ST PETE BEACH, FL August 23rd, 2010 – A new antibiotic-resistant superbug isn’t the only risk to Americans who travel abroad for cheaper surgery or medical treatment: ‘medical tourism’ typically is excluded from travel insurance coverage — and is grounds to deny any claim arising from the trip, not just for health-related expenses, warns Squaremouth.com, America’s fastest growing comparison website for travel insurance.
“The policy you bought thinking to protect yourself instead could be null and void, and you could be hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket if you’re a medical tourist and the unexpected happens,” said Joshua Walker, Operations Manager at Squaremouth.
South Asia has become a prime destination for patients from the West seeking cheaper plastic surgery, elective heart, hip and bariatric surgeries, and cancer care. But an article in British journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases last week criticized medical tourists for helping to spread the bacterium New Delhi metallo-lactamase-1, which is impervious to even the strongest antibiotics.
Although not generally fatal, the newly discovered superbug can have severe consequences for cancer patients and others with compromised immune systems. The U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and several European countries have reported its spread as medical tourists return home with the infection.
But a little-known fact is that, whether medical tourists end up infected by this superbug or not, they stand to pay dearly for any unforeseen expenses during a trip, since medical tourism is an outright exclusion from most traditional travel insurance policies.
Policies tend to read this way: “No payment will be made for loss caused by or resulting from traveling for the purpose of securing medical treatment.” That means insurers have the ability to deny any claim — medical or not — as fruit of a poisoned tree. So in addition to any unanticipated expenses related to the medical care they sought abroad — such as lengthier hospitalization or specialist intervention to treat surgical complications – if a traveler misses their flight en route to plastic surgery in India, they shouldn’t expect to recover the cost of their hotel room at the airport or replacement airfare. If an airline loses their luggage, or they have the misfortune to be in a car accident during their trip, they’d be on the hook for any costs.
Since medical evacuation service can potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for transferring patients to the U.S. from a foreign hospital , medical tourists to South Asia are not only possibly contributing to the worldwide dissemination of a superbug; “They can be risking their financial future as well,” Walker advised. “What people don’t always understand is that without the right insurance coverage, the monetary risks of health tourism are extreme.”
Although medical tourism is a growing trend, the travel insurance industry simply hasn’t kept pace. According to onlinemedicaltourism.com, some carriers, such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, have instituted pilot programs in the last two years that may be continuing. But ‘medical tourism insurance’ that represents a future solution isn’t yet widely on offer.
“We certainly get questions about medical tourism coverage, and it’s being talked about more in the news and within the insurance industry,” said the Walker, “but we’re advising customers against buying traditional travel insurance if a trip is primarily for a medical purpose because they won’t be adequately protected.”
Squaremouth is America’s fastest growing travel insurance comparison site, helping customers instantly quote, compare and buy policies from every major carrier. Squaremouth has web sites in the US and UK, and an extensive network of partner sites worldwide. The company is headquartered in St Pete Beach, FL., with offices in Fort Wayne, IN. Visit Squaremouth.com or Squaremouth.co.uk.
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