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What will travel insurance cover?
Four weeks in Colombia, that was the plan. Now it's going to be six weeks, because Nina can't return home as planned because she sustained a complicated break to her leg. The cost of treatment in hospital and the extended stay is likely to mount up. This tests the travellers’ nerves and their budget.
After Nina was first admitted to hospital in Medellin, Nina and her partner Mark tried to take stock of the situation. The fact was that the treatment costs and the hospital stay in Colombia were going to cost around six thousand francs, and Nina would not be well enough to travel on the return flight as planned. This meant that the couple would have to rebook their return flight and pay for an extension to their stay.
Advance for hospital costs
The biggest item on Nina and Mark’s list of additional costs was the hospital bill of 6,000 francs. What made it worse was the fact that foreigners were required to pay any bills in advance. But when Mark called the insurance company with whom he had taken out a travel insurance policy for himself and his partner, he was reassured: Thanks to the “personal assistance” option, the insurer was able to transfer 5,000 francs to Mark immediately. However, the company also pointed out that this was only a cost advance – and that he had to keep all invoices in order to claim the costs back from Nina’s accident insurance. He would then be able to pay back the advance to the travel insurer.
Additional cost of the extended stay
He also had to find out what benefits the stranded couple was entitled to, given that they had to extend their stay in Medellin. The extra two weeks’ stay in Colombia generated additional costs for food and accommodation. As Mark discovered, this cost is also covered by the “personal assistance” option. Up to 1,000 francs is available to them through their insurance. Not an enormous amount, but with careful planning the pair should not have to pay too much on top.
Cancelling hotel bookings and rebooking the flight
The couple were forced to cancel their planned activities and hotel bookings made for the rest of their trip. Nina’s injury meant they had to stay in Medellin and rent suitable accommodation. The insurance company agreed to reimburse the costs already paid for hotel rooms and trips – these costs were covered by the cancellation expenses insurance option. That just left the flight. Rebooking the flight two weeks later cost 300 francs – this was also covered by their travel insurance under “change of travel plans due to an accident or illness suffered by the insured”.
Financial and emotional outcome
When Nina and Mark look back on their experience, they feel it was overall a positive one – despite everything. Calling their insurer meant that at least their financial situation was settled. The immediate cost advance meant they were able to pay their expensive medical costs there and then. Although they had to use up the last reserves of their travel budget for additional expenses, they didn't have to wait long for the insurance company to reimburse them after they arrived home.
Most importantly, Nina's leg healed satisfactorily. Because her initial treatment in Colombia went well, she was able to start the follow-up treatment and rehabilitation as soon as she returned to Switzerland. In the end, when Nina and Mark looked back on their extended stay in Colombia, they remembered more than just a broken leg.
Key points explained – travel insurance
- If you suffer an accident or illness when you are on holiday, your plans are usually disrupted. To ensure that the additional costs of medical treatment, accommodation and food plus the changes to your travel plans are adequately covered, you need to choose the following options: “personal assistance”, “cancellation expenses insurance” and “changes to travel plans due to accident or illness”. The latter should not be confused with “trip cancellation insurance”, which refers to a trip that is cancelled before you set off – this does not cover the rebooking of individual flights during the trip.
- The cost advance provided under personal assistance should be considered as such: it does not cover the costs directly but functions as a bridging payment: if you fall ill while abroad, you usually have to pay for your medical treatment up front – waiting for the health or accident insurance to complete their paperwork takes too long. That's why your travel insurance advances you the money. As soon as you receive the payment from your health insurance or accident insurance provider, you need to pay back the advance.
- Remember that if you are taking out insurance for more than one person, only one person can function as the policyholder. If you want to insure your partner as well, their name must be listed on the policy. Only policies with family cover automatically include benefits for husband, wife and children.