Know your medical options when falling ill abroad

A holidaymaker in Thailand who almost died when his insurer insisted he transfer from private to a public hospital, highlights the need for greater communication between insurer and policy holder alike concerning medical care overseas, according to travel technology specialist, Aquarium Software.

These situations come about through a combination of travelers not reading the small print and those looking to profit from tourists unaware of the medical options when falling ill abroad, when such issues are the last thing on their mind.

Any hospital, private or public, is duty bound to provide emergency treatment without charge, yet tourists can be asked for payment upfront. Hospitals even refuse to speak to insurers, in hopes of getting money from a patient first. Hotels also deliberately send guests to private hospitals because they receive a commission for doing so. Insurers can be unhappy about paying for something available for free, which can look like they do anything to avoid a payout, when it is not quite that simple.

"This is one of those times both insurer and policy holder can find themselves in a difficult position through no fault of their own," said Aquarium Software Director, Mark Colonnese. "Most insurers don't fund private treatment when public care is available, but if ill abroad, paying for treatment is the last thing on our minds. However, making your own arrangements then expecting a payout after the fact can lead to a refusal and both sides feeling hard done by. This is easily remedied by contacting your insurer first if you fall ill."

A good insurer will identify the best place to receive treatment and in cases where the hospital prove difficult, can arrange for local agents to step in to deal with the hospital direct and offer practical support, leaving the patient to focus on recovery. Contrary to popular belief, this can also include private medical care if needed.

"Insurers covering private medical care receive less publicity, but reputable providers take a common-sense approach and do cover such treatment, if informed in advance and if no other options are available," added Colonnese. "No one likes being charged for work they were unaware of, and insurers are no different in this regard. Communication is key and apps that can help travelers get medical guidance whilst on holiday certainly form part of the answer," Mark concluded.

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