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Sunday, January 4, 2009

No ice for his swelling: Medical travel insurance

Mary Billard's story:
My husband Barry and I took an hour’s cab ride through steep and winding hills, past the undeveloped, Eden-before-the-fall landscape near the beach town of Senggigi, Indonesia.

We were wandering down the main street, reading menus, when the lights went out. A few more steps and, suddenly, Barry disappeared from my side. I looked down into an open concrete drainage ditch about four feet deep, and there he was at the bottom, getting to his hands and knees.

It was so dark I used a cell phone light to see a bleeding wound on his forearm. Then he felt a pain in his ankle. Over the next eight hours, we learned his ankle was fractured.

We went to the nearest clinic. Barry called the number on the back of his American Express card, connecting him to the Global Assist Hotline to find out what kind of medical help they could provide and to explore our trip back to the United States.

In the subsequent hours, we were on the phone almost constantly as Barry lay in a bed in the bare-bones clinic – with no ice for his swelling. We reached doctors in New York, family and others, and American Express, which monitored the diagnosis and care provided. (After we got home, I got a phone bill for $903.)

A decision was made: Barry would have the local doctor put a cast on his broken ankle, and then we would travel back home to New York City. He would not have surgery in rural Indonesia.

How to get him home? As premium American Express card members, we are eligible to receive emergency medical transportation assistance. But a fractured ankle does not justify getting an air ambulance. (Even if we had a medical travel insurance policy, it wouldn't cover an air ambulance, because this injury didn't require hospitalization.)

It's possible that a travel insurance policy would cover a ticket to fly home promptly, depending on medical necessity.

Next trip, we are definitely buying a comprehensive trip insurance policy. And bringing a flashlight.

Mary's advice: Before embarking on an overseas vacation, travelers should check their medical policy to see what is covered.

Read a very different medical story of a tourist to Asia.

Thanks to Mary Billard for the source article in today's New York Times.

1 comment:

Steve said...

You would have done well to go into the nitty gritty of the policy before your setting out on your tour
premium financed life insurance