Another precautionary travel insurance tale appeared in in the Phuket Gazette this week. And there will be more. I would advise anyone travelling anywhere, not just Thailand, to take out insurance. It isn’t expensive and can save you so much hassle.
The Thai Government has recently considered making travel insurance compulsory for visitors to Thailand. And why not; Thai hospitals have lost money by providing free treatment to uninsured foreigners and the internet has been full of appeals from relatives of tourists stranded in Thai hospitals unable to pay their bills or who require repatriation.
Of course, insurance companies have a notoriety for declining claims. In my experience, the majority of genuine claimants are indemnified without too many problems. But what about those who have coverage declined? And how do you prevent insurers from denying liability?
It’s easy to say “read your policy”. It’s also common sense. But how many of us actually do?
What I’ll do is highlight some of the common exclusions, terms and conditions that may affect travellers to Thailand.
Let’s start with the most important section: medical expenses. If you are sick or have an accident you should inform your insurance company as soon as possible if you are able. They will then suggest a hospital for you. They don’t always give the best advice, unfortunately, as I’ve experienced with one claimant being sent to a totally inappropriate hospital by the insurance company. Ask a local to help; maybe a hotel receptionist or guesthouse owner, as they will know more than the insurers but if the company tells you to go somewhere, at that moment in time, you have little alternative.
If you go straight to a hospital then you can check whether they have an agreement with your company. Remember, travel insurers use local administrators so even an obscure Albanian insurance company could by default have an agreement with Bangkok Hospital. This is always better as they settle directly with the hospital. Otherwise you pay and are reimbursed. If this is the way your insurer operates, make sure you collect every bill, medical certificate, police report, which may be necessary in the event of an accident, any paperwork you can and try to get it in English. The big hospitals should be able to do this. Submit everything with your claim. You might need translations.
Now, what problems might you run into? Pre-existing conditions are generally excluded, certainly recent ones, so if you have a heart condition and you have a heart attack on holiday, the likelihood is your travel insurance won’t pay. Most policies will exclude accidents whilst under the influence of alcohol. This can be interpreted in different ways. I’d suggest anything above the legal drink-drive limit and you could fall foul of the exclusion, whether you believe you are sober or not. The same with drugs: if you have touched anything then you can say goodbye to any insurance payout.
Exclusions, terms and conditions for motorcycle riding vary from policy to policy. See the motorcycle rental post for more information. You may even have coverage declined if you are in a car or taxi if you’re not wearing a seatbelt. And check the wording if you are likely to do any dangerous sports such as scuba diving, bungee jumping or rock-climbing.
The other commonly used section of a travel insurance policy is for loss or damage to personal items. You will need a police report to make a claim under this section, this will also need to be translated. Bear the cost of this in mind. Most policies have an individual item limit and some specifically limit the amount payable for loss, damage or theft of a mobile phone, tablet or notebook, usually much less than the actual value.
Don’t forget there are often sections of the policy you may not know about that might benefit you, such as luggage delay, flight delay and hospitalisation cash payments.
I shouldn’t need to add that submitting a fraudulent claim is a criminal offence. Insurers do investigate claims so I’d strongly advise against trying this.
I reiterate, pleasebuy insurance before travelling and at least read the relevant parts of the policy. I hope you won’t need to claim but it’s better to have peace of mind and, believe me, genuine claims within the terms and conditions of the policy are generally paid with no problems, despite popular opinion.