Planning to travel internationally? You need travel insurance

Before delving into this post I want to remind people that this is a personal blog.  I am not paid to advertise products or services.  The following advise regarding the necessity of travel insurance is therefore independent and a result of my own reasoning and experience.   Travelling without travel insurance leaves you and your family open to severe health and financial hardship.  This was demonstrated to me on a trip I took to the United States pre-motherhood.   After a 40 hour journey I awoke with a swollen, painful calf.  Diagnosing myself with a likely deep vein thrombosis I presented at the local emergency department.  Believe me, I was an easy patient.  Being a doctor allowed me to articulate what the problem was and to have it investigated promptly.  I was in and out of the hospital in under four hours, a calf ultrasound having given me the all clear (albeit with a probable brief clot which had now dissolved).  Given the brevity of my hospital visit I was stunned to receive a bill totaling $5000 for the presentation.  Fortunately I had travel insurance and was not out of pocket.  Every year uninsured Australians are not so fortunate.  Common illnesses such as appendicitis (I had emergency surgery for appendicitis ten days before embarking on a family holiday to the USA earlier this year), if experienced overseas can leave families burdened with debt in the tens of thousands of dollars.

The Smarttraveller website states: “Regardless of how healthy, prepared and fit you are – if you cannot afford travel insurance you cannot afford to travel.  Overseas medical costs are not covered by Medicare.”

The Smarttraveller website recommends all Australian travellers cover themselves with comprehensive travel insurance.  At a minimum ensure every member of your family is covered for the following:

  • All medical expenses for injury or illness.
  • The cost of medical evacuation.
  • Theft of valuables.
  • Damage to baggage.
  • Cancellations or interruptions to flight plans.
Also carefully examine potential travel insurance plans in regards to pre-existing conditions.  My eldest son has asthma and is not covered by some popular travel insurance plans.  I had to research a variety of potential insurance providers prior to deciding which was the best fit for our family.
A number of people have told me that do not intend to take out travel insurance because they are traveling to a country where health care is cheap, or there is limited health care at all.  Potentially the most expensive consequence of ill health overseas is a medical transfer home (think $30,000-$50,000).  Possible reasons for the requirement of a medical transfer home are many and varied but include motor vehicle accidents, infectious diseases, strokes and heart disease.  The lack of good medical care in some destinations may in fact make the need for a medical transfer back to Australia imperative to your health and safety.

Australia does have reciprocal health care agreements with some countries namely: Finland, Italy, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Belgium and the United Kingdom.  Under these agreements Australians may access urgent or emergency treatment overseas.  These agreements are however not a substitute for health insurance.  Medical evacuation home to Australia is not covered from any international destination.   Do you take out travel insurance when you travel overseas?  Why/Why not?

The Surprise Beginning
© Copyright 2012 Danielle, All rights Reserved. Written For: Bubs on the Move

10 thoughts on “Planning to travel internationally? You need travel insurance

  1. We have travelled overseas fairly extensively and have always purchased insurance. However on our last trip to Spain Portugal and Morocco we used a free insurance through our Bank Credit Card. I was very hesitant to do so, so I approached the bank and got the contact number for the insurance company the policy is through. After speaking to them my fears were allayed and the benefits seemed comparable to other policies on the market. Admittedly we have no pre-existing medical conditions. Still I was nervous and glad we did not have to put it to the test. Have you had any experience with this form of insurance?

    • I think this form of insurance is potentially great for frequent travellers – I would just advise people to examine that they are covered completely as there have been warnings that some of the schemes underinsure people. I rely on our American Express coverage when we travel domestically. Our credit card insurance doesn’t cover any problems related to my son’s asthma however so it doesn’t work for us when travelling overseas.

  2. I always take out travel insurance. The exception to this was when I moved to the UK for 2 years. Travel insurance to cover me in the UK would have cost around five thousands dollars for myself and my husband for that period of time (paid upfront). We made and educated gamble, and decided to take our chances with the health care offered in the UK (comparable to Medicare I guess).

    I took out insurance for any trips I took while I was based over there, but was aware that if I ever needed to be repatriated, it was going to be back to the UK, rather than Australia. With so many people doing stints overseas for a year or two, where they are based primarily in one country but also take regular trips during that time, I think the repatriation issue is something that people should be aware of – i.e., you get repatriated back to the country where you were when you took out the insurance rather than your “home” country.

    • Hi Simone – you have described a really tricky situation. I am surprised travel insurance for that duration was so expensive. I guess you knew you would be covered for emergencies. It would be helpful to understand exactly what the reciprocal rights are between the UK and Australia. Is suspect they wouldn’t treat you for a tooth abscess for example, even though it is a condition that is incredibly painful and requires urgent management. I am glad your gamble paid off. If in your situation I think I would have paid the exorbitant amount to ensure my family was covered completely when overseas though.

  3. Many years ago we were in the U.K. for 9 months. Access to the Doctor was free. The Doctor I saw led me to believe that I would be covered as if I were a U.K. citizen.

    • Hi Jan and Simone – I wonder what happens in the other countries where there are “reciprocal rights” The Australian government states it is in emergencies only (including the UK) It may be up to the individual doctor.

  4. That’s right Jan. I was covered for everything a UK citizen would be covered for – very similar to Medicare, but a little better actually – free GP visits and 5 pound prescriptions! Same as Medicare, no dentist coverage.

  5. Great advice, a friend wrote on FB last year about taking her toddler to hospital for one night or so in US I think – the bill was $15,000 for a high temperature.She said she’d never complain about travel insurance again.

    • Thanks Trish, It is difficult to imagine why one night in hospital should cost that much money but my $5000 bill for four hours taught me an important lesson too.

Comments are closed.