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. In 2011, 1265 Australians ended up in hospital abroad. It is a good idea, therefore, to think about what you would do if you were injured while travelling, 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. Every time you go abroad, you should, therefore, consider the possibility of getting hurt or ending up in hospital. The best way to prepare for this is to get properly insured.
It may seem an obvious measure to seasoned travellers, but every year approximately 30% of Australians who travel abroad, do so without travel insurance. Medicare will 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.
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. The Australian Consulate is 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 in Australia, 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.