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HomeNewsBack to Work: VP Sheri Howell on How Medjet Pivoted to Help...

Back to Work: VP Sheri Howell on How Medjet Pivoted to Help with COVID Issues Overseas

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Medjet
Courtesy of Medjet

I’ve taken a little break from my “Back to Work” articles, mainly because….  well, everyone actually is getting back to work or at least trying hard, and it’s been easier to write about specific projects and shows that have been successful. And others that have not.

I did want to continue talking to people who are involved in services that could prove useful to productions and crew, so when I was contacted by someone about Medjet, it immediately sounded like something our readers might be interested in, particularly the ones regularly travelling overseas and concerned about getting stuck somewhere.

Medjet offers medical transport and travel security services through a Membership Program that can be subscribed to either annually or for shorter periods. It’s specifically created for those who don’t want to risk being stranded in a hospital or overseas with no way of getting home. It has to be a big concern for anyone who regularly works in foreign countries, and those frequently travelling are more likely to experience something like what happened during the recent COVID lockdown.

Medjet
Sheri Howell (Courtesy of Medjet)

A few weeks back, I spoke with Medjet Vice President of Marketing and Communications Sheri Howell, whose background included being Head of Music and Talent at MTV for 15 years before going into marketing, production and talent management, before teaming with Albert Watson’s Cyclops, doing branded content campaigns for Walmart, Miley Cyrus, Intel and the Black-Eyed Peas. She has won an Emmy, a Clio and a bunch of Tellies.

You may wonder why someone with her background might be interested in the medical transport business, but it turned out that there was some crossover between the services she offers her talent and what Medjet offers, especially for those who travel.  “When I read what its membership did, I was kind of furious because I would have been a member for 20 years,” she told us over the phone.

“Anywhere you travel over 150 miles from your home, it sets this radius of services,” she explained. “If I get in a car accident in Mexico City, I’m covered. They’ll get me back to whatever hospital I want to come to.  The security services are kind of the same thing. You can basically call them anytime you don’t feel safe, as opposed to there being like a government-issued mandate to evacuate or if a hurricane is coming at you. We just added pandemic coverage the year before.“

She explained the services a little further. “If somebody is hospitalized, they call us, and we work with the attending physician at the hospital that they’re at. They do need to be pre-admitted to the hospital they want to be in so our doctors can help transfer medical information and get all that stuff lined up, but really, it’s between the patient, their insurance company, and their arrangements. We can facilitate it, but we don’t physically have agreements with hospitals anywhere, because everybody wants a different hospital – it’d be impossible.”

What they do is track down the doctor at the hospital where you’ve been admitted, get your medical records, set things up with the attending at the hospital where you’re travelling, and then dispatch a transfer crew. “They literally show up at your bed in the hospital, and they deal with everything. They wheel you out, put you in an ambulance, take you to the air ambulance, they land, they put you in another ambulance, they take you to the hospital that you’re being checked into, and they make sure that everything is recorded. They don’t leave your side until they’re comfortable that your new doctor is completely up to speed with everything medical concerning you, and only then do they leave your side.”

At this point, you may be wondering, “What does this have to do with me?” Well, if you’re reading this and you travel a lot for work and that work takes you to foreign countries much of the time, you may want to take a glance at Medjet’s services. In these particularly trying times, no one wants to get stuck somewhere away from home.  When you think about the cost of domestic or even international medical transport, which can range from $30,000 to $180,000, the relatively inexpensive costs to let Medjet handle all the arrangements could be worthwhile. (Without going into the gory details, I nearly got stranded in a hospital in Las Vegas, and could have really used Medjet when that happened, let me tell you.)

“We have a ton of corporate partners, and we cover a ton of celebrities,” Howell said without revealing any names. “They probably don’t even know it either, because it’s mostly the business managers and the entertainment insurance brokers that enroll them, so this works great for productions.”

Medjet
Courtesy of Medjet

When asked about productions getting memberships for the crew on a shoot. “That’s an ideal situation, but I feel like it always just comes down to the production, the people who are actually making those decisions,” she said. “Obviously, each film or commercial production has a different structure to it, but the buck seems to stop with the production company itself.”

Granted, most productions tend to use local crew in many roles, but there’s always the heads of department and others who are often brought in for a show. Howell offered a couple suggestions how Medjet might be used to make sure the travelling crew on a production can be protected.  “It is something that the studio could recommend that the production company builds into their budget, which is to cover crew. Producer or the production manager could offer it to their crew as an opt-in, because it’s so crazy affordable. We have multiple different ways that people cover. Some companies pay for it; they cut us a check, they give us a list of people who they want to be members, we enroll each of their people, and that’s called ‘corporate-funded.’ We also have arrangements with groups that offer members a discount to enroll in Medjet as an opt-in enrollment.”

“As a producer and as the production company, you have your insurance, but you also have what’s called ‘duty of care,’ which is the responsibility to oversee the health and well-being of everybody you’re responsible for to an acceptable level,” she continued. “If that sounds very nebulous, it is a huge gray area. You do have to make a really hard choice sometimes. If the production is folding, do you just leave the person there? If you can’t get them moved home, do you just leave them there?”

“We were not transporting for COVID because we couldn’t break a quarantine,” she told us about that fateful day in March when the entire world shut down. “People didn’t know how deadly it was. They were quarantined when they got back here.”  Transport companies weren’t allowed to travel between countries, but also no one wanted to bring COVID back home, since that was against Medjet’s Rules and Regulations.

Medjet
Courtesy of Medjet

That has changed as Medjet recently updated their terms to cover travel within and from areas where someone might contract a more serious case of COVID. “We have sourced enough aircrafts with isolation products and crews trained in sanitary protocols. There were a few affiliates or transport companies that were saying they would transport for COVID, but our people expect a very high level of service, so we really wanted to make sure that it was some of our well-vetted affiliates that were able to transport our members. It took us a while to source enough aircraft like that. We are the only company doing that so far. If somebody comes down with COVID while traveling in the 48 contiguous United States, Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean, and they are hospitalized for it, we can get them moved to their hospital at home. Prior to that, we wouldn’t do active COVID infections.”

It’s important to remember that Medjet isn’t insurance, but it does cover some things that may not be covered by insurance on a production or even your own personal health insurance.  “We’re a membership program, we’re not even insurance. You can purchase a short-term eight-day membership. You can purchase a 15 day, a 21 day, a 30 day or an annual that covers as much travel as you want in a year, up to 90 consecutive days per trip out of the country. For commercial shoots and things like that, production insurance aside, we’re just specifically if somebody gets injured or ill while they’re on a location, and they land in the hospital and they want to get home. That’s what we do.  If you travel a lot out of the country, it’s more important so you don’t cap out on whatever insurance you do have and start going out of pocket.”

“We always recommend travel insurance, especially if you’re going out of the country, because that actually pays for the hospital bills. It pays for flight cancellation, lost baggage, all of that,” she confirmed. “I call that the cake of insurance when you travel – we’re like the icing. The medical evacuation component of business insurance, travel insurance, all domestic health insurance works the same way. They will only transport you to the nearest acceptable facility for treatment. If you have a car accident in a little town outside Paris, they rush you to the local hospital. Once you hit that hospital in Paris, you stay there.”

“We’re like the best kept secret. There’s tons of people who have [Medjet] and don’t even know [it], but they should know,” she concluded. “Their expectation is that if they end up in a hospital, and if they’re going to be there for a long period of time, that they’re somehow, someway, miraculously going to be able to get to their hospital at home, and most coverages don’t afford that.”

So yeah, Medjet might not necessarily have been created specifically for film and television productions, but it seems like all the uncertainty with work that requires travelling, it feels like another good resource to know about.

You can learn more about becoming a Medjet member at MedjetAssist.com.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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