Media releases 2014


Medical emergencies top highest travel claims

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 by Aimee Bourke

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

  • $245,000 - Suffered an aortic aneurysm while traveling in the USA.
  • $234,000 - Helicoptered to a larger hospital in Europe with bleeding and water on the brain.
  • $196,000 - Admitted to hospital in Europe suffering abdominal sepsis and bowel obstruction.
  • $187,000 - Required investigation in Europe for cerebellar ataxia.
  • $180,000 - Suffered respiratory failure secondary to pneumonia and severe bronchospasm while on-board a cruise ship, brought back to New Zealand by air ambulance.
  • $140,000 - Admitted to hospital in Asia and diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and aspiration pneumonia.
  • $135,000 - Suffered a fatal stroke while traveling in the USA.
  • $121,000 - Fell while in the USA and fractured their spine, caused by cancer and required radiotherapy.
  • $120,000 - Suffered a bowel obstruction while on-board a cruise ship, admitted to hospital in Asia for surgery.
  • $90,000 - Admitted to hospital in the South Pacific Islands following a seizure after renal failure, brought back to New Zealand by air ambulance.

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

“The reality is that unfortunate incidents can happen to anyone, at any time, regardless of the trip duration. The cost of travel insurance is really just a tiny fraction of the costs that can result from these incidents.”

For example, Morrison says that sometimes hospitals in the USA request a deposit of up to $10,000 before they will even start providing treatment.

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

“Once a person has suffered a medical event, SCTI monitors their progress with a view to stabilising their condition, and then deciding whether to continue treatment overseas, repatriate back to New Zealand, or continue on with their travels without further medical complications. 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 also 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.