Monday, 13 January 2020

The Trouble with Travel Insurance

As some of you may or may not be aware, I'll be off to Germany in July to compete in the Sandspirit challenge. If I want to make sure I come home in a good mental & physical state, with all my limbs, and without any expensive medical bills should I ever need to shell out any money for such a expense. I will need travel insurance.

Travel Insurance is an insurance policy that has the intention to cover any unexpected medical expenses, trip cancellation, flight delays, accidents, lost luggage, lost personal money, and any other losses whilst in a foreign country or even when taking a holiday in your own country. Of course, not every Travel Insurance policy is the same and the purposes of this post; I'll be primarily focusing on the medical element.

The EHIC Question

It's all well and good having a European Health Insurance Card which I have discussed in detail in the past, however; an EHIC won't get you home after an unforeseen medical issue abroad or pay for some other medical procedures (i.e. an X-ray); and without a good insurance policy, you'll have to cover expenses on your own; so this asks the question, what's the point of having an EHIC? According to the Money Advice Service: "If you use an EHIC to get medical care, some insurers won't ask you to pay an excess on your medical claims." (Money Advice Service, 2020).

A typical medical excess on a travel insurance policy can be from £50 up to £500; enough to buy a souvenir or a nice meal!

But you're probably thinking won't the Embassy help? And the answer is: No, they cannot cover your costs if you're detained, arrested, or admitted to hospital abroad.

"Travel Insurance Infographic FCO 2014" by Foreign & Commonwealth Office is licensed under Open Government Licence v3.0
Travel Insurance can be extremely cheap... If you have no health conditions and are young; this is because Travel Insurance companies see the elderly and people with pre-existing health complications as a higher risk and therefore more likely to make a claim, this is why younger and healthier people receive cheaper premiums from the insurance companies as they are deemed a lower risk because they are less likely to make a claim. But for us keen sandboarders, the problem lies in what activities are covered; a lot of insurance companies won't cover sandboarding because the sport isn't recognised enough for its risk, danger, and thrill-seeking elements within the sport.


My Research

Today, I looked up quotes for Annual Multi-Trip Travel Insurance on my upcoming competition in July (I chose Annual Multi-Trip because I'm going to Denmark in March and this will save me buying another policy and it also covers me for any other trips I may take in the next year).

The prices quoted for my travel insurance ranged from £11.95 ($15.51 USD as of 13th January 2020) to £108.99 ($141.50 USD as of 13th January 2020) with an average price of £35.35 across a list of 76 quotes. Within those 76 quotes, Sandboarding is covered in 31 policies or just under 41% of Travel Insurance policies; it's good that our sport is included but I say it could be improved; especially considering that Table Tennis (A sport that has a higher chance of death than Sandboarding, as discovered in Revisiting Death) has more likelihood of coverage than Sandboarding.

This leaves us with a choice, we can try and compare quotes that have a 41% or thereabouts chance of being covered for Sandboarding or we can directly go to insurers that specialise in Sandboarding (yes, they exist) and pay more for the certainty of being covered. This tells me one of three things:

1. Insurance companies don't recognise Sandboarding as a sport, this is a sad reality but because of its infrequency in Google searches and because it's only really possible wherever lie sand dunes; makes sense.

2. Sandboarding isn't considered a big enough danger or risk for insurance companies to be worried; sure, they may have read my blog and seen that Table Tennis is more worthy of coverage because of the higher chance of death, but it doesn't ignore the fact that there have been deaths from the sport.

3. Sandboarding is recognised as a sport by insurance companies, but because of its niche nature and the fact there isn't too much information on the sport, how it works, risks, dangers, and/or what can be involved; the insurance companies can't offer a quote because of so little information from our sport.

The problem lies even worse for non-Europeans, especially to my readers from the United States; since the concept of a taxpayer funded national healthcare system doesn't exist, if you Sandboard abroad, a Travel Insurance policy that covers Sandboarding abroad will be fine and you won't have to worry about an unexpected medical expense, but if you wanted to Sandboard in the United States and you got injured and required hospital treatment; if you had Travel Insurance, you would still be covered because such a policy can cover you domestically as well as abroad but private medical insurance might not; Private medical insurance is a different kind of policy all together so I won't discuss it now.

"Exchange Money Conversion to Foreign Currency" by epSos.de is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


My Conclusion

Travel Insurance will be a lifeline to you when you need it most, a lot of the time you'll never need it and the cost of the cheapest insurance won't be worth thinking about too much; It's worth doing your research to find out if the sports you want covered are in the policy you want to buy, how much coverage you'll receive. If you happen to be in a country that doesn't provide free & universal healthcare, you'll get medical treatment with a travel insurance policy; repatriation, air ambulances, hospital stays, and operations can be very expensive; but travel insurance is pretty cheap; even if you have a European Health Insurance Card, travel insurance will get you home, and won't burn a hole in your pocket.

References

Money Advice Service. 2020. Do you need travel insurance? - Money Advice Service. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/do-you-need-travel-insurance. [Accessed 13 January 2020].

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