Why you should not travel overseas without insurance

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An increasing number of holidaymakers are forgoing travel insurance to save money, or because they are so focused on the details of the trip it slips their mind, leaving them on the hook for massive medical bills if something was to go wrong.

A medical emergency during a holiday can turn into a nightmare, where the cost could stretch into tens of thousands of dollars. Yet, according to a new survey, one in six of those who travelled overseas did not have travel insurance, and 60 per cent of Australians under 30 said they would consider travelling overseas without cover.

Some countries, such as the United States, are particularly expensive should you require emergency medical treatment.Credit: Istock

A survey commissioned by the Insurance Council of Australia and the Smartraveller website run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, found that even among those who had travel insurance, many did not properly read their policy documents.

Just one in five of insured travellers said they had spent time reading every detail of their product disclosure statement before travelling. The survey found 15 per cent of recent travellers who went without insurance said they had done so because they could not afford it.

“Travel insurance is as important as your passport – it can provide valuable protection in the event of an unexpected event, such as a medical emergency, lost luggage, or flight cancellation,” says Andrew Hall, the chief executive officer of the Insurance Council of Australia.

He says the findings are concerning, as they suggest that a significant number of Australians are putting themselves at risk by travelling without considering potential health and safety risks or purchasing travel insurance.

Some people falsely believe the Australian embassy would ensure they receive medical treatment if they need it overseas and that the Australian government will pay for them to return.

A survey commissioned by comparison site Finder also found people were skipping on travel insurance or altering their travel insurance in some way to reduce costs.

Some lied or made omissions on their application to reduce the premium, which could mean that they were not covered. Some simply bought the cheapest possible cover.

Angus Kidman, travel insurance expert at Finder, says you should never cut corners with your travel insurance as it could come with serious consequences.

Australia has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Italy and several other countries.Credit: iStock

“Skimping on travel insurance is a really dangerous trend; an overseas emergency can trash your finances if you don’t have adequate cover,” Kidman says. “If you can’t afford insurance, you shouldn’t be travelling in the first place.”

“If you are worried about paying too much, compare multiple travel insurance policies so that you can purchase the coverage you need at a rate you can afford.”

    Australia has reciprocal healthcare agreements with several countries: Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

    You need to take your Medicare card with you as you will need it, along with your passport, to prove you are eligible for reciprocal healthcare.

    Consumer group Choice says if you are leaving Australia, travel insurance is a must. You still can be up for fees for treatment and medication, and you are only covered for urgent care that cannot wait until you get home.

    If you are very ill, travel insurance can pay for a medical escort to bring you home to Australia, Choice says.

    You should be aware that insurers will exclude cover if at the time of the accident or misadventure you are intoxicated or high on drugs.

    “If you’ve had a few too many drinks, your ability to foresee events can be compromised, so there’s a much higher risk of something going wrong – so insurers won’t want to cover it,” says Choice’s travel insurance expert Jodi Bird.

    Another thing to be aware of is that while insurers automatically cover certain pre-existing medical conditions, for some conditions, you will need to apply for cover and will have to be approved by the insurer, Bird says.

    • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.

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