Travel Tips If You Have a Medical Emergency

How you can avoid incurring unnecessary costs



1. If you have a medical emergency contact your travel insurance assistance provider as soon as possible

Most travel insurance policies have a clause that requires you to contact the assistance provider as soon as reasonably possible if you have a medical emergency. Otherwise, benefits payable under the policy may be reduced by 50%-80%. This percentage varies by policy. The penalty is waived if you are unconscious or physically unable to call and someone on your behalf is unable to contact the assistance provider.


The purpose of the clause is to get the assistance provider and insurance company involved immediately in the management of the claim. The assistance provider will ensure all necessary tests and treatment are provided to you. They will not authorize unnecessary tests and procedures. Managing claims means working with the medical providers and ensuring there is no overbilling. Managing claims has a direct impact on travel insurance rates.


2. Save all original receipts in case you’re out of pocket and want to be reimbursed.

Your travel insurance provider works with medical providers to arrange payment of your medical expenses on your behalf. Some medical providers prefer to charge your credit card at the time of the emergency and let you worry about being reimbursed. If this happens to you, you must submit original receipts, not photocopies, along with a claim form.


3. Be aware of hospital “balance billing” scare tactics.

Medical bills are negotiated between the medical provider and the insurance company claims administrator. For example, a $10,000 U.S. bill can be bargained down to $7,000. One of the practices of some medical providers is to accept a cheque from the claims administrator for $7,000 and then bill you for the $3,000 difference. This is known as “balance billing”. Even though the medical provider agreed to settle the bill for $7,000, they know the use of a collection agency can scare people that want to avoid getting a bad credit rating.

If you had a claim and the insurance company took care of the bill and sometime later you get a call or letter asking for money, don’t pay anything! Contact the insurance company claims administrator immediately and they will handle it.

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