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Travel Insurance and Health

Travel Insurance and Health

Travel insurance normally underwrites travel, niedical, and dental expenses incurred by travelers abroad and arranges aeromedical evacuation of travelers under conhtions specified by the travel insurance policy. 

Because of the costs of medical and dental treatment abroad and the high cost associated with aeromedical evacuation, all travelers should be advised of the need for comprehensive travel insurance and be advised to read their policies carefully to see what is covered and to check for any exclusions. 

In particular, those travelers who have known preexisting conditions, who are working overseas, or who are going to undertake any form of hazardous recreational pursuit may need to obtain a special travel insurance policy, which may attract a higher premium. 

Conservatively, it is estimated that between 30-50% of travelers become ill or injured whilst traveling.’ Relative estimated monthly incidence rates of various health problems have been compiled elsewhere.

The risk of severe injury is thought to be greater for people when traveling abr~ad.~ These risks should be covered by travel insurance to protect the traveler, however it is not known what proportion of travel agents or airlines give advice routinely on travel insurance. 

Travel insurance is the most important safety net for travelers in the event of misadventure, and should be reinforced by travel health advisers. 

Although only 4% of general practitioners (GPs) in a late 1980’s study in the United lngdom would advise a traveler going to Turkey about travel insurance,+ more recent studies have shown about 60% of GPs in New Zealand’ and 39% of travel clinics worldwide” usually advised travelers concerning travel insurance. 

In addition, 54% of GPs in New Zealand usually also advised travelers about finding medical assistance abroad, but only 19% of GPs recommended travel insurance companies as a source of medical assistance while traveling.

A. Why Do I Need Travel Insurance ?

Travelers are not usually covered abroad by their health insurance, workers’ compensation and third party and other personal liability policies. 

Few countries provide reciprocal medical and dental arrangements or free health care to travelers and few countries provide a full range of readily accessible health care services, including aeromedical evacuation. 

Travel insurance for international journeys generally cover, amongst other things, the expenses of your travel, medical treatment, or even evacuation in the event of misadventure or ill health. 

Most importantly, the travel insurer can assist in organizing, coordinating and, in some cases, financially guaranteeing a traveler’s medical care and keeping relatives informed, which is especially important when the traveler is severely ill or injured and requiring aeromedical evacuation. 

Domestic travel should also be covered by taking out travel insurance. Like international travel, insurance for domestic travel arrangements, especially for discounted economy tickets with “no refund” or no rerouting conditions on purchase, should at least cover the traveler against unavoidable cancellation due to illness, subject to any excesses which may be imposed. 

Travel insurance therefore affords financial security for the traveler against what can be very costly claims for medical and related travel expenses in the event of misadventure, as well as even more costly aeroniedical evacuation, occasionally requiring such things as specialized aircraft, modifications to aircraft, medical and nursing escorts, and assistance with legal, customs and ininiigration procedures. 

One way of explaining the cost-effectiveness of travel insurance is to compare it pro-rata with car insurance, both private and rental car insurance, and private health insurance, which will generally be very favorable for most travelers. The bottom line is that no one should travel uninsured.

B. Why Can I Obtain Travel Insurance ?

Travel insurance should be obtained well before leaving the country and application forms can be obtained &om travel agents, airlines, private health insurers, doctor’s offices, hostels, and other travel and tourism representatives. 

The travel insurance industry is a large dynamic industry with conipanies moving into and out of the industry quite regularly. 

Some consumer organizations may help provide travelers with independent advice on which travel insurance policy represents the best value, particularly in researched reviews that may appear in their publications.’ 

Travel insurance policies are generally avdable for individual journeys or for frequent travelers as an annual policy, which should reduce the cost of the premium outlays and obviates the need for multiple travel insurance applications. 

Further information on travel insurance may also be available on the internet and general reviews of travel insurance have been published in recent years in travel magazine. 

Travel insurance for international travel should be taken out well before travel, and advice concerning travel insurance should be sought early by travelers, preferably at least 6-8 weeks before travel when the traveler is seeking travel health advice for their journey.

It is important that travelers are advised to seek a travel insurer, which has international coverage for medical care and aeromedical evacuation, especially for the traveler’s destination.  

C. What Level of Travel Insurance Should I Take Out?

Ideally, travel insurance needs to be taken out at the top all or medical, dental, and GBPl,O00,000, level available, which if possible); personal liability; surgical should cover costs (at least as US$l far as ,500,000 possible costs of zyxwvuaeromedical evacuation; costs of additional expenses associated with medical treatment, including loss of income, travel rearrangements, transport of relatives, and daily allowance; plus usual travel insurance items, such as loss of baggage; and carriage of body or ashes after death.

Travel insurance companies niay deny a traveler the right to purchase an inadequate travel insurance policy for a particular destination, for example, budget level coverage for the USA, to avoid being liable for claims arising from selling an inadequate product. 

The primary value of the health component in travel insurance is as a financial safety net. This is significant and can be demonstrated via hospital bills in the USA, the chartering ofjet ambulances to transfer from country to country, the stretcher home on a Boeing 747, and so on. 

Examples of huge medical expenses incurred by injured and ill travelers abroad occasionally appear in the popular press. Six figure accounts for hospitalization and treatment in the USA, for example, are not unknown for even short stays.

D. How Much Does it Cost?  

The cost of a travel insurance premium is factored against the levels of coverage and duration of time overseas, with the level5 of coverage becoming more strongly linked to destination. 

Discounted travel insurance policies will generally have exclusions or limitations and, whde policies with lower prenliuins for destinations such as Asia may be available, the cost of seeking private medical and dental care, needs to be taken into account. 

Travelers should be advised to compare the small cost of their travel insurance premium against their total travel expenses, which, in many cases, would be less than the combined cost of airport and departure taxes for their trip. 

For example, the costs of an international travel insurance premium for an 8 day, month-long, and 3 month holiday for a family with one insurer in Australia were A$SS,A$172, and A$331 respectively for budget coverage through to A$154, A$281, and A$503 respectively for top coverage. 

For singles, the costs for an %day, month-long, and 3 month holiday with the same insurer were A$46, AS93, and A96179 respectively for budget coverage and A$83, A$152, and A96272 respectively for top coverage.  

E. What Doesn‘t My Travel Insurance Policy Cover?

It is important that travelers don’t have unrealistic expectations of their travel insurance policies. Most travel insurers, especially for international travel insurance, will require a minimum processing period for applications and travelers should be advised accordingly. 

Excesses are also quite common these days on many aspects of claims with the various types of travel insurance policies available. 

Even the top level travel insurance policies usually do not cover travelers against such things as travel to war zones, self-inflicted injuries, unlawful acts, certain infectious diseases such as Acquired Inmune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and participation in professional sport. 

Those who are expecting to undertake any kind of hazardous pursuit should expect to pay a surcharge on their travel insurance premium, which may be assessed on a case by case basis by travel insurance companies. 

Some sporting organizations, such as those for divers, may recommend a travel insurance product. Some travel insurers may exclude pregnancy and any complications arising from pregnancy after 26 weeks, or they may restrict coverage even further or may give no coverage for pregnancy. 

It is important also for travelers, especially elderly travelers, to be made aware that travel insurance normally does not cover any known preexisting medical or dental problems. 

In these cases, it may be necessary for travelers to complete further documentation of these conditions and in some cases be clinically assessed by a doctor or insurance medical representative. It is possible that routine illnesses may also be excluded by the travel insurance policy. 

It is still important for these travelers to take out a travel insurance policy, since other conditions, not directly linked to their excluded preexisting condition, are likely to be covered. A common questions paper on health hazards and the elderly has been published elsewhere. 

For those travelers who may be uninsurable because of advanced age or advanced ill health, it is important that they are advised about destinations where they could travel safely, particularly where bilateral government health agreements exist and where the airlines are prepared to uplift the traveler. 

It is important to discuss the "worst case scenario" risk and the cost to them if it occurred. Travel insurance or emergency assistance policies, provided for domestic travel by agencies such as airlines, travel agents, and automobile associations, generally do not cover against medical expenses or aeromedical evacuation. 

However these expenses may be covered or the costs offset in other ways, for example through their private health insurance or by their employer. 

Some comprehensive household insurance policies may cover some personal effects and equipment while traveling, however the policy should be examined closely by the traveler.

It is important that travelers do not elect to decline third party or personal liability insurance from a car rental agency in the event that they are involved in an accident which was their fault, as many travel insurance policies do not include claims for damage to other persons or property arising from the traveler's operation of cars, boats,jet skis, aircraft, and other motorized devices.

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