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Mishaps and Accidents Abroad: The things that could cost you money

May 18th 2020
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The cost of medical treatment abroad and the importance in getting the right cover: What you need to know before travelling.


Being fully covered for medical expenses abroad is not always the highest thing on people’s checklist before a round-the-world trip, a business trip or even moving to live abroad. Travel insurance for a business trip or for a holiday, is sometimes seen as an added expense worth avoiding. An accident, serious or otherwise, can occur very quickly and the need for medical treatment then becomes a necessity. In certain countries, finding yourself hospitalised comes with a large amount of expenses. Some healthcare systems are designed in a way that could incur heavy hospital bills even for minor injuries. If you cause any personal injury or damage to people’s property your public liability insurance could be used to cover expensive costs. Other issues that could arise include the loss or theft of baggage or personal effects. The cover included in your Household insurance or your bank card cover do have their limits, potentially turning your travel experience into a living nightmare. We will be taking a look at some of the wide range of events that require a comprehensive insurance policy, in order to avoid unnecessary risks and to keep your peace of mind.

Payment of medical bills abroad: Expenses and bad surprises

Small accidents, big consequences. You are coasting around on an electric scooter in Los Angeles when you accidentally collide with an elderly citizen. If you are not fully covered by insurance, the reimbursement of any medical claims is entirely your responsibility. Your Californian dream has turned into a nightmare . In the face of added costs, some make the choice to go abroad without travel insurance. Here we explore why this constitutes a big risk.

Why it is necessary to have good medical cover abroad

If we think about the more common types of accidents (falling over, food poisoning) other accidents seem less obvious, though very frequent. Being bitten by a spider in Australia and contracting a tropical disease, getting a mild infection etc. In these instances, there is no reason to panic, these conditions are often treatable, and the local population is used to dealing with them.

However, we soon end up with extortionate medical expenses and reimbursing these treatments abroad, through your domestic insurance, is rarely possible. In reality, this only concerns specific situations, often within the European Union.

Another important factor is the distance it takes to reach a hospital or a medical practitioner when abroad. In larger countries such as Australia, Canada, the US or Brazil, finding a clinic or consulting a specialist could lead to a thousand-mile trek. The transport infrastructure in other countries is not always as well developed as in Europe, especially for long journeys.

Many Europeans are shocked when looking at the difference in cost from one medical professional to another, or one hospital facility to another. Differences are however commonplace outside of Europe, especially in English speaking countries. In these very politically liberal countries, the same service could be three to six times more expensive from one practitioner to the next.

If medical expenses become too costly or if the condition of the patient requires specific care, the solution often proposed is repatriation to the patient’s country of origin.

Medical Expenses Abroad: The costs in certain countries

Many countries have a public healthcare system where medical bills are covered by the state and therefore reimbursed, partially or in full, to the patient. With public healthcare cover being reserved for residing citizens, tourists or expats are required to rely on their own personal medical cover, or to pay their expenses up front.

One thing to note is that away from developed countries, the medical infrastructure is not always to the same standard. Public hospitals are often overwhelmed and their level of treatment, even more so for foreigners, leaves a lot to be desired. It is for these reasons that many turn to private healthcare, with costs that vary, and which are not always transparent.

Giving some examples is worth more than a long discussion on the topic. Here we see a list of bills charged to expats or your average tourist. The US holds the record for the most expensive healthcare system in the world.

Australia

Brazil

Canada

United States of America

Mexico

Japan

New Zealand

These prices were originally converted into Euro for a consistent look at healthcare costs, all of which were taken from professional sources and official statements. Healthcare costs may vary depending on the practitioner, the city or the general area.

Dramatic situations for both tourists and expats

Our aim is not to scare you, but to recount a few anecdotes that should remind us that accidents do not just happen to others.

The question of repatriation is something that should not be ignored. Many, when seeing that word, think of the worst case scenario, similar to the case of the young French man who was involved in a scooter accident in Australia, where the family had to start collecting funds to pay for his flight home back to France. This possibility is often neglected, because it is attributed to the worst situations imaginable (Death of the Insured or a loved one, terrorism, etc.) repatriation on health grounds is sometimes the only solution to receive good quality healthcare.

A French citizen being sent home from Malawi, severely ill with Malaria, is a clear example of this. The medical flight organised by the Foreign Office cost more than 87,000€ (£79300) to treat the patient in Réunion.

In the United States however, the well-known documentary by Michael Moore, revealed to the entire world the harshness of the American healthcare system, showing no regard for those who do not have the means to afford it. One of the most shocking examples was the American patient in A&E who had to choose which finger he wished to have reattached.

Civil liability

Civil liability deals with injury or damage that you might cause to other persons or their property. Tiredness, loss of bearings or stress are among some of the causes of these accidents.

The common mistake is to believe that you are covered by your Household insurance in the case of damages. However, this policy is not valid outside of your home country. For car hire, it is the insurance of the person or company renting the vehicle which is in effect. Apart from some exceptions, civil liability insurance will reimburse the victim for the damages that you caused. Taking again the example of the US, the cost of treatment in the case of a physical injury can end up being astronomical. Your insurance policy must include legal protection to help you if needed.

Flight cancellation, lost luggage: The little issues faced while travelling

Less serious than the topics we have already considered, nearly everyone worries about flight cancellations or the loss of luggage while travelling. Bank cards often come with insurance covering luggage and theft of your personal belongings. Additional cover is provided through premium payment schemes (Visa Premier or Gold Mastercard) It is essential to check the small print to see what is available.

The cover offered by the credit card insurers is sometimes not enough due to low spending caps or other specific circumstances. It is essential to pay with the aforementioned credit card in order for the cover to take effect, and the time it takes to be reimbursed for claims can be quite lengthy.

In the case of delays at baggage reclaim due to a stopover, you may find yourself paying for a hotel room, clothes, and hygiene products, before any of your bags arrive to save you. Delays caused by a change in flights can sometimes bring about extra costs, not always covered by your insurance.

In summary, the things to verify and precautions you should take depending on your situation

Depending on whether your journey is taking place inside or outside the European Union, the situation you find yourself in will not be the same. It is essential to understand how the European Health Insurance Card operates, the agreements it has with different European countries. Also check the limits offered on your bank card. The ideal situation is to have a comprehensive insurance policy to be fully covered.

For certain high-risk zones such as tropical regions, it is strongly recommended that you check which vaccinations are available, these are sometimes mandatory. It is important to take certain precautions with your pets. A point to note is that any damages caused by your faithful companions are entirely your responsibility.

Finally, the safety of the country or of the zone in question is to be considered, notably if authorities advise against travelling to these areas. Always consult the Foreign Office, especially if you plan on travelling to more exotic locations.

It is clear that when considering the cost of a medical consultation abroad, the premium of an insurance policy is easily justified. Insurance policies of course come at a cost; however, it remains your lifeline during your adventures around the globe. Please refer to our documents to discover more about repatriation and the workings of healthcare systems in foreign countries.

With Qover-me, you can design the coverage that best meets your requirements: you get first a comprehensive transparent package that you can complete with “à la carte” add-ons protections. Supplementary coverage is available for accidents (compensation in the event of the disability or death of the insured person), loss of or damage to baggage or even trip cancellation (which also covers inability to leave and early return).

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