Last two weeks I was on a life-changing holiday. I visited my family-in-law and proposed to my girlfriend; who said yes! Visiting her home country, meeting her closest friends and family, and proposing, was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, this amazing time got disrupted by something that can happen to most tourists: bacterial intestinal infection.
The final bill for this illness came in at about 1500 EUR. Due to the nature of the health system in the country, I was required to sign and pay before I could get a room and further treatment. This resulted in me having to pay all of the costs with my credit card. Without an insurance I would not be able to recover any of these costs.
A life saver
I already had travel insurance when I went to the US three years prior. The US has a privatized health system so I didn’t want to risk having to cough up all potential medical bills myself. When you read that a breaking a leg costs up to 35,000 dollars I sure as hell wasn’t planning on breaking my bank account as well. I could miss that financial stress like a sore tooth.
Not wanting to get myself into financial trouble I decided to look into travel insurance. Luckily I could get a discount on travel insurance and for the very reasonable price of 40.80 EUR/year, I would be covered worldwide for all medical costs up to 100,000 EUR.
For the last three years, I fortunately never had to use it. It did provide peace of mind whenever I went outside of Europe. Especially going to places where healthcare is either private (US) or maybe not what you expect (Istanbul). I knew I was well covered for any initial medical costs.
Top 5 essential points
Before actually siging a contract I wanted to be sure that the following 5 points were covered:
- Worldwide coverage of at least 100,000 EUR
- Incl. winter sports
- Direct 24/7 response
- Baggage coverage
- Cancelation coverage
I compared and researched the major and smaller players in Belgium. I was tempted by BNP Paribas Fortis and Europe Assistance but I ended up going for ING Lion Assistance. For a small premium I got a decent coverage that would help me get through the initial medical costs. While Fortis offers up to 250,000 EUR it also costs more. I believe 100,000 EUR will cover me the first few days wherever I am.
This is lower than other insurances (some cover up to 1,250,000 EUR, and are thrice as expensive). But to be honest, if I ever have something that could cost that much, I’d rather be repatriated.
The financial coverage is, of course, only part of it. In broad terms my insurance covers:
- At home:
- Losing my house keys which prevents me from entering my home, I will get a locksmith within the hour
- Psychological assistance
- Costs of hospitalization of children at home in case parents are abroad
- household help, baby sitter, or pet caretaker in case of an injury at home
- Search and rescue costs up to 7,500 EUR;
- Medical assistance of up to 100,000 EUR per insured person;
- Support of visitation costs up to 100 EUR/day up to 10 days;
- Repatriation of the injured or sick insured incl. luggage and other insured + pets (in case pet cannot be taken care for by others);
- legal assistance because of a car accident;
- after-treatment costs in Belgium up to 2,500 EUR;
- Urgent return due to long hospitalization (+5 days) or death of immediate family members;
- Support transportation to an embassy or consulate in case of loss of travel documents;
- Loss, theft, damage or delay (+12 hours) of luggage up to 250 EUR;
- Translator during covered treatment;
- Reimbursement because of detention abroad as a result of force majeure (strikes, natural phenomena, epidemics, etc.) up to 100 EUR/day and a maximum of 500 EUR per insured person;
Sick? Sign here, please
At the hospital, I got the first aid but then it started. Signing the first paper and paying for the first ER aid. The paper was to make sure I would pay if I kept receiving help from them. After signing, they gave me some antibiotics and sent me on my way. Oh, but not before I paid about 200 EUR.
Second time is the charm
Unfortunately, my pain didn’t go away and I developed a 40° fever throughout the evening. In the early morning, I was brought to another hospital where they did the same. Only this time they decided to keep me in the hospital for at least a night -which turned into two- to keep an eye on me.
Here again, since I didn’t have a national heal insurance, I was required to first sign 7 documents stating I wouldn’t sue them for any diagnosis they would make, that I agree to pay everything they send my way, etc. Only after signing these documents and paying an 80% deposit (~600 EUR) was I assigned a room. This had the funny side effect that my travel insurance wasn’t able to be in contact with the hospital for the expenses. I signed as an individual taking the burden on myself.
Having signed everything, I received my treatment and after undergoing a course of antibiotics for 3.5 days and a stool analysis, I was discharged on Monday noon and went on my marry way. Not. If only that was it. I first had to pay of course. I got a nice list of every. single. thing. From the antibiotics the hospital gave me, to the needles they used. The total sum I had to pay right then and there was ~700 EUR.
Including the deposit that brings the total cost to ~1300 EUR. Now, don’t get me wrong, it makes sense that I had to pay for services rendered, but the way the hospital went about things, well, it left a bad taste (and it wasn’t because of the hospital food).
Seeing the total sum of both hospital visits:
- 1ste hospital: 200 EUR
- 2nd hospital:
- 600 EUR
- 700 EUR
TOTAL: ~1500 EUR
It’s safe to say that I’m relieved I have this travel insurance. The way things went wasn’t the most lovely experience but at least I didn’t have to worry about how I would pay for it all, I was able to recover completely in the comfort of a hospital bed knowing I wouldn’t suffer a huge financial drain because of it.
As I paid for everything myself there was one thing I still had to do: get my money back. At the time of writing I haven’t gotten anything back yet because I first need to get a letter from my national Health service stating that they do not cover the treatment I received. It’s a formality, but one that needs to happen in accordance with the terms and conditions of the travel insurance.
After this and using the documents I send to them through mail I will received my money within 7 days.
Once I receive the money, I can close this interesting experience.
If there is one thing I can take from this, it’s that my travel insurance has shown it’s worth 🙂 Oh and that I will put my travel insurance as my guarantor.