Sickness and accidents may occur whilst you are travelling, and the wise traveller needs to be aware of the best action to take to ensure that when the chips are down, he has the best possible care.
The most important step to attaining this is being aware that no one should travel without medical insurance. It is essential to make sure that the medical insurance is adequate, includes repatriation cover, does not have unusual exclusions, covers all activities in which the traveller is likely to participate, and has an emergency service available at all times to provide assistance. If you have any doubts at all about insurance, you should consult a registered insurance broker, who will be happy to assist you without cost.
If you are suffering from any pre-existing medical condition, you must disclose full particulars to your medical insurers before arranging the insurance. Whilst you have a duty to do this,it does also give your insurers an opportunity to assess your condition and possibly offer advice. They will also notify you of any limitations which might apply to the medical insurance because of such a condition.
In general terms, medical claims for sickness and accident fall into two separate categories. There are those which are not serious, normally of short duration and the costs for which are comparatively minor. Most sensible travellers, with appropriate medical advice, can sort out such incidents without difficulty and whilst incurring expenditure, can normally pay for this themselves and recover their outlay under medical insurance on their return. More serious medical problems can cause difficulty, are normally of long duration and sometimes necessitate the cancellation of travel and the return home of the traveller. It is impossible to issue guidelines for every type of travel situation, but suffice it to say that medical opinion regarding any sickness or accident should be sought. Immediate action should also be taken to prevent any deterioration in health and urgent arrangements made for the appropriate medical treatment to be given.
In the event of a serious accident or illness, the emergency service provided by medical insurers should be contacted at the earliest opportunity and full details of the sickness or accident given. Very often treatment overseas is only available when it is known that payment is guaranteed, and most travellers are not in a position to do this. This facility is provided by the emergency service of the medical insurers, and once they have full details of the problem and have had an opportunity to discuss the course of action to be taken with local medical advisers, they are normally quite prepared to guarantee the cost of the treatment. This may relate to hospital charges, doctors’, surgeons’ or anaesthetists’ fees, medication and transportation-all of which is quite normal and something the emergency service is experienced in handling.
Sometimes a traveller may suffer from an illness or accident in a remote location where there are inadequate medical facilities. In this situation, movement to a location which has better facilities may be necessary and this is something which the emergency service will organise and co-ordinate within the terms of the policy.
In the event of a very serious problem, it is some-limes impossible to arrange for treatment to Western standards to be provided locally. If such a situation should arise, it may become necessary to arrange repatriation where adequate medical facilities exist. Equally, if a traveller has suffered a serious illness or accident, has received some treatment and is making a recovery but is unwell enough to return to their country of residence without assistance, then repatriation may also be provided. The emergency services of the medical insurers are used to arranging repatriation and whether this necessitates a row of seats on an aircraft, or a special medical jet with a medical team on board, will be determined by the emergency service. Appropriate arrangements will be made and co-ordinated by them, to ensure the traveller’s safe return home.
Reciprocal health agreements exist in certain foreign countries, although these normally only relate to direct costs incurred for medical treatment. They certainly do not provide for any repatriation or transportation costs and therefore do not mean that medical insurance should not be acquired.
Pretty well everywhere in the world, including North America, it is most unlikely that any medical treatment will be available without either being paid for at the time, or guaranteed by the emergency service of medical insurers. Such being the case, it is a fool who travels without proper cover.
How often have we heard the old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’? For travellers this is particularly relevant and the further afield you travel, and the more remote the location, the more relevant these words become. Notwithstanding this, it is inevitable that sickness and accidents do occur from time to time, and, if they are serious, even the most experienced traveller will need assistance.