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Travel Insurance
Sunday, January 1, 1989
No worry

Obtaining travel insurance is often a complex and bewildering exercise. People are uncertain how much or how little cover to purchase before going abroad. The variety of premium costs involved only increases the difficulty of the task.
Currently on offer are a number of schemes, differing quite substantially from one another. It would seem that medical cover is foremost on the insurer’s agenda.
A comparison between South Africa and overseas medical claims costs highlights the importance of medical cover. For example, a one-day stay in an intensive care unit will cost, on average, R260 in South Africa, R1 700 in the UK and R2 400 in the US.
If pneumonia is contracted, a five-day stay in hospital will cost R600 in South Africa, R4 250 in the UK and as much as R10 180 in the US (Figures as per MEDEX July 1988). In the South African market medical benefits are available from R10 000 to around R1m.
Medical, surgical or other medical attention or treatment is included, whether the event concerns an accident or an illness. Through public demand most companies have included dangerous winter sports in their policies such as leisure ski activities.
A comprehensive travel insurance package should include, over and above medical cover, cancelling or cutting the trip short, accident and personal liability.
Some policies also include loss or damage to baggage in the basic package. This is not absolutely necessary because many people are covered in terms of their all-risk policies. Increased medical cover is also sometimes put down as an optional extra.
For example, the cost for a basic package per individual for a 30-day trip to the US ranges from R75 (Travelsure from Protea Assurance) to R291 (Rennies). The total value of cover of the former though is R272 000, while the latter is worth a hefty R1,7m. Most claims are subject to a R50 excess charge. But the policy from Travel Assistance International has no excess on any medical claims.
The highlight of travel insurance is the availability of twenty-four hour ‘assistance organisations’. ‘Assistance’ means added benefits other than purely financial compensation. To access ‘Assistance’, insurance must be purchased from a company that is linked to one of the assistance organisations. There are three available in South Africa.
The first is Asata Travelsure in association with MEDEX International and underwritten by Protea Assurance.
Second is Travel Assistance International (the South African agent of Europ Assistance), underwritten by Standard General, provides its own service. Other companies are able to employ the services of Travel Assistance. It currently acts as an agent for Rennies, American Express Travel Services, American Express gold card, Nedbank, First National Bank and Standard General’s Casavac.
And the third is Assist-Card, which is underwritten by Aegis.
Medical emergency assistance services of the three organisations include:
• a worldwide network comprising hundreds of agents for on-the-spot assistance;
• medical costs paid directly - no claims/formalities necessary;
• organisation of doctor/dentist appointments; and,
• transport by the fastest means - ambulance, helicopter, even aeroplane.
Besides medical help, assistance in financial, legal and technical spheres is also available. Assist-Card, for instance, is prepared to appoint lawyers to defend a person and bail him out of jail if necessary. The company’s services also include the tracing of lost luggage and replacement of tickets and documents. In essence “we offer a hassle-free service”, says George Novis, product manager of Travel Assistance International.
All three assistance organisations claim high success rates not only in selling business, but also in consumer satisfaction. This is a result of several factors.
Betty van Rooyen, travel superintendent of Protea Assurance says it is due to “proven reliability and being financially sound.”
Mr Novis attributes it to the long-standing reputation of Europ Assistance as being dynamic and flexible. Some seemingly attractive policies on the market are those of the major credit card companies. Any person that charges his air ticket to his card is eligible for free travel insurance but these policies are not wholly sufficient. Additional cover should be taken out to supplement the gaps.
Diners Club includes medical insurance (no assistance) worth R25 000 and personal accident worth R450 000. On request, a person may purchase a more adequate policy at a cost of R95.
The excess on medical claims is R500 and for baggage R150. The excess at First National Bank’s visa card is R1 000. The most valuable feature of American Express card insurance is its free travel accident cover of R475 000 and its Centurion Cover which is an inconvenience insurance. In the event of delayed flight departure, missed connections, luggage delay or luggage loss, up to R200 can be charged to the company in respect of hotel accommodation and restaurant meals or refreshments.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:2.1 1st January, 1989
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