Retirees Dennis Devermont and his wife had embarked on a 25-day princess cruise out of Berlin in September, but within three days Devermont felt excruciating pain, the start of a months-long journey to physical and financial recovery.
"The crewmembers said that I had to disembark the ship," he recalled. "They had an ambulance and they took me to a Russian hospital."
He was under the knife at a St. Petersburg hospital in about an hour, undergoing surgery for a ruptured colon. To help avoid pneumonia and clear his lungs, the hospital wanted Devermont to blow bubbles into a water bottle, the only device they had to achieve the task.
And few days later, he received more bad news. Water was filling his lungs and the doctors wanted to be a test tube into his chest. "By that time, we’d had enough," Devermont said.
The couple chartered an air ambulance using its $118,000 vacation nest egg to get back to Los Angeles.
Three months later, Devermont is recovering well but his checkbook isn’t.
"We still have not gotten a check, just denials," he said.
Medicare doesn’t cover expenses while overseas. Anthem Blue Cross paid the Russian hospital, but initially hesitated on its review of the air ambulance costs. This week, Devermont learned his request for coverage of the $118,000 med-evac flight was denied.
He said this isn’t something anyone should have to worry about.
"I think the real lesson is: make sure you have medical coverage," he said.