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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Travel Insurer's Top 10 most expensive claims

Insurance claims can skyrocket when air evacuation is involved. (File image)
A misstep in a car park and a tumble down a flight of stairs were among the causes of the most eye-wateringly expensive medical claims incurred by unlucky Australian travellers in 2013.

Travel insurer Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) has released its 10 highest-value claims for 2013. All are for medical costs as a result of accidental injuries and medical emergencies.

The highest claim - $447,000 - resulted from a fall down a flight of stairs in North America. Although simple-sounding, the injury resulted in a brain bleed and a broken back, which required multiple surgeries.

Treatment to the value of $107,000 was required when a traveller in the US lost their balance and fell, fracturing their ankle so badly it required surgery, while a $70,000 claim came from a traveller who fell in a car park in the US and broke their wrist. Following admission to a local hospital an air evacuation was required to a second hospital for surgery.

Craig Morrison, SCTI CEO, says any requirement for medical attention overseas can quickly add up, particularly in the US and Canada, and means those that travel without insurance are extremely vulnerable to a large unpaid financial liability.

Craig Morrison, SCTI CEO
“Sometimes hospitals in US request a deposit prior to treatment and this can be several thousand dollars, sometimes as high as $10,000. This is one of the key areas where having travel insurance is really important as we can try to help eliminate the need to pay this deposit.

“If you end up in a US hospital and are asked to pay a deposit you should immediately call your travel insurer’s emergency assistance number. Southern Cross Worldwide Assistance, for example, can co-ordinate emergency medical evacuation, keep your family advised of your situation and, in these cases, provide payment guarantees to hospitals or emergency clinics for qualifying claims.”

Where practical, Morrison advises travellers to carry a copy of their travel insurance policy and to programme the emergency assistance number into their phones.

Morrison says that once a person has suffered a serious medical event, SCTI monitors their condition with a view to securing confirmation of their fitness to fly at the earliest opportunity. Travellers are frequently brought back in business class, as many cases require additional space for the person to be able to fully extend, particularly those that have had recent surgery or a lower limb injury.

There are occasions where a stretcher will be placed in the rear of a commercial flight from Los Angeles or San Francisco to repatriate the insured home.

“Airlines require a person to be medically certified as fit to travel and we try to bring them home as soon as they are able.”

SCTI Top 10 Claims 2013

1.      $447,000 - fell down stairs in Canada suffering subdural hematoma and an unstable fracture of a cervical vertebrae requiring multiple surgeries.
2.      $176,000 - suffered aspiration pneumonia secondary to an epileptic seizure in China.
3.      $137,000 - heart attack in Canada requiring bypass surgery.
4.      $107,000 - suffered a fractured ankle requiring surgery in USA.
5.      $62,400 - on a motorbike travelling in Thailand and hit by truck.
6.      $82,000 - hospitalisation required  after being bitten by sand flies in Hawaii
7.      $74,000 - admitted to hospital in USA suffering vomiting and diarrhoea.
8.      $79,000 - suffered a stroke while travelling in USA and admitted to hospital.
9.      $70,000 -  fell in a car park in USA and suffered a fractured wrist which necessitated an air evacuation to a second hospital for surgery.
10.   $40,000 - admitted to hospital in Singapore suffering a subarachnoid haemorrhage.
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