The high cost of an overseas medical emergency

Thursday , 22 December 2016 by Alistair Gray

New research from Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) has revealed that Kiwis are unaware of the astronomical costs that come with a medical emergency overseas.

  • 53% of those surveyed thought a broken bone would cost under $10,000 to be treated in America. In reality, this cost can range between $40,000 - $150,000.
  • 46% of those surveyed thought it would cost under $100,000 to charter an emergency flight from LA to Auckland. This can actually range between $150,000 - $200,000.
  • 34% of those surveyed thought a medically necessary upgrade to business class (for someone with a broken leg) from Singapore to Auckland would cost under $2,500. The actual cost can range between $5,000 - $10,000.

“The amounts people think overseas medical treatment and repatriation will cost pale in comparison to some of the claims we receive every year,” says Southern Cross Travel Insurance CEO, Craig Morrison.

To highlight the difference between perception and reality, SCTI has released their top ten medical claims made by Kiwi travellers in the last year.

 Amount  What happened Where it happened 
 $561,400  Encephalitis – required an air ambulance home.  Africa
 $374,000  Diverticulitis – required hospitalisation and an upgraded flight home.  USA
 $362,000  Car accident – required an air ambulance home.  China
 $360,000  Arterial haemorrhage – required 12 days in hospital.  USA
 $262,000  Cardiac issue which needed investigating – required an air ambulance home.  China
 $260,000  A fall from a cliff, resulting in a brain bleed – required an air ambulance home.  Indonesia
 $235,000  Coronary artery problems – required three days in hospital.  USA
 $212,000  Pneumonia and a heart attack – required over two months in hospital.  South Africa
 $208,000  Gallstone complications – required three days in hospital and a non-medical escort home.  USA
 $206,000  Hip injury due to a fall at the beach – required six days in hospital and repatriation.  USA

“Hospital costs in the USA are incredibly high, sometimes seemingly without rationale or justification” says Morrison.

“Injuring yourself almost anywhere in the world could hurt both physically and financially. When you compare this to the cost of a travel insurance policy, the price of travel insurance is insignificant.

“Despite 31% of those surveyed needing medical assistance while travelling, 17% of Kiwi travellers still choose to travel without insurance.”

Another aspect of travel insurance that helps out accident-prone travellers is Southern Cross Emergency Assistance.

Emergency Assistance can co-ordinate emergency medical evacuation, keep your family advised of your situation, and in cases where deposits are required, provide payment guarantees to hospitals or emergency clinics for qualifying claims.

“Kiwis love to travel and while the last thing on most people’s minds is falling ill or getting hurt, unfortunately it can and does happen,” says Morrison. “Although the vast majority of mishaps are not serious, a significant amount need medical treatment. Bills can add up quickly and Kiwis are at risk of running into hot water if they travel uninsured.”