British tourists to Thailand: Are you really covered? Travel insurance warning for medical emergencies
British tourists travelling to Thailand are being warned that their travel insurance policies may not cover them in the event of a medical emergency. Most travel insurance is not designed to cover life-saving operations or expensive repatriation, Pattaya Mail reported yesterday.
The Association of British Insurers pointed out that 17% of all overseas claims are rejected due to lack of documentation, and the average payout for successful claims is just over £1,000. Insurers mainly pay out on small issues such as lost luggage or booking cancellations, rather than medical emergencies.
According to the award-winning blog Travelbunny, insurance failures are often due to the small print in policies, which is there to protect the company’s funds. For example, in 10 road accidents, five British tourists were refused cover because they were not wearing a crash helmet. Two were participating in hazardous sports such as elephant trekking or bungee jumping. Two were relying on British driving licences, which are not lawful in Thailand. One had been out of the UK for more than 30 days.
This has led a number of Brits to make crowdfunding appeals, with at least 23 Brits (or their families) appealing for cash in the past six months to pay for medical treatment for traumatic incidents, and repatriation. Most of the cases involved road accidents, with motorbike or moped accidents being the most common cause of injury. After road accidents, falling from buildings and being mugged were the most common causes of injury.
The amounts requested in public appeals ranged from £25,000 to £300,000 with the average income received being around 10% of the advertised target.
Not a single GoFundMe appeal mentioned alcohol or narcotics as a reason for insurance denial, even though the majority of accidents occurred late at night. Some Thai hospitals are reluctant to perform such tests as they don’t want to ruin the chances of a successful insurance payout. However, insurers in a big claim will want clear proof that there was no alcohol or substance abuse.
According to informal surveys in Thailand, only about half of incoming tourists have any kind of insurance. Of those who do, most have travel insurance which will cover around 5% of the total holiday cost. Tourists are advised to avoid renting vehicles.
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