Are You Covered?
Making sure you have adequate travel insurance in place before embarking on a trip is a no-brainer, especially when you’re travelling in Africa.
Travelling is part of your job, whether you’re away from home every month or a couple of times a year. If you’re a seasoned traveller, you’ve no doubt encountered your share of troubles from your journeys – cancelled flights, stolen luggage, lost documentation, and possibly even an injury or two. For the newbie business traveller, these incidents or encounters may still be on your horizon. But anyone who has embarked on a journey without travel insurance and had to deal with the after-effects of the typical travel troubles, will tell you how important it is to have proper cover in place before you leave home.
Thankfully, companies are becoming more and more aware of their responsibility to ensure their employees – whether they are secondees, expats or just short-term business travellers – have adequate insurance in the event of a travel or medical emergency abroad, according to Simmy Micheli, Sales Manager at Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC).
“It is the moral and legal responsibility of a company to guarantee that their employees working abroad are protected in terms of their health, safety and general security,” she says. “The corporate liability of an employer towards employees travelling abroad on company business, has serious legal and fiduciary considerations, and more and more companies are bearing this in mind when they send employees outside the borders of the country.”
Crunching the Numbers
Regent Insurance puts its claim figures at about 4% of all policies sold, which might make you think twice about taking out cover for your next trip. But when you consider the cost of finding yourself as part of that 4% of unlucky people who do claim, you’ll agree that it’s worth the peace of mind.
“The average cost of a medical claim is about R22,000, although evacuation for medical treatment can range from R150,000 to R600,000,” says Louise Cockcroft, Travel and PA Manager at Regent Insurance. “As much as 90% of the cost of claims are for medical reasons.”
Medical-related claims aren’t the only reason to take out a policy. A cancelled trip can be costly when you consider the price of air tickets and accommodation. Deposits on future accommodation for a trip that has to be cut short are also pricey. Cancellation and curtailment cover will, under certain conditions, pay out for some of these expenses.
“About 25% of the claims we receive are cancellation or curtailment claims,” says Micheli, “and 15% are luggage claims.”
If your company does a fair amount of business out of the country, it might be a good idea to sign up for a corporate policy.
“Regent’s corporate cover is a policy that is in force for a year and can be renewed at the end of the period,” says Cockcroft. “The company estimates the number of travel days for the year up front and a premium is charged, based on the expected volume of travel days and the level of cover chosen. At the end of the period, the premium and actual number of days are reconciled. Corporate cover provides the most comprehensive and highest levels of cover, and is the best option for a company whose staff do travel frequently.”
Regarding TIC’s corporate policy, Micheli says: “A valuable addition to the corporate policy is that if you travel abroad on an assignment and have a medical emergency or accident, and you have to return home without completing the assignment, TIC will pay the Economy Class travel costs for a replacement employee to complete the assignment on which you were sent.” TIC also covers the business traveller for damage or loss of trade samples, offers full malaria cover, and access to screened blood from the Geneva-based Blood Care Foundation.
With a Hollard Travel Insurance policy, you would buy your travel days upfront, and then bolt on specific benefits depending on the needs of the company. “One-size-fits-all definitely does not apply to corporate travel,” says Uriah Jansen, Managing Director at Hollard Travel Insurance.
Regent provides R500,000 cover on its Business Complete Cover policy and R1 million on the corporate policies for pre-existing medical conditions.
“We do not require specific medical conditions to be declared before the traveller purchases cover or departs on their journey,” says Cockcroft. “If a claim arises from a pre-existing condition, we would require the traveller’s doctors’ details in South Africa, and would obtain medical reports from the doctors to determine whether the condition was pre-existing or not. To obtain this kind of information before the traveller departs is time consuming and often unnecessary. It makes sense for us to obtain this if and when it is needed. The traveller is still provided with care in parallel to the information being obtained.”
TIC offers cover for pre-existing illness for both leisure and business travellers under the age of 65. Business travellers can increase the pre-existing limit from R2 million to R10 million. “The inclusion of this cover sets our corporate policy apart from other travel insurance products in the market,” says Micheli.
All of Hollard’s policies automatically include cover for pre-existing medical conditions. “We do ask our clients to declare the conditions to us prior to travel for a couple of reasons,” says Jansen. “Firstly, because even if the benefit is provided, it is not a 100% blanket cover and there are still some exclusions applicable – for example, any treatment related to a terminal prognosis.”
“Secondly, if you declare your medical history, we will confirm cover relating to your specific medical condition/history in writing. When you need to claim, there is no grey area – you can travel with confidence.”
Credit Card Cover
With an Absa Commercial Card, you enjoy ‘Automatic Cover’ when you purchase your international flight ticket with your credit card. The South African bank’s Automatic Cover includes a wide range of benefits.
“As part of our Automatic Cover, we offer assistance we call ‘Travel Assistant’, ranging from assisting with lost travel documentation to legal assistance,” says Riaan van Niekerk, Head: Commercial Issuing at Absa Card. “Financial cover is also provided for personal accidents, covering death and disability, and your credit card balance up to R10,000. Travelling Inconvenience Cover like missed departures, travel and baggage delays, are other benefits enjoyed under the Automatic Cover of our travel insurance.”
Absa includes personal liability cover for unfortunate events, like a broken limb or other physical injury, with bodily or material cover. You will also be covered against legal expenses and advice, and receive a daily benefit in the event of hijacking or wrongful detention.
“It is imperative that the business traveller obtains a schedule that reflects the cover they enjoy, to ensure a full comprehension of the benefits,” says van Niekerk.
So, you booked your plane ticket with your credit card and got free travel insurance thrown in. It’s a good start, but it may not be enough. There is, however, no reason to throw this cover out the window. Absa’s policy that comes with an international ticket purchase is pretty comprehensive.
“Most banks provide minimum medical cover (between R2,000 and R2 million) and some accidental death and disablement cover,” says Micheli. “The medical cover is usually insufficient, and there is often no cover provided for the other two important risks: cancellation and curtailment cover, and luggage cover.”
To make sure you are adequately covered, you can top up the free policy. The same goes for any free cover from your medical aid. Depending on the top-up policy of your preferred insurer, you’ll get additional medical cover, cancellation and curtailment cover, personal liability and luggage cover.
“It will always be important to ensure that you receive maximum protection against unfortunate events,” says van Niekerk.
Claiming against your Policy
Faced with an emergency, you want to know that someone is ready to help you sort out your problem.
“Make things easy for yourself, and have the number of your travel insurance call centre close at hand,” says Jansen.
Keep your policy details safe too, as you’ll need to give the call centre agent your policy number, among other things.
“Europ Assistance is the claims assistance company for Regent,” says Cockcroft. “They provide assistance to our customers 24/7 and have qualified nurses and doctors who are available to assist in any medical emergency.” Europe Assistance also handles claims for TIC.
For non-emergencies, such as lost luggage or cancelled plans, you’ll need to complete paperwork and submit all the necessary documentation for your insurer to process.
“Once your documentation is 100% in order, your claim is settled within a week,” says Micheli.
Be aware that many claims carry an excess, although these usually don’t apply to in-hospital claims.
“Regent has set limits of liability on the different benefits, and claims are paid out depending on what benefit is being claimed,” says Cockcroft. “There are excesses applicable on out-patient expenses and most non-medical benefits.”
Read the Small Print
It’s a tedious task, yes, but an important one.
“Each benefit provided on a policy will have its own conditions and exclusions,” says Cockcroft. “There are general conditions and exclusions that apply to all benefits, and these should also be read and understood.
“For example, if there is loss or damage to baggage by an airline carrier, the traveller must report this to the airline immediately and obtain an irregularity report from the airline. The airline will then provide feedback to the traveller on whether they will entertain the claim and the amount that will be paid, or not paid. This feedback must be submitted to the travel insurer, as the policy would only pay out the difference on what the airline paid and what was claimed, up to the limit of liability.”
“Familiarise yourself with the sub-limits of baggage claims, and ensure that you obtain cover for valuable items 365 days a year via an all risk policy, and not just whilst you are away,” says Jansen.
“Terms of exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions are important,” says Micheli. “Reading the small print will allow you to ask questions, such as if you can buy pre-existing illness cover and what the terms for that are? What are the terms for hazardous pursuits and exclusions? What are the terms for senior travellers for heart attacks and strokes? What are the single item limits on luggage cover?”
Yes, the chances of your next trip proceeding without incident are great. And yes, insurance may seem like a waste of money. But you’ll only subscribe to this view until you’re facing a crisis that could have been avoided. A travel insurance policy will help you keep your mind on your work while travelling, not worrying about the possibility of things going wrong.
Keeping it local
When you’re travelling out of the country, the price of decent medical care rises exponentially, and replacing lost or stolen luggage, or finding new accommodation, can get pricey as well. When you attend a meeting in a different part of your home country, though, you will still enjoy cover from your medical aid, which will cover you for any medical emergency. That is usually the most expensive aspect of travel troubles. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider insuring against cancelled trips, car hire expenses and luggage theft. With a local travel policy, you can claim a cash benefit if you’re hospitalised, and many will pay out for medical transportation and evacuation, and burial expenses in the event of loss of life, too.
It is possible to pick up a travel insurance policy without a broker, thanks to a multitude of websites. If you’ve bought travel insurance before and know exactly what you need and understand the cover as it’s explained, this is an option. If, however, you’re new to the game, it’s often better to deal with a broker. They can explain the cover you need and answer any questions you may have regarding a policy.
Total claim amount: R195,537
A three-year-old child sustains a tibia fracture. She is evacuated with a medical escort from Livingstone, Zambia, to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Total claim amount: R370,000
A traveller develops severe abdominal pain and is evacuated to Nairobi, Kenya, where he is able to receive the required medical treatment. He has to undergo surgery for the removal of an obstruction, and is in ICU for three days and then in hospital for a further two weeks.
Location: Democratic Republic of Congo
Total claim amount: R436,105
A 55-year-old man experiences acute cardiac failure and is evacuated with a medical escort from Kolwezi, DRC, to Lusaka, Zambia.
Total claim amount: R900,000
A 24-year-old man dies from gunshot wounds sustained during a house burglary in Accra.
His mortal remains are repatriated to Johannesburg.
Total claim amount: R440,000
A South African traveller develops severe abdominal pain due to appendicitis. He is evacuated to his home country for medical treatment.