A Cork woman is advising holidaymakers to rely on their European Health Insurance Card rather than expensive travel insurance after fears a €20,000 hospital bill for her partner might not be covered.
Kate Durant says the stress of the experience made her and her partner reluctant to travel abroad again for vacation.
Mr Durrant took out a comprehensive travel insurance policy with his travel agency, before heading to Palma for a two-week break at the end of September.
The 53-year-old, who lives in Blarney with partner PJ Lynch, 71, said she wanted peace of mind while on vacation.
“I took so much care to make sure we had the most important travel insurance, taking a medical extension and calling them carefully to list his ailments; pay the cheap holiday price for the insurance alone, but we’re at that age and he’s medically very vulnerable, you don’t take risks,” she said.
After three days in Palma, PJ fell seriously ill and needed an ambulance. The driver asked Ms. Durrant if they had a blanket and so they drove to a private hospital called Quirónsalud.
She said the majority of people in the hospital were tourists in similar situations, and that seemed like the hospital to go to if you had travel insurance.
“There was a guy walking around the hospital after his wife was run over and she had been in intensive care for weeks and I think a week costs €60,000 and already this poor 86 year old was walking around without knowing whether the bill was will be covered or not,” she said.
PJ was later diagnosed with sepsis and required urgent intensive care, which Ms Durrant said saved his life.
After being advised by the hospital to call her insurer, Ms Durrant was initially put at ease following the call during which she was offered a hotel to stay, which she declined.
However, she said that feeling of ease evaporated once she realized they hadn’t requested a medical report from PJ’s GP until day 11, and in doing so sent the request. bad GP.
Ms Durrant said she was then subjected to constant worrying phone calls, emails and delays.
While the claim was being discussed, the hospital’s bill – in excess of £600 a night – was mounting and Ms Durrant was unsure whether the insurer would cover the costs.
“We have our European health insurance cards and realistically life would have been much easier if we had used them, as we would have been treated extremely well in a public hospital without any stress.
“I just assumed that if you were honest and did it right as much as you could, you would be covered,” she said.
“With anyone with complicated medical issues, the way I feel right now, I don’t think I would leave the country because the experience was so stressful there was no vacation,” he said. she declared.
Although PJ has sepsis, the insurer questioned the fact that he had a kidney removed more than three decades ago. They then began to question the fact that he had a catheter. They then questioned a heart condition which Ms Durrant said she did not have.
Ms Durrant booked return flights without the medical assistance she needed on the flight and had to pay half the bill before leaving hospital as she could not leave without doing so.
“They were supposed to repatriate him and – in the end – we went back alone because all the time they were fighting to pay the claim, which lasted about eight or nine days, they hadn’t even started to organize repatriation,” she said.
PJ was still in the hospital eight days after being given the all-clear to return home, as the claim had not been resolved.
Finally, 20 hours before they left the hospital, the insurance company paid the bill, which amounted to €20,000.
Ms Durrant said the experience made her realize how vulnerable you can be abroad in the event of a medical emergency.
Speaking of Mapfre, the underwriters who handled PJ’s claim, Ms Durrant said: ‘They need to remember that they are not dealing in potatoes, lumps of coal or raw materials. We are not stocks to sell and make money.
“I phoned to make sure he was covered and gave them all the medical conditions and we were still disappointed with people who should have been in our corner when we needed them but instead made it worse. our very bad situation.”
“He will never leave the country again,” she said.
A spokesperson for Mapfre said he could not comment on individual cases, but added: “As a responsible travel insurance provider, we must follow specific and well-defined processes to deal with any request for assistance. supervised emergency medicine.
“Often, engagement with various GPs, hospitals and other stakeholders is required throughout the support process, which can make it more complex. We always aim to handle communications of this nature as soon as possible.
McCarthy Insurance Group chief executive Paul Kavanagh said he heard several stories similar to Ms Durrant’s.
He described travel insurance as a “luxury”, which the McCarthy Insurance Group stopped providing at the start of the pandemic due to uncertainty.
According to Kavanagh, travel insurance can be added to cover “incidental costs”, but should never be used to cover essentials such as healthcare.
“Once you have your European health card, you can enter any hospital in Europe,” he said before adding that people with private health insurance can access no any hospital in the world abroad.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows access to state-provided medically necessary healthcare during a temporary stay in the EU or EEA.
Among Irish Life Health, VHI and Laya, the cheapest private health insurance plans cover between €55,000 and €100,000 for emergency hospitalization abroad and between €1m and €2m for expenses of repatriation.
“What’s going to happen? Your luggage is going to get misplaced? We’ve seen this happen in Dublin, Schiphol and Heathrow, people have never collected their luggage. If that’s what you want to cover , that’s what travel insurance is for in my book,” Kavanagh said.
“I wouldn’t rely on it for my medical care,” he said, adding that his first port of call in the event of a medical emergency abroad would be his EHIC.
Mr Kavanagh said those without an EHIC or private health insurance have little or no choice but to take out travel insurance. However, he urged members of this cohort to purchase premium coverage. “Not a $15 policy,” he said.
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) said it had received 91 complaints this year so far – and 750 since 2019 – about travel insurance.
The most common reason for complaints is the wording of the terms and conditions of the policies, which leads to misunderstandings among policyholders and subsequently denial of claims.
MaryRose McGovern, ombudsman for financial services and pensions (acting), said better clarity in the wording of travel insurance policies would lead to fewer complaints.
“The FSPO has previously pointed out that the clarity of the wording of insurance policies could be improved. Consumers looking to purchase a policy that suits their needs shouldn’t have to struggle to understand a policy’s terms and conditions.
“Insurers must therefore ensure that these terms and conditions are understandable and as easy to understand as possible for their customers,” she said.
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