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Too Many New Zealanders Are Not Insuring Themselves Before They Travel

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Samoa tsunami incident, that cost the lives of a number of New Zealanders and disrupted holiday plans of many other New Zealanders, has highlighted concerns where too many New Zealanders are not insuring themselves before they travel overseas.

Insurance Council Chief Executive Chris Ryan says, "many New Zealanders are not appreciating the huge financial and health risks of travelling overseas without any insurance cover." Chris Ryan adds, "many New Zealanders that book their overseas' flights online tend not to purchase travel insurance."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade were called on to assist a number of New Zealanders stranded in Samoa, following the tsunami event. For those without travel insurance the Ministry was able to provide a small amount of funds to cover meal allowances and accommodation that have to be repaid on return to New Zealand. However, those with travel insurance had their costs, including medical evacuations, covered by insurance. This relieves some of the stress, hassle and financial burden of being caught up in a situation beyond your control, such as a tsunami.

Travel insurance is a cheap form of financial and health protection, but it's unfortunate that not everybody considers it important when travelling overseas. Chris Ryan says "you need to ask yourself who is going to take care of things if something goes wrong when you are overseas." Travel Insurance cover for one person travelling to the Pacific Islands for 9 days costs as little as $45.00.

Many people consider travel insurance only covers your personal belongings. The most important component of travel insurance is medical treatment and medical repatriation cover.

Travel insurance provides access to 24-hour worldwide assistance should certain things go wrong. If you were to become injured or ill during your travels in a foreign country, the travel insurer's emergency assistance provider will make any necessary arrangements with doctors and hospitals overseas and will also make arrangements to fly you and your family back to New Zealand if suitable treatment cannot be provided. Foreign medical treatment and repatriation can, in some cases, amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you are not insured you might have to mortgage your home to repay overseas' medical costs. At worst if you could not prove that you were able to pay for medical treatment, then treatment could be denied and this could be fatal.

It's important to take out Travel Insurance the same day you pay your travel bookings, even if you are just paying your travel deposits. Travel Insurance will cover you for loss of any payments you have made for your trip if you then cannot travel due to an accident or an unexpected medical problem. It's important when taking out Travel insurance that you disclose any pre-existing medical conditions you may have. Insurers will not automatically cover pre-existing conditions, unless they are disclosed and accepted by your Insurer. In some cases an additional premium may need to be paid to cover the extra risk of a pre-existing medical condition interrupting your travel.

The Insurance Council warns that even after you have purchased your Travel Insurance you are still required, as a condition of the Travel Insurance policy, to disclose to your insurer any change in health risks that may require medical attention before you leave for your holiday. For example:

Somebody purchased their Travel Insurance for a holiday to the United States and they were not aware of any pre-existing medical conditions; But after purchasing insurance became aware of a potential heart problem for which they sought medical advice but did not inform their travel insurer; They proceeded to travel and then suffered a heart attack; The travel insurer would be entitled to refuse paying for the United States medical costs because that person had breached the medical condition disclosure requirement.

In this example the insurer would normally have considered that person to be unfit to be insured for travel and would have paid any loss of deposits claim.

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