Travel insurance is often an afterthought. An additional expense. An annoyance. But when the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan, it can be a real money saver. Just how much would it cost you if you had to pay for a hospital bed while overseas? And how good would the treatment you get actually be?
How we worked this out
We analysed 10,000 anonymised travel insurance quotes submitted to finder.com.au to identify the most popular destinations for our users. Then for each of those countries, we identified hospital costs, based on WHO Department of Health Systems Financing (2011) estimates. Those figures are likely to be on the low side, since they only represent the "hotel" component of hospital costs, which means drugs and diagnostic tests may need to be paid for as well.
The WHO figures are in international dollars (I$), which is a hypothetical unit of currency with the same purchasing power parity as the US dollar. We converted this to the value of the Australian dollar during the same period.
Finally, we used our travel insurance quote comparison tool to calculate the cost of a policy for a two-week journey to each destination for a 35-year-old traveller. Each destination produced over 40 quotes. We took the average cost of all the policies, basic through comprehensive.
The Top 20: Hospital bed costs and travel insurance costs
*Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China was not included in the WHO Department of Health Systems Financing (2011) estimates. Cost for hospital bed was sourced from The Hospital Authority (HA) https://www.ha.org.hk/haho/ho/cs/v3/serviceguide_feenchg-en.htm
Money isn't everything, especially when it comes to your health. Even with travel insurance, you don't want to get stuck in a country with a poor healthcare system. So we extended our analysis of the 20 most popular destinations to assess the quality of the medical system, based on four key measures:
International SOS ranking. The International SOS ranking gives a medical rating to a country based on numerous factors including: access to prescription medication, administrative, cultural and language barriers, the presence of infectious disease, and the standard of medical and dental care. These factors are ranked on a scale:
Large rapidly developing countries. Refers to developing nations with disparate levels of healthcare: well-developed in major cities but almost non-existent in rural areas.
Low risk. International standard of care throughout the nation, with high standards of emergency care and low risk of infectious disease.
Medium risk. Varying (high to low) levels of standard international heath care available. Reasonable emergency services and minor risk of water-borne diseases.
High risk. Nations with limited medical services. Basic emergency and dental care. Serious risk of infectious diseases (e.g. dengue fever or typhoid). Limited access to prescription medication.
Extreme risk. Healthcare systems that are either overtaxed or virtually non-existent. Limited to no emergency services, with the risk there is no access to prescription medications. High degree of risk for contracting an infectious disease.
WHO World Health Report ranking. The most recent World Health Report Health systems: improving performance (2000) assessed the performance of national health systems.
ABS departure figures. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) release monthly figures for short-haul overseas departures of Australian residents.
Travel advisory. A governmental warning provided by smartraveller.gov.au, which provides safety advice for Australians venturing overseas.
Richard Laycock is Finder's insurance editor, and has spent the last five years wrangling insurance product disclosure statements. His musings about insurance have appeared on Money Mag, Yahoo Finance, and Travel Weekly. When he’s not helping people make sense of insurance fine print, he is testing the quality of cocktails in his newfound home of New York. Richard studied Media at Macquarie University and The Missouri School of Journalism and has a Tier 1 Certification in General Advice for Life Insurance.
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