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Posted on Sep 4, 2012

Dying On The Road- Who Needs Health Insurance?

Dying On The Road- Who Needs Health Insurance?

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Do you really need family travel insurance? Do you? We’re into being young, alive, free, and carpe diem. So, let’s just flow with it, right?  But, my friend Nancy (familyonbikes.org) shared that her husband needed to be evacuated at $100,000. One incident like that and the life we live, the dreams we have, are all gone in one spiraling SWOOP! Too many really close friends around us are being hospitalized, with no coverage.  Andrew is in a hospital in Phnom Phen with 8 broken bones, and he won’t be able to walk for 6 months to a year. He doesn’t have insurance and the hospital bill is over $300 a night. Our dearest Aumery spent a week in the hospital here in Siem Reap with dengue fever and had a very “healthy” hospital bill. No insurance.

Our health insurance expires this March, and though it seems a long time away; we’re getting a bit concerned. Our insurance won’t cover us if we don’t all step onto Israeli soil again. We’ve calculated that the flights for the five of us to Israel, and the spending money we’d put out, minimum would cost us $10,000. Because we are asking for coverage for the third year in a row, for they’re starting to consider us ‘high risk’. Go figure! We’re not sure what’s best for us, so we’ve asked some travel friends what they do and got a dozen unreal answers from both sides of the pendulum. Hear these amazing stories, and then, give us your two cents. Would you get traveler’s health insurance?

Broken Collarbone and Internal Bleeding in Canada

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We always travel with health insurance because we love doing adventurous activities. Plus we have both had to use it on separate occasions. In 2009, when working at a ski field in Canada, we both got injured snowboarding. Adela broke her collarbone and Cole had internal bleeding after landing a jump wrong. Both required hospital stays and while Adela’s was only $3,000, Cole’s medical bills came to $25,000! Pretty lucky we had insurance.
Cole and Adela

Stroke In Rome

I had a mild stroke at the Rome Airport six years ago when the strap of my camera and computer bag pressed against an artery in my neck, reducing blood flow to my brain. I ended up spending 18 days in a Rome hospital while the doctors treated me and decided whether it was safe to let me fly home. The good news (besides the fact that the stroke didn’t do too much lasting damage): I was treated free of charge, probably because the hospital didn’t want to go through the hassle of getting compensation from my U.S. insurance company. (I had U.S. medical insurance, not travel insurance,  that would have reimbursed my hospital costs in Italy.)  Still, my wife and I now have MedjetAssist evacuation coverage in case anything like that–or worse–happens to either of us in the future. (See entire my hospital in Rome article here.)
Durant

Broken Wrists in Canada

We always have Travel Insurance. I broke both my wrists in Canada and it would of cost $4000 if I was uninsured. Having broken wrists was terrible enough without having to worry about the added cost.
Lee

Birthed Baby in Costa Rica

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We have not had insurance in over 6 years now.  We have had some minor things happen but simply paid out of pocket for it.  Even birthed a baby in a Costa Rican hospital but the prices are so reasonable that we have paid ourselves.  Since we started our Asia trip, we haven’t needed a thing.
Mary

Never Had To Use It

I do travel with health insurance. Fortunately, I have never had to use it. I did some research the first time I headed out for long term travel and decided on World Nomads. While health care overseas can be very inexpensive, I think it is always a good idea to have some sort of health insurance. You never know what can happen. I fell off a cliff when I tried paragliding, so it is always better to be safe than sorry (and out of heaps of money).
 Diana Edelman

My Husband Would Have Died In Ethiopia

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When we were out for a Sunday afternoon bike ride in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, my husband’s heart went into arrhythmia. It was beating very, very erratically and doctors feared it would stop altogether. After spending a few days in ICU in Ethiopia, the determination was made that he would need to leave the country for further treatment but, because it was a heart condition, he was not allowed to fly a commercial airline. Our medivac company arranged for an air ambulance to fly 7.5 hours from Israel, pick us up, then 7.5 hours back – to the tune of nearly $100K. After that, we will never be without insurance again. You just never know. I seriously think my husband would have died if we hadn’t had the insurance. (You can read the Arrhythmia in Ethiopia story here.)
Nancy

Ski Bum in Canada

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I do have travel insurance, it was a condition of entry to Canada, but I have never used it. Because I am a ski bum I should really have winter sports cover but the price is way too expensive… no cliff jumps this season for me.

-Mike Cotton

Nomads On The Road

Big Believer in Insurance

I’m a big believer in insurance of all kinds. While mostly we don’t need it, if we hit one of those times when we do and decided to cheap out, the consequences would be catastrophic. If I ever need an emergency flight home, I want to know it will be paid for.

-Billie

 Carpal Tunnel Coverage on the Road

I have never traveled with insurance, but will have to on my next big trip. I found out I suffer of carpal tunnel and will definitely need some coverage. I’m not sure whether or not travel insurance covers pre-existing conditions such as RSI and carpal tunnel, though. It would be great to know!
– Maria Alexandra

Broken Toes, Stress Fracture, and Strep Throat

I always travel with health insurance-ever since I lived and traveled in the United States, where I broke two toes, had a stress fracture in my shin, and strep throat twice, all in one year! When I looked at those astronomical healthcare bills I was very relieved that my health insurance would be covering the cost.

 -Stacey

Dengue Fever in Ecuador

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Kobi got his second round of dengue fever when we lived in the indigenous village in Ecuador. He suffered from 40 degree fever for four days straight, had terrifying nightmares caused by the high fever, convulsions, heat/cold flashes, and total exhaustion. We had insurance coverage, but had no need to use it. The hospital in Ecuador took amazing care of him, for nothing. For a week of hospital stay, our greatest expenses were $30 to an independent lab for blood tests, and $80 in gas money to visit the hospital in Tena, Ecuador every day. Therefore, when we crossed the border to Peru, and Kobi needed more medical care; we were shocked at how expensive every little procedure and medication was. Though we didn’t need to activate our insurance, it was good to know we had it, in case he needed more hospitalization.
-Gabi
The Nomadic Family

Head Trauma By Bouncer in New Zealand

I have a hard time forcing myself to buy any sort of health insurance. In Boston, where I’m from, it’s a legal requirement, so I buy it because it’s the law (and definitely not because I get really good medication for really cheap). Last year, I ended up in the hospital in NZ with head trauma because I got jumped by a very large man. I don’t have travel health insurance and I didn’t have to pay a dime. I actually ended up receiving reparations from the offender! (I’m telling you–HE started that fight!). I think a lot would depend on your current health and where you’re going traveling, but frankly, I’m not sure there’s any point! Want to read more about how I got my ass handed to me? You can Jeremy’s completely different take on travel health insurance: Getting Beaten Up by a Bouncer.
-Jeremy

No Need In Scotland

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While we had travel insurance, while in Scotland, we didn’t need to use it! My husband tore his plantar fasciitis tendon, and walking (and being) was extremely painful. The injury impacted the rest of our trip – walking was painful, so we drove more places. And, hillwalking was out of the question. The doctor, located west of Inverness, saw us the same day we called. There was no wait, and the doctor was very thorough in his exam and diagnosis. The prescription healing cream was three pounds. The visit? Free. We didn’t even submit a claim to our insurance company. Note to self: If injury must occur, do so in a place with such excellent medical care. And, always make sure to HAVE travel insurance. You never know what will happen. Even though we didn’t need it, I’m so glad we always have it.
-Jessie
Woah! I know. How many adventures in one post, right? Gotta take a seat and sip some water. I know.
So, we’re looking into different insurance options that may serve us better than having to go back to Israel in order to get coverage. In our research, we found travel health insurance, which covers people with pre-existing conditions too. Though we don’t have any (that we’re aware of), I know several friends who do and are grateful for that coverage.  So, we’ll keep thinking until March what we need to do to keep our family safe, and safe-guard us for whatever life may bring our way.
So, The Travel Tribe has spoken. Twelve world travelers have spoken their mind. Many have left us links to their ‘dying on the road’ adventures. What do you vote: get insurance or not? Got any unreal stories of your own. You know we’d love to hear it!
Keeping as safe as possible,
Gabi and Kobi, Dahnya, Orazi, and Solai
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Comments

comments

11 Comments

  1. I certainly recommend travel insurance even if you’re lucky enough to never need it. Although I’ve never had a major health problem on the road, back in 2008 I was in Malaysia and ended up staying in the hospital for 3 days. The bill was rather alarming and I certainly learned my lesson from that point onward.

  2. Broken leg in Switzerland – to add to the tune, my son of 6 yrs broke a leg skiing in Switzerland. Complete with mountain rescue, the overall cost was still very reasonable, around 1,500 CHF, or about 1,250 EUR. We could have paid that. Since we usually travel within Europa, we could probably wiggle our ways out of most wormholes. Still, the family policy was only 25 EUR a year, so it was clearly worth it. Also worth it is the voluntary membership in REGA, the Swiss Mountain Rescue. (Make that Coast Guard if you’re sailing, Rangers if you’re hiking, you name it.) They are the blokes collecting the potatoes from the fire when our fun goes awry, so it’s only fair to support their good work.

  3. Definitely think you need insurance as per our story above! Lots of other “horror” stories too. Silly not to travel with insurance 🙂

  4. I have been lucky that in multiple trips over the years we have only ever used ours once, after our camera was stolen in Assisi, Italy. We have never had to use it for a medical issue.

    It is like all insurance, you hope to never need it – and if you don’t use it it can appear to be a waste of money. But on the rare occasion that you DO need it you will be happy you paid the money…

    It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it…

    • Exactly, you hope to never need it, but glad you have it if need be.

      We have big family, so the more ppl in family I figure the more likelihood to use it.

      Was glad I had insurance when spending a winter in Arizona (we are Cdn). I got pregnant while there and miscarried/hemorrhaged so needed emerg D&C. Cost $18,000+ for about 24hrs care.

      What I did learn about insurance is that you want to make sure that you are covered in the first 24 hours, because that’s the time when most diagnostic tests & emergency care are needed. Some ins. doesn’t kick in until after 24-48 hrs. Lots of help that is.

  5. So who do they all have insurance with is what I want to know?! Still investigating like you Gabi, let me know if you find an answer?!

  6. Ive had travel Insurance and thank feckery it was on hand.

    We have had a few nasty turns on our travels. ( Ok so I have, but the boys will catch up one day, Im sure)

    Without insurance It would have been a nightmare.

    PLEASE NOTE: Check with your insurance companies.. BUT out of 5 diff companies I got quotes from this trip.. NONE would cover me for Dengue fever, as I had already had it once before. Comes under Pre-existing conditions. I am so peeved about it.. but now I know.. I can plan round it.

      • Hi there.

        Most insurance companies will have a detailed list available in their product disclosure statement, that lists what they will cover ( pre-existing) and others they will not.
        It is better %100 of the time to call and talk directly to a consultant to check and be sure.

        Then while on the phone get them to email you any details specific to your conditions that are or are not covered in their policy.
        Sending you another copy of the PDS is just a formality and gets them out of the poo if they give you any misinformation.

  7. Crazy travel stories! Ouch ouch. Now, more than ever, I’m definitely buying health insurance before I set out on my long-term traveling lifestyle. It really is worth it in the end

    – Maria Alexandra

  8. Just like ‘Murphy’s Law’ if you don’t have some sort of health insurance all the bad things might happen.

    Being travelers and visiting places that might be hazardous to one’s health, I believe some sort of health insurance is very important. In my opinion I will say, it is the first thing to have before packing your bags.

    Thanks for the great stories and hopefully this will answer one of the most important questions any traveller-to-be have.

    Regards,
    Chris

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