Ambulance rushing to an emergency

Will travel insurance pay my medical expenses up-front?

If you're involved in an emergency overseas, the last thing you'll want to deal with is your medical bill. Luckily, travel insurance can cover you up-front in medical situations.

If you require medical treatment abroad, you'll be shocked at how expensive medical treatment can be. Imagine having to take care of a $10,000 bill, following an emergency surgery. This is a difficult expense to swallow for many travellers.

Overseas hospitals can require an up-front payment or a guarantee of payment. This is where your travel insurance provider can assist to both cover the payment and to help you find the appropriate hospital and doctors.

So what exact situations will I be covered up-front for?

Up-front medical expense cover by provider

BrandUpfront cover in emergencies?What must I do in an emergency?Apply

1 cover 1cover one cover onecover>
  • Contact the medical claims team so they can deal with the hospital directly.
Get quote
AMEX Travel Insurance

american express amex
  • Contact ACE Assistance claims team so they can assess if you can get payment.
Get quote

  • Contact AIG emergency assistance Travel Guard for approval (only if claim falls within the grounds of the policy).
Get quote
Budget Direct Travel Insurance

budget direct
  • Send Budget Direct a copy of the medical report and hospital bill for evaluation. Once your circumstances are evaluated and can be covered, Budget Direct will then contact the hospital to guarantee payment.
Get quote Travel Insurance

check in;
  • Contact Check-In Travel Insurance in emergencies or if being treated as an outpatient at a cost that will exceed $1,000 . Once assessed, Check-In can provide written guarantees for payment of reasonable expenses.
Citibank Travel Insurance

citibank citi bank
  • Contact ACE Assistance who will help you locate medical assistance, verify insurance coverage and help co-ordinate immediate claim payments.
Columbus Direct

columbus direct
  • Where you have become an Inpatient or have to be Repatriated, you must contact their 24 Hour Medical Emergency Assistance company for an approval of up-front cover.
Get quote

cover more covermore cover-more
  • Contact Cover-More claims team to assess if your claim is included in your policy. Once confirmed, the payment of significant medical expenses can be paid directly to the hospital.
Get quote
Easy Travel Insurance

easy travel insurance
  • Call the QBE Assist line as soon as you experience difficulties. In some instances they may arrange pre-payment of costs or expenses up to the applicable limits of your policy.
Get quote
Fast Cover

fastcover fast cover
  • If you are hospitalised, get in touch with the Global Assistance team who can liaise with the hospital directly if your claim is approved.
Get quote
Go Insurance

go insurance goinsurance
  • Notify Go Insurance as soon possible of any serious illness or injury that results in your admission to hospital as inpatient or where your medical expense are anticipated to exceed $2,000.
Get quote

insure and go insureandgo
  • For any medical emergency or medical expense above $500 you must contact InsureandGo's medical assistance line as soon as possible to receive approval
Get quote

itrek itrek
  • If there is a medical emergency the hospital can contact the claims department.
Get quote
Simply Travel Insurance Logo

simply travel insurance sti
  • Contact Allianz Global Assistance for approval.
Get quote

skiinsurance ski
  • Contact AAI claims team as soon as possible. If you are being treated as an outpatient with a cost of treatment exceeding $2,000, you must also contact AAI.
Get quote
Southern Cross

scti southern cross travel insurance
  • If you require hospitalisation or surgical treatment someone must contact Southern Cross Emergency Assistance. Cover is excluded if hospitalisation or surgical treatment undertaken without obtaining prior authorisation.
Get quote
STA Travel Insurance

sta student travel insurance
  • Contact Allianz who can communicate directly with the hospital and settles the bill on your behalf if the claim falls within your policy grounds.
Get quote
Tick Travel Insurance

  • Call MAPFRE ASSISTANCE to obtain approval.
Get quote
Travel Insurance Direct

tid travel insurance direct
  • TID usually operates on a pay and claim basis. For hospitalisation and medical repatriation, TID's emergency medical team will speak with the hospital and doctors and can then authorise up-front payment to the hospital (if the situation is within the your policy grounds).
Get quote
Travel Insurance Saver

travel insurance saver tis
  • If you are in need of medical or dental treatment in excess of $2,000 you must contact Travel Insurance Saver. Any payments are subject to a claim being accepted under the policy.
Get quote
Travel Insuranz

travel insuranz travelinsuranz
  • Contact Travel Insuranz 24 hour medical emergency service who can guarantee payment directly to the hospital so that you do not need to get involved.
Get quote
Virgin Money

virgin travel
  • Contact Allianz Global Assistance as soon as practicable of your admittance to hospital.
Get quote
Woolworths Travel Insurance

  • Send Woolworths a copy of the medical report and hospital bill/details for evaluation they will contact the hospital to place guarantee of payment if you are covered.

Get quote

worldcare travel insurance logo

  • If you are hospitalised or are receiving outpatient treatment exceeding AU$2000 contact Allianz Global Assistance as soon as possible.
Get quote

  • If you are admitted to hospital or you anticipate your medical expenses and additional expenses are likely to exceed $2,000, you must phone the emergency assistance number as soon as physically possible. YouGo can then liaise with hospitals to assess if you are covered and authorise payment.
Get quote

No, getting in contact simply gives your insurer the opportunity to access your claim before you get treatment. Once assessed, if your claim falls within the grounds of your policy cover, your insurer can then provide upfront payment to the hospital.

  • Inpatient. This is when you need to be admitted to hospital so that you can undergo a procedure and be closely monitored during and afterwards.
  • Outpatient. This when you don't necessarily need to be admitted to hospital or if you're hospitalised for less than 24 hours.

out-of-pocketWhy should I look for a policy that can cover up-front hospital costs?

Up-front payments can be a requirement

In certain countries around the world, for example Indonesia, Thailand and Italy, it’s quite common for hospitals to require either up-front payment, a deposit or confirmation of medical insurance cover before offering you treatment. In the USA, if you don’t have insurance in place and you can’t provide proof that you will be able to cover your medical bills, payment is usually required up-front.

Hospital bills can be heavy

The out-of-pocket cost of medical treatment overseas can simply be too much for some travellers to afford. According to 2011 estimates from the World Health Organisation, a night in a hospital bed in the USA costs more than $750, while in Italy it’s more than $480. The most expensive place to be hospitalised is Singapore, where a hospital bed will set you back almost $900 a night.

When you take these factors into account it becomes clear that looking for a travel insurance policy that can cover your hospital costs up-front is crucial.

What happens when I call the emergency assistance team?

When you call your insurers emergency assistance team, they will confirm a few things before payment is guaranteed with the hospital including:

  • Circumstances of your emergency e.g. you haven't broken any policy exclusions
  • Treatment type
  • Total cost of treatment

Once this is confirmed, payment can then be worked out between the insurer and the hospital.

How to ensure you receive up-front cover in medical emergencies

To make sure you receive an up-front payment:

  • Contact your insurers emergency response team as soon as possible. Make sure either you or someone on your behalf contacts your insurers emergency number as soon as you reasonably can. Understand how long you are typically given to contact your insurers emergency team from the time of the emergency
  • Provide full disclosure. Be honest with the details of the treatment and what lead to it.
  • Don't overstep the boundaries of your policy. Your insurers claims team will not cover you up-front if your treatment comes after injuring yourself from an activity that has been excluded from cover

Paul's cab emergency

Paul is travelling through South America and decides to catch a cab for a night out in Rio de Janeiro. But when the cab he is travelling in is caught up in an accident, Paul is left with two broken legs and three fractured ribs. Paul took out a travel insurance policy with InsureandGo before leaving Australia and, under the policy wording, he must obtain approval from the insurer for any medical expenses likely to exceed $500.

Luckily, Paul's girlfriend Anna, had saved InsureandGo's emergency medical assistance number to her phone in preparation for the trip. Aware that Paul is looking at a bill in the thousands of dollars, Anna phones the helpline number from the back of the ambulance as Paul is transported to hospital. After she provides the details of the accident and Paul’s injuries, the insurer is satisfied that Paul is eligible for unlimited medical expenses coverage under his policy and agrees to cover his treatment costs.

Four important questions you might ask yourself when it comes to up-front cover

In addition to your medical costs, you will most likely incur extra expenses if you or your travelling companion are hospitalised while overseas. These can include meals, taxis to and from hospital, accommodation and more.

Check the fine print

These sorts of incidental expenses are generally covered by your insurer, with you paying for them up-front and then making a claim for reimbursement. However, it’s essential that you read the fine print to determine how much cover you will receive. Limits apply to the amount and type of expenses insurers are willing to cover, so make sure you’re aware of those limits to be certain of the exact amount you will get back.

Prosthetic treatment is generally covered up-front by insurance providers, as long as it satisfies a couple of key requirements:

  • The policy covers it. Your insurer’s medical assistance team will need to deem the treatment to be included according to your policy wording.
  • Cost of treatment above a certain limit. The cost of the treatment you receive will need to be greater than a specific dollar amount set out in your policy. Common limits include $500, $1,000 and $2,000 and if your treatment costs less than this you will need to pay your medical bill up-front and then lodge a claim for reimbursement with your insurer.

Hidden away in the list of general exclusions in most travel insurance policies is one exclusion that has caught many people out: you will not receive cover if your claim arises because you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs (unless prescribed by your doctor). So if you’re planning on having a big night out in Bali and then riding a scooter back to your hotel, don’t expect any help from your insurer when it comes to covering your medical expenses after a crash.

You can receive assistance, but your expenses won't be paid for.

If you’re involved in a life or death situation, of course, you can generally expect to receive the treatment you need. But if alcohol is a contributing factor, you will have to foot the bill for all of your medical expenses.

Travel delay is another common holiday problem, with flight delays and cancellations causing havoc with holiday plans. If a delay caused by circumstances beyond your control means you need to book additional accommodation, book an extra flight or similar, expect to pay for these expenses up-front and then claim for reimbursement at a later date. The same will also usually apply to claims for lost, stolen and damaged luggage, so make sure to keep your receipts.

If you can't get up-front cover, here's what to do

If you can't get your medical expenses covered upfront, make a travel insurance claim. Your insurer will assess your claim and if you're successful you'll be reimbursed for medical expenses.

A: You’ll need to notify an insurer of your claim as soon as possible, but typically no later than 30 days after you return to Australia. This may differ depending on the insurer, however, so check the fine print on your policy just to be completely certain.

  1. Get in touch with your insurer and let them know of your intention to claim: You will then typically have to complete a claim form, which allows you to provide the full details of the incident leading to your claim. Depending on your insurer, you may be able to submit this online, by email or by post.
  2. Provide any documentation or evidence the insurer requires to support your claim:
  • For a medical claim: a medical report from your treating doctor or specialist that details your condition, diagnosis, and medication and treatment received.
  • For a trip cancellation claim: receipts that detail any cancellation fees or non-refundable deposits you have paid, as well as evidence of the reason you had to cancel your trip.
  • For a stolen items claim: a police report and possibly a report from your accommodation or transport provider (if applicable). Proof of ownership and/or valuations may also be required for valuable items.
  1. If your claim is denied by your insurer, you can follow these steps to pursue the matter further:

    • Contact your insurer’s dispute resolution team. Every insurer will have a department to deal with complaints if you are not happy with the result of your claim. The insurer has 15 business days (with the possibility of an extension) to assess your complaint and provide you with a response.
    • Take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. FOS will liaise with you and the insurer to try to reach a fair outcome.

Tips for dealing with emergencies while travelling

  • Keep your insurance details with you at all times. That way you can quickly and easily get in touch with your insurer in an emergency situation.
  • Know the emergency phone numbers in the country you are visiting. This can be crucial to ensuring that you get the help you need as soon as possible.
  • Leave copies of your travel plans with a trusted friend or relative at home. They can then find you if they ever need to and also help you access consular assistance.
  • Be safe with your money. Don’t carry large sums of money around and make sure you can access funds in multiple forms. Cash, debit cards and credit cards are all handy — just don’t carry them all in the one wallet.
  • Learn the language. Okay, learning an entire language might be a bridge too far, but knowing a few key phrases can be a huge help in emergency situations. Being able to ask someone to phone for a police or ambulance is a good idea.

Compare travel insurance quotes from Australian insurers

Made a search before? Retrieve your search results

At least one destination is required
Both dates are required
Add more travellers
Enter the age of each traveller between 0 and 99

Enter a valid email address

At least one destination is required
Starting date is required
Add more travellers
Enter the age of each traveller between 0 and 99

Enter a valid email address

Type or select your destination

Popular Destinations

Can't find your destination? Just type it in the box above.

We compare products from

By submitting this form, you agree to privacy policy
Picture: Fryderyk Supinski, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped) Picture: Dan Moyle, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)
Picture: Shutterstock

Maurice Thach

An insurance-savvy writer for who loves finding an answer to the question "Am I covered for ________?"

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Related Posts

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, read the PDS or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
Ask a question