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How travel insurance saved me 1500 EUR

Update

I received confirmation today (16/03/2020) that my claim was approved and I receive all the made expenses (1,464.13 EUR) back (minus a contractual cost of 50 EUR). The total comes down to 1,414.13 EUR.

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

Swimming ring on a boat
This thing saves lives, and so does travel insurance. OK, ahem, makes life easier.

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:

  1. Worldwide coverage of at least 100,000 EUR
  2. Incl. winter sports
  3. Direct 24/7 response
  4. Baggage coverage
  5. 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.

The coverage

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
  • Abroad:
    • 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;

What happened?!

Your look when I tell you I enjoyed a trip with my mother-in-law.

So, it’s good that I was covered during my trip, but what happened to require me to use it?

The first week of the visit was perfect. I met de fam at the weekend and I went to a resort with my girlfriend’s brother, his daughter, and my mother-in-law. I had a great time bonding and on the final night there, I proposed to my GF using the sunset as the backdrop of this magical moment.

After this three day trip, we stopped at a local vineyard to have dinner before heading back. I had an excellent local meat dish. Up to this day, I still don’t know what caused the bacterial intestinal infection but I believe it’s the meat dish that I had. I started feeling unwell about 48 hours later.

On Friday of the first week, I had to go to the toilet 8 times, if not more. To top it off, this was on an exceptionally hot day so my head was getting cooked as well. Suffice to say by the evening I was feeling like crap. It didn’t take long before I was taken to the hospital.

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).

The aftermath

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.

I was able to save 1500 EUR on my most recent trip thanks to my travel insurance.

Do you have a travel insurance of any sort and did you ever have to use it? Please share your story in the comments below.

Mr. FightToFIRE
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