Executive Health: Risk and relaxation

When on holiday most of us expect bit of R&R and some great memories to take back home. What we don’t expect is to become caught up in medical emergency.
But the worst can, and does, happen when travelling overseas. And it’s then that lack of attention to detail or “she’ll be right” attitude has the potential to become financially ruinous.
Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) covers around 225,000 customers each year. In 2010 the most expensive individual claim paid came from traveller to the USA who incurred over $1 million in medical expenses alone. The four next highest claims paid (with totals ranging between $129,000 and $264,000) all related to costs associated with traveller becoming critically ill while in the US or Europe.
A worrying number of New Zealanders may be either unaware of – or choose to ignore – the risk of racking up huge medical and transportation bills when overseas (not to mention the costs associated with cancellations, disruption, losses, theft and other unexpected events). It’s estimated around one in four Kiwis heading offshore do not take out travel insurance.
For those who do choose to insure, the potential costs of medical emergency mean it’s absolutely essential you understand what your policy covers you for. For example, many standard travel policies do not provide cover for losses or costs related to certain adventure sports, such as skiing outside of designated commercial areas.
In the US and Europe, the cost of healthcare can be eye watering. But even in countries that have reciprocal healthcare arrangements with New Zealand, such as the UK and Australia, there are other, potentially hefty, health-related costs to take into account.
Depending on the severity and type of injury or illness, travel back to New Zealand may require the purchase of first-class seat, as well as the travel costs of an accompanying medical professional or family member, or even chartering an air ambulance.
Then there are the costs involved in medical evacuation by air, boat or land. For example, in Victoria, Australia, the fees for emergency ambulance transport by road start at A$940, while fees for helicopter ambulance transport start at A$3280.
As with any insurance, full disclosure is essential to ensuring you have the right cover for your personal circumstances. Many policies do not pay for any costs or losses arising directly or indirectly from ‘Pre-Existing Conditions’. This is really important to understand. If medical records show your claim is related to pre-existing condition, it will likely be declined. However, some policies (including SCTIs) will cover common “controlled” pre-existing conditions (such as asthma, epilepsy and diabetes) if they meet certain criteria. Some insurers also offer the ability to pay extra premium to have your pre-existing condition covered.
And finally, don’t leave insurance until the last minute. Over the past 18 months large number of major weather and geological events have closed airspace and disrupted travel for prolonged periods. To be covered for any losses resulting from these types of events, it’s essential your policy was purchased prior to the event occurring – in other words, when it was still unexpected. good rule of thumb is: when you buy your ticket, buy your insurance.
The unexpected can happen. So for peace of mind, make sure you read and understand your policy. M

Craig Morrison is CEO of Southern Cross Travel Insurance.

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