When Massillon resident Joanne Friedrich broke her hip during a visit to the Bahamas this month, she experienced what might be every traveler's worst nightmare: a serious illness or injury far from home. But she had purchased travel medical insurance.

When Massillon resident Joanne Friedrich fell and broke her hip during a visit to the Bahamas this month, she experienced what might be every traveler’s worst nightmare: suffering a serious illness or injury far from home.

Getting airlifted back home after such an experience can cost as much as $100,000, according to the U.S. State Department.

But Friedrich, who had purchased a relatively inexpensive membership in an air-evacuation program designed for travelers, was back in Massillon within several hours of her fall, with no out-of-pocket expense.

Being treated for an illness or accident in a foreign country can also be an expensive proposition. According to the State Department, private health insurance is generally not accepted outside the United States.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid don’t provide coverage abroad, either. And many medical providers require a payment from foreign visitors before treatment.

But travel medical insurance and medical evacuation policies can eliminate that risk relatively cheaply, said Damian Tysdal, founder of the website TravelInsuranceReview.net.

Insurance that adds medical coverage comes in two basic varieties, Tysdal explained: trip insurance — also called a “vacation plan” or “package plan” — and stand-alone travel medical insurance policies.

Trip insurance usually includes coverage for canceled or interrupted trips and lost baggage as well as for medical emergencies. But the coverage can routinely add 5 to 8 percent to the cost of a trip, Tysdal said.

Travel medical insurance alone is much cheaper, he said.

“A frequent traveler might not have the concerns about cancellations but be worried about going abroad and having a slip and fall and not having proper health coverage,” he said.

“You can get a travel medical plan for dollars a day. For example, on a recent two-week trip abroad, I paid $40 for a policy for my wife and me. That’s very cost-effective.”

The Insurance Information Institute trade group suggests that travel medical insurance can be a good deal for Americans venturing abroad, but it recommends checking with your own health insurance company before buying a policy to determine what coverage you might already have.

The cost of travel medical insurance varies depending on a number of factors, including the duration of the trip, the deductible and the coverage limits, said Chris Baker, regional insurance manager for AAA Ohio Auto Club.

“And the younger you are, the less expensive it is,” Baker said. “But it’s usually very affordable in any case.”

Dozens of insurance companies offer travel medical coverage. A typical policy might cover up to $100,000 in medical expenses after a $100 deductible and cost $30 to $50 a week for a 50-year-old man traveling to Europe.

Travel medical plans also include a kind of concierge service that offers 24-hour assistance by phone to help policyholders find appropriate treatment wherever they are in the world, Baker said. That can be very important for an ill traveler who might not even know the language, much less the ins and outs of the local health-care system, he said.

And although the quality and availability of medical care varies greatly throughout the world, the cost of travel medical insurance usually doesn’t depend on the destination, Baker said.

Most policies also include some coverage for emergency transportation to an appropriate medical facility. But getting emergency transportation back home can still be expensive, especially if medical attention is required on the way.

Some travelers should consider signing up for a medical emergency air-transport “membership” with one of several companies that offer the service, Tysdal said.

“That can be very cost-effective as well, especially if you do a decent amount of traveling,” he said.

One such service, MedjetAssist, will fly members to the hospital of their choice should they become ill or injured more than 150 miles from home. The service includes medical attendants for the flight and costs nothing beyond the membership fee, said Medjet CEO Roy Berger.

About 75 percent of such flights are made aboard private air ambulances, Berger said. The rest are aboard commercial flights in premium seats with medical attendants along.

Most of Medjet’s customers opt for annual memberships, which begin at $260 for an individual and $395 for a family, Berger said.

But short-term memberships are also available from $99 and are a popular choice for parents who are concerned about children traveling on spring break and the like.

“Everybody knows somebody who’s had an incident traveling,” Berger said.

“You think it won’t happen to you, and it probably won’t. But we’re selling peace of mind.”

No one has to sell Friedrich, who has owned her Bahamian condo for 39 years and been a Medjet member for 15 years.

After she fell in her condo, where she spends two to three months each year, she was airlifted that day from the local hospital to Affinity Medical Center near her Massillon home.

“They sent me on a Lear jet with two pilots and two medical people,” she said.

“It only took two hours and 15 minutes for the flight.”

She and her husband originally bought the Medjet policy on the advice of a Bahamian doctor, she said.

“It sounded like an excellent idea, and it was so reasonable that we signed up. We traveled a lot. And they’ll pick you up anyplace in the world and transfer you to the hospital closest to your home, if you want.”

After arriving at her home hospital, Friedrich underwent a hip replacement and is now recovering with a good prognosis, she said by phone from her hospital bed.

This is the second time Friedrich has used her Medjet membership. She was also flown back home after breaking a bone in 2009.

“For the price, I can’t say enough good things about it,” she said.

“I refer it to people over and over.”