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Travel tales cost a bomb

Snowboarding
A critical illness in China, an attack in Fiji & a US snowboarding accident led to the most costly travel insurance claims Kiwis made last year.

A critical illness in China, an attack in Fiji, and a snowboarding accident, triple heart bypass and cancer diagnosis - all in the United States - led to some of the most expensive travel insurance claims New Zealanders made last year.

Claims for medical expenses are by far the greatest for claims made by travellers and the costliest place to fall ill or be injured is the United States, where doctors will conduct $20,000 worth of checks before you can even blink, Southern Cross Travel Insurance chief executive Craig Morrison says.

Some of the most expensive payouts last year included $100,000 State Travel Insurance paid in medical bills and an air ambulance for a man who was injured in a snowboarding accident in the US and $100,000 The Warehouse Travel Insurance paid in expenses after a man was attacked in Fiji and suffered major head trauma.

He had to be evacuated back to New Zealand via air ambulance at low altitude, a spokeswoman said.

Flight Centre Travel Insurance's most expensive claim was for $421,000 after a customer became critically ill in the US and had to be returned to New Zealand via private air ambulance.

Its second-most expensive claim was $200,000 for a person who fell ill in China.

Tower spent $143,000 after a client caught pneumonia on a cruise ship and $150,000 when another client required a triple bypass in the United States.

Southern Cross' highest claim for 2012 was for $208,000 after a New Zealander was diagnosed and treated for cancer in the United States.

The most common claims are to do with gastroenteritis, which could result in a visit to a local clinic and medication - easily worth $500, Mr Morrison said.

Medical costs rise quickly in the US, because the doctors check for everything as they are petrified of being sued if they misdiagnose a patient, he said.

"The fact is these agreements do not cover all costs that arise when an accident or emergency medical situation occurs - such as ambulance travel, medical support and flight costs for repatriation to New Zealand, or bringing a family member out to support you, " Mr Morrison said.

"For example, if you broke your arm in Australia and the break required a cast, you would also require a nurse to accompany you on the flight home in case of swelling that necessitated cast removal. This service alone would cost thousands of dollars for an uninsured traveller."

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Providers warn that people should read their policies in detail, because a failure to note existing medical conditions could cripple bank accounts.

Though insurance can be pricey, most travellers can't afford not to have it if something goes wrong. "Don't wait for something to happen, " Mr Morrison says.

"It will be too late."

- Taranaki Daily News

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