Friday, September 24, 2010

Message from Dr Michael Moreton

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Your vacation is coming up; it’s all so exciting you can hardly sit still. Passports found and checked, flights booked and confirmed, hotels selected and reservations made, clothes chosen and packed, travelers cheques purchased, arrangements made for friends to feed the dog and check your house.

Is there anything you have forgotten? What about Travel Insurance? Oh sure, travel insurance, that’s dull stuff, do you really need that? You’ve never lost a bag and you have a good feeling about things, there is no need for Travel Insurance.

WRONG! There is a very definite need for Travel Insurance and the need is much greater for Canadians than for many other people and yet many travelers are very casual about obtaining it.

Travel Insurance covers many eventualities. If your flight is cancelled and you are stranded or if your bag is missing and you are in a strange place without even a toothbrush, the insurance will help to defray your expenses.
These, however, are not the most important or expensive eventualities that are covered. The most important is Health Care Insurance for Canadians abroad or expatriate while you are out of the country.

British travelers are more casual about purchasing this type of insurance than are Americans or Europeans. The NHS, with all its faults, is always there for you and many people rarely think about private Health Insurance. This is spite of the fact that your NHS coverage is of no help when you are out of the country.

The concept of the ‘uninsured patient” is not part of the British, Canadian, Australian or New Zealand experience. Neither is the phenomenon of patients being turned away from hospitals as they have no insurance or cannot document their coverage. But if you are taken ill or injured in a foreign country and you do not have travel insurance you are an uninsured patient and may have trouble getting care.

Robert Jackson was looking forward to his visit to South East Asia. He spent several months planning his trip. Reading the history of the countries that he would visit and creating a demanding schedule for himself. He was planning to travel to the less visited areas in Northern Thailand and visit as many of the holy sites as he could cram into his schedule. He had not had any serious illness for several years and his Family Doctor and the local NHS hospital had taken care of all his minor Health problems. He did not obtain any travel insurance.

He had many plans but not planning on visiting the Intensive Care Unit of a Bangkok Hospital, he was not planning on spending over forty-eight hours unconscious, he was not planning on multiple surgeries, neither was he planning on intensive rehabilitation, but that is just what he got.

In spite of the fact that he was not too agile and had never ridden a motor-bike in over ten years, he decided to rent a motor bike and ride around the back roads in Thailand. A truck that he was following too closely suddenly braked. Robert flew through the air and landed on his face in the road. Fortunately he was transported into the city quickly and brought to the Bangkok Hospital Medical Center, a tertiary care JCI Accredited facility. As he was unconscious he was admitted to the Neurological Intensive Care unit.

His family was contacted and consent for treatment obtained. They were not aware if Robert had any private Health Insurance and were reluctant to guarantee payment for the care. In spite of this he received excellent care and is now on his way to full recovery after multiple surgeries for his facial fractures and skin grafting to other wounds. He was obliged to take out a considerable bank loan to cover his care.

Melanie Albert was working as a volunteer in a children’s care home in Cambodia. After eating a very spicy dinner one evening she started to have abdominal pain. Thinking it was indigestion she initially ignored the pain but by the following morning realized that this might be something more serious than an upset stomach. She had not obtained any insurance when she left Canada and naively thought that the province would cover her medical expenses while out of the country. After been seen in the clinic she was flown to Bangkok. A diagnosis of Appendicitis was made and she had an operation on the same day. Her family came out from Canada and were able to have funds transferred to cover the cost of her care.

She was particularly fortunate as she was able to get to Bangkok on a commercial flight. If she had needed to have a special air-ambulance the cost would have been enormous. One of the features that is always included in Travel Insurance is Evacuation Insurance, this covers the cost of you being transported to a good medical center close to your accident or where you were taken ill.

It also covers the expense of getting you home after treatment has reached that point that you are ready to travel. Recently another British patient needed to be transported back to Canada after Surgery and Intensive Care treatment for a collapsed lung which happened quite spontaneously and without warning.
He needed a nurse and a doctor to travel with him as he was taking anti-coagulants and there was the possibility that he might need extra oxygen on the flight. He was flown from Bangkok to London; he traveled Business class with his two attendants. Luckily he had good coverage for this very expensive journey.

These three patients were all fit young people with no previous medical illnesses who had no reason to believe that they would need hospital care during their vacation. That is the whole point about Insurance it is there to help you when the unexpected happens

Travel Insurance is surprisingly inexpensive and for a young person may be as little as $25 for a three week vacation. I would suggest that you purchase this before you leave home. The Information Center that the insurer provides can be very useful to you, as they will be able to direct you to the best Medical facility wherever you are in the world.

Whatever insurance you have, keep the details of the policy and call center number with you, on your person, at all times. I hope you have a wonderful trip and do not need any medical services, but it is best to plan for all eventualities.

Dr Michael Moreton trained as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist in Montreal, Canada. He practised in Ottawa, then in Beijing and Shanghai. He is the International Medical Coordinator at the Bangkok Hospital Medical Center. Bangkok, Thailand.
Moreton@bgh.co.th