Friday, November 23, 2007

The Importance of Medical Travel Insurance

When traveling abroad on holiday, no one expects to fall ill, and if you are visiting overseas destinations it really is important to give some thought to the healthcare available and how to deal with an unforeseen medical situation in a foreign country. The unfamiliar environment can contribute to great distress for the unsuspecting tourist. Having to communicate in a foreign language with different and unfamiliar customs and the inability to understand what is happening can be very frightening. It is important to know that there are some unscrupulous medical centres around, particularly in popular tourist resorts where they prioritize financial considerations over quality of treatment and there are plenty of pitfalls to affect the unsuspecting tourist.

In Europe most countries have a very robust State healthcare system that provides the very highest levels of medical facilities and expertise. Generally if you fall ill, there is no shortage of medical care available, however, if you travel to Southern Europe, along the Mediterranean coast, (this area includes countries such as Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus etc.) you may find that, although there are State Health facilities, many private outpatient and inpatient hospitals have been built specifically to deal with the tourist market and one needs to take certain precautions if medical attention is required.

Often in these countries there is a whole network that has been established to take tourists directly to a private hospital or its affiliate outpatient centres where they commence an elaborate treatment regime which is often very expensive and often clinically unnecessary, purely for monetary gain. If you have traveled without Travel Insurance or without a reputable insurance product, this can lead to great personal hardship with treatment costs often ending up in thousands of dollars.

One infamous example of this type of abuse, which has been highly publicized in the European Press, occurred recently in Corfu. It was found that numerous tourists, who, after suffering a minor fall which resulted in a mild ankle sprain, were being x-rayed and operated upon under general anesthetic for a procedure which was not medically appropriate. Not only was this potentially life threatening and likely to cause unnecessary complications but also very expensive the average cost being $20,000. Incredibly these clinics are still operating unabated today.

Many of the hotels in major tourist resorts will also offer free health checks particularly to the elderly. Beware, Most elderly people will have some underlying medical condition which is maintained with regular medication prescribed by their GP. There have been numerous cases, where people have gone to these health checks with a medically stable condition and found that their treatment regimes were being altered which then caused complications resulting in admission to a private hospital and the loss of a holiday.

Additionally, hotels, taxis and even travel reps are often given commissions for taking tourists to a private clinic and indeed in many tourist resorts the ambulances are provided by the private hospitals purely to capitalize on the tourist dollar. For example, it is quite common in an emergency for a patient to be driven past a major State Hospital with all the appropriate emergency facilities and be admitted instead to an inferior private clinic. This is because the private hospital network is funded largely by the tourist market.

It is also worth knowing that in many European countries, whilst the State Hospitals offer a high level of medical care the nursing care is limited to medical attention only. This seldom includes the type of care we take for granted here in Australia such as welfare and general personal hygiene issues as they see this as something a relative or loved one would take care of. In such a situation it is possible to arrange for a private nurse to assist and this may even be covered by a Travel Insurance policy.

In African and Asian countries the biggest issue is the actual availability of healthcare and if you suffer from a more serious underlying medical condition then often the nearest medical facility will not have sufficient resources and expertise to deal with it. It is therefore quite common in serious cases to medically evacuate patients to a more suitable hospital which can cost anything up to $100,000. Even in this situation caution is required as there are unscrupulous Air Ambulance companies that act independently from the hospital with the sole aim of transferring a patient to another hospital outside the existing health arrangements which can prove extremely costly.

Healthcare in North America, including the Caribbean and Mexico, is very expensive and no one should consider traveling to these destinations without a comprehensive insurance policy. Whilst the medical care is of a high standard the costs are also extremely high and can easily escalate to hundreds of thousands of dollars. If holidaying in the Caribbean or countries in the Gulf region, again there is the risk of requiring a medical evacuation into the USA for treatment and this adds further to the already expensive costs.

There is no substitute for having a good quality travel insurance product. This will ensure that well trained medical assistance staff will always be on hand to offer all the support that you need in any such unforeseen situation.

Experienced multi-lingual staff will always be available to guide and assist you through these difficult times and the highest standard of medical expertise will always ensure that you have the appropriate medical treatment at the right time so you can avoid the complications of inappropriate and potentially dangerous medical treatment and the worry of unnecessary medical fees. They will also make sure that you arrive home safely if your travel plans are affected.

2 comments:

Jenice said...

I do understand the usage of medical travel insurance policy but the high cost is not allowing me to afford this policy. I wanted to buy this policy but the price is extremely high. Is there any possible way to lower the cost of this policy ?
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John George said...

Thanks for the useful info you have shared with us.

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