An overseas dream vacation that turned into a medical crisis prompted one reader, a licensed MD, to offer the following travel insurance advice.
The following information and travel insurance advice was sent to us by Greggory R. DeVore, M.D., of the Yale University School of Medicine.
It's estimated that 30 million Americans will travel abroad for business or pleasure during the coming 12 months," Dr. DeVore writes. "Of these, 12,000 will probably die, one million will suffer some illness or injury, and some will require emergency medical evacuation back to the United States. Without proper insurance, any such event can be a financial, as well as an emotional, disaster.
"I discovered this fact when my father had a massive heart attack while on an overseas 'dream vacation'. I immediately flew to his bedside, and — finding the only available hospital somewhat primitive and dirty (and my mother barely able to communicate in an unfamiliar language) — I decided to have him flown back to the States right away. However, because of bureaucratic red tape and outrageous prices (from $10,400 for a two-day flight on a propeller-driven air-ambulance to $72,000 for direct jet transport), it was 30 days before I was finally able to arrange — for $8,000 — his return home on a stretcher (minus cardiac monitoring or resuscitation equipment) by commercial airliner. The total for hotels, phone calls, transportation, hospital, and doctors: about $20,000!
"In order to help you avoid such a harrowing experience, I've compiled the following advice, which I feel is of utmost importance to anyone purchasing a travel insurance policy.
"You get only what you pay for, so beware of coverage that's too 'inexpensive'.
"Make sure your policy pays not only for transportation to the nearest medical facility abroad, but also to a hospital near your home, so you can return — with medical assistance — as soon as possible. (This will insure that you won't have to settle for medical care inferior to that available in the U.S. and will eliminate the possibility of having to look after a loved one, over an extended period of time, in another country while awaiting clearance of a flight on a commercial airliner.)
"Be sure that — if death should occur — the company would assist in making the necessary arrangements for transportation of the body and incur all expenses for that transportation, as well.
"Discover whether the company maintains a 24-hour message center that relatives and friends can use to call toll-free in an emergency. (Such a feature will often save a stricken family hundreds of dollars in phone calls.)
"Know that it's important for the company to offer insurance that will cover all hospital expenses while abroad. The firm must also be willing to pay them before the patient leaves to come home. Most health insurance settlements in the U.S. are made only after the patient or the hospital submits a final bill. Many foreign clinics, however, often demand that all hospital and doctor bills be paid in full prior to the release of the patient.
"After much inquiry and investigation, the only company I've found that provides every one of the above services is Near, Inc. It pays for all costs incurred for transportation of the ill or injured person home by air-ambulance, is underwritten by Lloyd's of London worldwide, pays for (and makes arrangements for) transportation of the body should death occur, has memberships for a single individual ($62) or entire families ($86) that cover the policyholders one full year regardless of where they travel, and operates a 24-hour message center with a toll-free number. In addition, Near, Inc. now offers, under a separate package, worldwide hospital Insurance that has no age limit and no preexisting condition clauses, and makes instant payments to 'bail you out' of foreign hospitals."
Now that you have the scoop on worry-free travel insurance, here's some other inexpensive, practical information for all those who are feeling the lure of the Orient.
A new publication entitled Japan Unescorted: A Practical Guide to Discovering Japan on Your Own contains, in addition to the usual guide book information (including city and subway maps), such hard-to-obtain data as the hours and entrance fees of museums, castles, and temples, plus tips on "offbeat" attractions, "inexpensive" to "reasonable" places to eat and drink, where to stay and shop without going into debt, what to see and do, and — in some cases — what not to see and do.
To obtain the 128-page, soft-cover booklet, send a $2.00 check or money order to Japan Air Lines.
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