Injuries Incurred Abroad is a Real Threat and Travelers Should be Prepared
When we are travelling overseas, we do not generally like to think about the worst-case scenario. However, every year a large number of people find themselves in hospital in a foreign country.
For example, in 2011, 1265 Australians ended up in a hospital abroad. From 2007 to 2009, CDC reports that 2353 American citizens died while traveling abroad. The total number of non-lethal injuries is estimated to be much higher. According to WHO numbers, road accidents are leading causes of injuries and deaths for travelers abroad.
It is a good idea, therefore, to think about what you need to do to prepare for such an unfortunate occurrence and how to deal with it after the injury, before you set off. How well you would deal with this situation often comes down to two things: preparation and information.
No matter how well you may feel you would react after you were injured, if you have not properly prepared for the possibility, it is unlikely you’ll be able to deal appropriately with all that comes up. The most reassuring way to prepare for this is to get properly insured.
It may seem an obvious measure to seasoned travelers, but every year a lot of travelers opt not to buy travel insurance. For example, approximately 30% of Australians who travel abroad do so without travel insurance. Medicare, the government run health care system in Australia, does not cover foreign hospital fees, and neither will many private health insurance schemes. Other expenses are also likely to be incurred for things like additional accommodation, food and travel. Repatriation alone can cost in the tens, or even the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Travel Insurance should be top of your pre-trip packing list, particularly if you journey is long and/or carries health risks.
When searching for a good insurance plan, make sure to read the fine print. The myriad of scenarios you can encounter abroad mean all sorts of variables in costs. You will need a policy that covers as many eventualities as possible. If you already have private health insurance, it’s a good idea to see whether you can boost your cover for travel abroad via your provider for a discounted price.
And be sure to carry your documentation with you. Keep your insurance certificate and next-of-kin contact details handy at all times – if you are involved in an accident it will be important to get hold of these as soon you can. Think about uploading electronic copies of important documents online, or emailing them to yourself, in case they get physically damaged while you’re abroad.
Information will be key if you get injured. Almost all governments do their best to support their citizens while they are traveling abroad. It would be handy to have contact details for your country’s embassies and consulates. They are likely to get in touch and will be able to help you contact your next of kin, deal with insurance companies, and even communicate with hospital staff. You may also have to phone your insurance company to set up a case file, and cancel as many of your future travel reservations as possible in order to get refunds. If this is the case, you will need to provide as much information as you can about payments: think about making purchases with a credit card rather than cash, so that they are documented on your bank statement.
Also gather as much information as possible about your treatment. It is in the Travel Insurance companies’ interests to get you healthy and back home as soon as possible, so often they will be happy to get involved in vetting hospitals and ensuring that you get the best available care. Once you’re back home, though, unless you took out Travel Insurance as an extension of your regular health care plan, you will no longer be their responsibility. It will then be down to you to look after any continuing treatment.