Friday, January 29, 2010

Travel Insurance

Janice Seah, Columnist

Mon, Feb 26, 2007

The New Paper

I REMEMBER the smile on my travel agent's face when she asked me the question: 'Ummm, it's not that I want to make your trip unlucky or anything, but do you want to buy travel medical insurance?'

Her grin was so sheepish, the tone so apologetic, you'd think she was asking me for an extension on a long-overdue loan instead of recommending something as useful as travel insurance.


Unfortunately, insurance is one topic - like religion and politics - often avoided like the plague.

You're never sure if the person you're recommending it to is going to thank you for thinking ahead or thunk you for jinxing his holiday plans.

People don't mind insuring their luggage against loss, but health insurance means you actually have to entertain the idea that you could get seriously hurt or sick.

And that's like putting the fly in the ointment, the cold water in your warm bubble bath, the pop in your happy bubble.

But as last weekend's tragic events at Rottnest Island involving Singaporean diver Serene Teng show, it's not about being jinxed - it's about being prepared for anything.

What happened to Ms Teng and her family is tragic enough without the spectre of a huge medical bill at the end of it all.

A Royal Perth Hospital official revealed that one day in the ICU room costs $4,850. Serene has been inside since Sunday. That amount doesn't include medication or specialist treatments like MRIs and CT scans.

Her flight from Rottnest to Perth cost around $1,200, and every ambulance ride she had to take would cost between $580 and $660.

Australians are renowned for their compassion and generosity, but even so, there will be some out-of-pocket expenses.

Nobody likes to think about being injured.

For the superstitious, simply buying insurance is an open invitation to your stars to fall out of alignment and hurt themselves - and you - in the process.

For the budget-conscious traveller, it could be viewed as an unnecessary expense, and those who like to visit Disneyland because they like living in fairy tales think, 'It won't happen to me.'

But it can, and it does, and hoping it doesn't happen to you or thinking that a two-week trip would be about as risky as eating an apple is just plain fantasy.


Anything can happen.

The crown from one of my mother's teeth fell out when she bit into an apple during her visit some years ago. And on another trip, she caught the most horrific flu and ended up paying close to $150 for treatment and medication.

Having lived in Perth for 14 years now, I have heard so many horror stories of Singaporeans involved in accidents. I have even seen for myself first-hand, from those who have visited our church, the immense pressure that the money question imposes on emotions already strained to bursting point.

And I have friends who have paid thousands overseas because a son had to be admitted to hospital for food poisoning or hundreds for dental treatments that would have cost only $60 back home. When you think of how little travel insurance costs compared to that, it doesn't make sense to leave home without it.

The columnist is a freelance writer living in Perth. To give feedback, e-mail

Cartoon by Adam Lee

No comments:

Post a Comment