program works.

Am I covered?

Premium Global Assist is included as a benefit for the Platinum Charge Card and all of its business card variations for customers in the United States.

An American Express representative informed me that you do not need to charge the trip (e.g., airfare) to a Platinum card for this coverage to apply.

To confirm how this applies to your specific situation, call the number on the back of your card.

This benefit extends to the cardholder, the cardholder’s spouse, and the cardholder’s children (dependents up to age 23, or age 26 if full-time student).

Here’s what needs to happen for coverage to apply:

  • You must have an American Express Platinum card.
  • Your account must be in good-standing.
  • You must be at least 100 miles from your home (i.e. your U.S. billing address).
  • The emergency must occur within 90 days of a trip.
  • You must not be (1) traveling against your doctor’s advice, (2) traveling with a pre-existing condition, or (3) traveling to seek medical treatment.

Some other things to note:

  • A “pre-existing condition” is any “sickness, illness, or injury that has manifested itself, become acute, or was treated in the 60 days immediately prior to the start of a trip.”
  • You may have to complete or authorize next of kin to complete a HIPAA Release for PGA to coordinate services with the local care provider.

You should also probably read this next section because American Express marks it “Very Important” (emphasis theirs):

Very Important: Any costs for medical transport not authorized and arranged through the Premium Global Assist Hotline Program are solely the responsibility of the Card Member and such costs will not be reimbursed. Premium Global Assist Hotline does not cover medical expenses (with the exception of cost incurred during the transport) nor transportation of personal possessions including luggage.

-p. 4, Terms and Condition of Premium Global Assist for the Platinum Card, available here.

Two key points I took from the section above:

  • This benefit is not medical insurance, and American Express will not pay for costs of medical care or treatment outside of a prior-authorized transport.
  • American Express will not reimburse you for any evacuation or transportation you arranged yourself. Instead, you now have to work through PGA and their contractors in the event of an evacuation.

Again, it’s always a good idea to call the number on the back of your card to see how the latest terms and coverage might apply to your specific situation. Just ask to speak to someone at “Premium Global Assist.”

American Express can help you find the right doctor when traveling.
American Express can connect you with the right medical care when traveling.

How does this work?

Call the Premium Global Assist hot-line toll-free at 1-800-345-AMEX (2639) to initiate the process. PGA provides services for a variety of travel emergencies, so it’s a good number to keep handy when traveling.

But for the medical transportation benefit, it’s critical to note that you need to be at a “local medical service provider or facility” first for this coverage to kick-in. Only after this initial stage of care can PGA’s designated physician coordinate with local medical services providers to determine where you need to go.

Here are some hypothetical scenarios to illustrate this:

Scenario where coverage may not apply: I just broke my arm and need to get to a hospital.

Scenario where coverage may apply: I got bitten by a zombie while on a business trip in Vancouver (I live in New York). Both the doctors here and the ones at American Express agree that the only place in the world I can get treated with the medically necessary, DNA-specific anti-zombie serum is in Atlanta.

See the difference?

In the first scenario, you presumably need immediate assistance and haven’t arrived at a facility that can properly decide on a course of treatment. Since you haven’t gotten that initial diagnosis yet, there’s no way for American Express to figure out where you’ll get adequate care.

In the second scenario, you’ve been examined by physicians in Vancouver who’ve coordinated with American Express to determine the best next steps. They’ve agreed you need to get to Atlanta, so PGA will likely arrange all necessary transportation from Vancouver to Atlanta – at no cost to you.

Is this the same as travel or medical insurance?

No, Emergency Medical Transportation Assistance is not travel or medical insurance. Comprehensive travel and medical insurance covers the cost of medical treatment abroad, fills emergency prescriptions, and reimburses receipts for services. Premium Global Assist does none of these.

What this benefit does offer, however, is emergency medical transport and added flexibility when dealing with a crisis. Maybe your insurer has a coverage cap. Or maybe they’ll only cover ground transportation within your destination country. PGA might supplement your travel insurance in both of these cases.

But even if you don’t have travel insurance, PGA can still evacuate you to safety and care. If American Express determines that the best place to get adequate care is back in the United States, they may pay for transportation back home, where you can work with your preferred healthcare providers.

Which way to the hospital?
Which way to the nearest hospital?

It’s not a substitute for insurance, but American Express’ Emergency Medical Transportation services is one little-known Platinum card benefit that can help you deal with travel emergencies. You can access the full terms and conditions of the program here.

Have you ever had to use this coverage in your travels? Share your stories below.

Disclaimer: This post, as with all my posts, is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Nothing in this post was intended or should be construed as medical, legal, or other professional advice. Similarly, nothing in this post should be interpreted as encouragement or coercion to take or not take any action whatsoever. Tl;dr: don’t sue me, please. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This