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US tops 2018’s most expensive travel insurance claims

February 19, 2019 Insurance No Comments Email Email

Southern Cross Travel Insurance Australia (SCTI) has revealed its 10 most expensive medical claims from 2018, with cases including vertigo, pneumonia and broken hips.

The largest claim for the year totalled $259,000 for a customer in their 60s requiring surgery in the US after a heart attack. They were accompanied home by a non-medical escort.

The US is the third most popular destination for Australian tourists[1] and half of SCTI’s claims originated from there, not surprising given the country’s high cost of medical care.

Southern Cross Travel Insurance Chief Executive, Chris White, says, although many Australian travellers know insurance is essential for a holiday in the US, it’s also important for destinations closer to home.

“Everyone wants to be able to focus on the adventures of their holiday rather than worrying about what can go wrong,” he says.

“Even on a short trip to Bali, a few days in hospital after an accident can interrupt your travel plans and lead to hefty medical bills. In the grand scheme of things, travel insurance is a small but important cost that has the potential to save a lot of stress and expense.”

White says travel insurance can assist in emergency medical situations where there are language barriers and demands for upfront payments.

“Our 24/7 Emergency Assistance team can coordinate medical treatment or evacuation and keep family members informed. We can also provide payment guarantees to medical providers,” he says.

Three of the 10 most expensive claims involved an air ambulance; a passenger plane or helicopter fitted with intensive care equipment with specialist medical crew on board to support the patient.

“One customer required two separate air ambulances after they broke their hip, one to a nearby city for surgery and another for rehabilitation in a different country. This is unusual and shows that sometimes one medical evacuation is not enough,” says White.

Estimated cost (AUD)* Event Where it happened Customer age
$259,000 Cardiac surgery after a heart attack. Returned home on a business class flight with a non-medical escort. US 60s
$208,500 Returned home with a doctor escort after developing severe complications from cellulitis(bacterial skin infection). Canada 50s
$182,000 Two separate air ambulances for a broken hip. Returned home with a nurse escort. South America 60s
$153,000 Customer suffered a broken pelvis and was transferred for rehabilitation before returning home with a nurse escort. US 50s
$132,000 Pneumonia and heart failure. Returned home with a nurse escort. US 80s
$107,000 Subdural haematoma (pooled blood pushing on the brain) after a fall. Surgery required to remove the haemotoma. US 70s
$88,500 Vertigo (feeling of dizziness) as a result of aninner ear infection, leading to two hospital admissions. US 40s
$88,000 Returned home with a nurse escort after developing pneumonia. Southeast Asia Teens
$80,500 Broken hip required surgery and an air ambulance transfer. Returned home with a nurse escort. Europe 80s
$71,000 Multiple trauma after a fall. Air ambulance to Australia required. Southeast Asia 20s

*The costs are estimates based on the status of each claim at 31 January 2019. The figures may increase or decrease, as the claim progresses. The claims are paid in varying currencies so the figures have been converted using the relevant exchange rate in mid-January 2019.

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