Your annual escape to the balmy south is supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation–a break from the burdens of everyday life.
Unfortunately, for some snowbirds, the quest to avoid mountains of snow leads to an avalanche of unexpected medical bills.
Yes, the responsible traveller who makes the seemingly wise decision to purchase travel medical insurance can find themselves penniless thanks to a number of hard-to-spot loopholes designed to absolve insurance providers of financial responsibility to their loyal customers.
When it comes to many travel insurance contracts, it almost takes a doctorate and several hours to read them. And, still, you have likely misread, misinterpreted, or misunderstood something.
Omission of a Remission
A seventy-four-year-old Vancouver resident was presented with a bill for $112,000 after being hospitalized in California for pneumonia. His illness was completely unrelated to any previous conditions, but an error in his application had his insurer crying “fraud,” refusing to honor his coverage.
When filling out his health questionnaire, he ticked “no” to having been recently treated for a chronic bowel disorder. Apparently, the gentleman had experienced a bout of ulcerative colitis back in 1965, but it has been in remission ever since. He does, however, take medication to prevent flare-ups–an act which his insurer states equates to undergoing “treatment.”
Insurance Investigation turns up Medical Investigation
An Abbotsford, BC woman is $50,000 out of pocket due to her travel insurance provider’s broad use of the word “treatment.” After spending five days in a California hospital due to a blood clot in her leg, her claim came under dispute due to an error in completing her application. She speaks little English and relied on her broker to explain and complete the form on her behalf.
When asked if she had been treated for a kidney disorder in the past thirty-six months, she said that she had not been treated, but that she did have weak kidneys. The broker ticked off “no.” The insurer now claims that she did, in fact, have a chronic kidney disease that had been investigated. In their eyes, investigation–even if it did not lead to a diagnosis–constitutes treatment.”
The Bottom Line
The reality is that insurance providers will go through your medical history–and any other information that they can get their hands on–with a fine toothed comb in order to avoid paying out. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you are shopping for travel insurance.
Read the contract. Ensure that you have read and thoroughly understood your contract before you sign the dotted line or pay your premium. If you are confused by any aspect, speak with an insurance professional who can clarify things.
Be truthful and accurate. When filling out your application and/or health questionnaire, it is extremely important that you do not leave anything out. If you do, it can come back later and bite you in your suntanned posterior. If you need advice about your medical history, contact your health care provider.
Keep track of dates. When you undergo medical testing, changes in treatment, or alterations to your prescriptions, be sure to keep a record of when they happen. This will better enable you to calculate “periods of stability.”
Credit card coverage. If you are counting on the travel insurance that comes with your credit card, you need to check your coverage. Many of these plans only provide coverage if you actually purchased the trip using said credit card.
Check what constitutes an “extreme sport.” Some physical activities are not insurable or are only insurable through special policies. If you are planning on engaging in high risk behaviors such as bungee jumping or flying ultralight aircraft, you should check if your policy covers you in case of an accident.
Don’t let your vacation cost you more than you bargained for. Read your contract thoroughly, answer completely honestly, and shop around for the best policy. With reliable coverage in place, you can truly unwind–sipping daiquiris by the pool under the glorious sun. Bon voyage.
What travel insurance nightmares have you experienced?