Travel and Medical Bills

We need to do a better job educating the the youth with regards to risk management. Unfortunately many of them do not even think of getting travel insurance. And for those who do give it a consideration, they think they don’t need it. Mainly because they are healthy and they truly believe at this stage of their lives they are invisible. When questioned, a usual response would go something like this – “Travel insurance is for people who are older, for those who have health issues and need to be covered.” Quite frankly, who can blame them, we’ve all been there. And in some cases, some of us are still holding on to this same train of thought.

So how do we go about educating the youth, or non-believers? How do we make them realize the importance of protecting themselves during their travels?
One young lady learnt her lesson the hard way. On March 21st she left Toronto, heading for a family vacation, to Trinidad in the Caribbean. While out for a leisurely walk one evening she fell off a cliff after misjudging her step. With numerous breaks to her pelvis and legs she remained in hospital for 2 weeks while awaiting her return back home, for the necessary surgery. She had not purchased travel insurance and it was going to cost her $56,000 for the necessary trip to be flown back home, and to be accompanied with medical personnel. Things were not looking good and this young lady was the first to admit, she had not even thought of travel insurance, because she has traveled several times and has never purchased any. Lucky for her, this story has a good ending, as the community came together to raise money to fund this young lady’s return home. But you can appreciate this does not usually happen, and probably should not be relied upon.

What would happen if you didn’t purchase insurance and you were left with a medical bill that needed to be paid?
The course of action would go something like this. First of all you need to understand something that is done on a regular basis and throughout the world, if it is an option for that particular country. Once the first-responder knows you have travel insurance, you are taken to a hospital/health care centre that has the latest medical technology and probably the highest quality physicians and medical team. On the other hand if they discover you do not have coverage, the decision to be transferred to a General setting would be the probable choice. Both choices are still going to cost money, however, the private facility will cost considerably more. They understand that they have a better chance of being paid by the insurance company.

So if you do not have coverage, within 90 days (this can vary) you will receive your first bill from the hospital or attending physician. If after 30 days they have not received any response, notice or payment, another statement will be sent out, this time registered mail. Somewhere between 60 days and 120 days any unpaid bills will be turned over to a collection agency. These institutions vary widely with regards to their approach and some can be quite aggressive, although there are laws against “harassing.” Most will work together with the debtor to get the bill paid or they can help set up some kind of payment schedule. If this fails, or goes into default, the debt is reported to the credit bureau, where it will effect the credit score of the person at fault. If the bill continues to be unpaid, this can eventually lead to a lawsuit and judgement against the defaulter garnishing wages, putting liens on properties, seizure of assets and in some cases coming after next of kin, if the debtor has no assets. The situation has gotten so bad with regards to unpaid Medical Bills, that Customs and Immigration are now becoming involved and can deny the individual entry into the country where the debt was incurred.

As you can deduce from this insight into travel mishaps, this would not be a very nice way to end any vacation. All for sparing yourself pennies on the day, the expense of purchasing Travel Insurance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *