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Should a travel writer invest in travel and evacuation insurance?

I’m probably one of the best travel writers to weigh in on this issue of who needs travel insurance.

On May 15, 2014, while traveling in Cape Town, South Africa, our car was T-boned by another vehicle at full speed on the passenger side where I was sitting. They had to bring in the jaws-of-life and pneumatic cutting equipment to extract me.

My injuries were immense and life-threatening. My diaphragm ruptured and my stomach and intestines herniated into my thoracic cavity, one collapsed lung, six pelvic fractures, a broken wrist, and a completely severed left femur which is now repositioned with metal plates and screws. Cuts all over my body and forehead and extensive bruising to round it out.

I spent seven weeks in that South African hospital, lucky to be alive.

I did not have travel/evacuation insurance. I had a “Cadillac” Blue Cross plan, which I thought would be enough. It wasn’t. 

I wanted to come home so badly. Nearly 8,000 miles away from friends and family just added to the trauma.

Thankfully, my brother Steve who was travelling with me stayed with me for the full seven weeks. Back in Rhode Island, my sister Aimee who is a trauma nurse, spent weeks trying to get me home on a stretcher flight, to no avail.

The months following the accident I worked my butt off with physical therapy, beginning in South Africa where I was not allowed to lift my upper body off my bed more than 30%.

SA_patti-morrow 

“How do you manage to always stay so positive after such a devastating accident,” the nurses and other patients would ask me.

“Because I have a really fabulous life, and I’m NOT going to give up traveling!” I’d say.

My first foray back into travel was to speak at the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in September, just four months after the accident.

I won’t lie; it wasn’t easy. I had to be transported around airport terminals in a wheelchair and relied heavily on a crutch just to get around the conference. But I’m tenacious if nothing else, and I was not going to decline the invitation to be part of the workshop that helped springboard me into a new career as a travel writer.

I’ve been traveling almost non-stop since. I’m still not quite back to 100%, but every day is a gift and I’m not wasting even one.

The issue of travel insurance was one of the first things I had to contemplate when I resumed traveling. Below are some questions, along with my comparison of two of the many providers of travel insurers that I’ve looked into, Allianz and Medex.

Would travel insurance have provided a medical airlift to get me home?

No. Neither of these insurers nor any other I could find would have brought me home from South Africa. You need to read the fine print. What they will do is transport you to the nearest “appropriate,” or “high level,” facility, and the Medi-Clinic in South Africa is classified as an “excellent” facility… even though I disagree. Medex claimed to have a few exceptions, such as Mexico or Dominican Republic, where the representative said they’d transport you back to your home state, but I didn’t see that anywhere in writing.

Editor’s Note: Other members have told us about MedJetAssist but you’ll need to look into that on your own with these things in mind.

What is the cost for an annual policy?

Allianz is $249 and includes medical emergency, life insurance, evacuation, auto collision, trip cancellation/delay/interruption, and lost/delayed baggage.

Medex is $200 and includes emergency medical and evacuation for up to 5 trips per year. Trip cancellation is an extra 6% of each trip and lost luggage is $2.50 per flight day.

Note that the coverage amounts may differ with each plan, so it’s not exactly comparing apples to apples, but rather what kind of coverage is more important to an individual traveler. For example, Medex’s emergency medical/evacuation is higher but there’s no breakdown as to what percentage is allocated to each.

Would travel insurance have taken care of my $3,000 Blue Cross out-of-pocket deductible?

Yes. Medex has a $25 deductible per accident and Allianz has no deductibles.

Would I have received assistance in dealing with other agencies like the hospital, Blue Cross, airlines, the US Consulate, etc.?

Yes, both companies would provide assistance. This benefit is not to be underestimated. Dealing with Blue Cross in particular was nearly as traumatic as the accident itself!

Should you get travel insurance? It’s a personal decision based on risk, finance, how often you travel, and other issues.

I now have an annual policy and always will. You’ll need to weigh your options. Is it more beneficial to have broader coverage and a slightly higher annual premium, or a lower annual premium with fewer options but a higher medical emergency pay out?

As for lost baggage, trip cancellation, or auto insurance, I’m not sure that paying extra is worth it. I’ve heard too many stories of fine-print exemptions where they didn’t pay, and frankly, you might be better off getting reimbursement from the airline or perhaps you’re already covered if you used a particular credit card.

But again, circumstances vary for each person, so it’s worth asking yourself some pointed questions to evaluate your risk.

I’ve given you information on two insurers that resonated with my needs, but I recommend that you search for several using your own criteria with an online comparison tool like http://www.insuremytrip.com.

Safe travels, everyone!

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