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

Brand Upfront cover in emergencies? What must I do in an emergency? Apply
1cover Yes
  • Contact the medical claims team so they can deal with the hospital directly.
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American Express Yes
  • Contact ACE Assistance claims team so they can assess if you can get payment.
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Budget Direct Yes
  • 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.
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columbus direct travel insurance logoColumbus Direct Yes
  • 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.
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  • If you are hospitalised, get in touch with the Global Assistance team who can liaise with the hospital directly if your claim is approved.
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InsureandGo Yes
  • For any medical emergency or medical expense above $500 you must contact InsureandGo's medical assistance line as soon as possible to receive approval
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itrek Yes
  • If there is a medical emergency the hospital can contact the claims department.
Get quote Yes
  • 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.
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  • Call MAPFRE ASSISTANCE to obtain approval.
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Travel Insuranz Yes
  • 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.
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virgin money logoVirgin Yes
  • Contact Allianz Global Assistance as soon as practicable of your admittance to hospital.
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World Care Yes
  • If you are hospitalised or are receiving outpatient treatment exceeding AU$2000 contact Allianz Global Assistance as soon as possible.
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  • 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.
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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

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.

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.

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