During a leisure trip to the US last month, Rasika Sharma, 38, a fashion designer, met with an accident. She spent 13 days in hospital, which could have cost her a fortune given the high medical expenses in the country. But what helped her tide over the difficult times, with regard to her finances, was a travel insurance plan with accidental and medical sickness benefits that she had bought before setting sail. All she had to do was to provide the required documents to the insurance agent to get her claim processed.
An accident is an accident, and it always comes unannounced. You may plan your trip to the last detail, but there is always a probability of unforeseen events leaving you poorer by a few thousands, or even lakhs. Says Rahul Agarwal, Founder and Director, Ideal Insurance Brokers: "Insurance is absolutely indispensable while travelling abroad. There are hundreds of things that can go wrong and it can have serious financial implications. Even a small accident may cause you to shell out tens of thousands of dollars. Since insurance does not cost much, it's always good to buy a travel insurance policy during overseas trips. You can also buy a single policy for multiple trips during a year."
There are a host of travel insurance plans available in the market, but it is very important to get the right one to ensure a memorable trip - whether you are on a family holiday, official assignment or a study visit. And, an informed decision is always rewarding. So, here's the lowdown on the various aspects that you must look into before buying a travel insurance plan, such as eligibility, documents and the process of filing a claim, among others.
For travelling overseas, insurance is compulsory. It provides the traveller with an extensive range of benefits, which may vary from one plan to the other. So, it is necessary to read the fine print as well as the list of benefits that you get to avail. There are also different types of claims that travel insurance covers, including, but not restricted to, flight delays and cancellations, baggage loss and medical emergencies. For domestic trips, travel insurance can also be purchased at the time of booking tickets from the website of an airline, bus service provider and travel portals. Many travel insurance policies also offer exclusive covers that give specialised protection to customers.
Says M. Ravichandran, President, Insurance, Tata AIG General Insurance: "A customer should always purchase a travel policy from a respected insurance brand, which has an international presence and a strong track record. One should also take into account the claim settlement record of the insurer. It is advisable that all travellers opt for a travel policy to avoid any unforeseen contingencies that may turn their trip into a nightmare abroad. They should also consider the possible duration of stay and, if in doubt, should buy for a longer period to avoid hassles of extension."
It is also prudent to consult your insurance advisor and share all the information before you file a claim because things such as pre-existing diseases may not be covered in a travel plan. "One should ensure that the pre-existing ailments are communicated to the insurer. Travel policies do not cover acts of terrorism, war or war-like actions, mental disorder, stress pregnancy, suicide, self-inflicted injury, anxiety, alcoholism, abuse of drugs, infection of HIV/AIDS," says Ravichandran.
How to go about it
Even if you are not required to file for a claim, you must know how a claim is to be filed and what you are required to do before setting sail. If not, you may be in the dark in case of an emergency and may lose out on valuable time in the process. So, here's what you must know.
One, access to your insurance company's assistance is very important if you are in difficulty during overseas travel. Therefore, keep both the domestic and international toll-free numbers of the insurer handy and, in case of a mishap, dial in at the first given opportunity, without any delay.
Says Amit Bhandari, Head-Health Underwriting and Claims, ICICI Lombard: "In the event of a claim, customers can contact the 24x7 helpline number provided by the insurer and register his or her application. Customers can even drop a mail to the assistance service provider of the insurer with his or her contact details for a call back. Once customers intimate a claim, the assistance service provider will assist in the following ways: Provide necessary information about hospital details, policy coverage, embassy details, etc., and will guide the customers through the entire claims process ensuring hassle-free settlement of claims."
The other important issue is to know how to make a claim for a medical emergency during or even before you actually board the aircraft. For example, if you happen to cancel your trip due to a medical emergency, your doctor's prescription and a medical certificate will help you to claim insurance. If you fall ill during your trip, contact your travel insurance service provider immediately to take medical help and, subsequently, collect the authentic reports and medical documents, and post electronic or physical copies to the insurer to support your claim. For accident cases, you may also have to submit a copy of the police complaint that was registered or relevant documents from the host country. Please note that insurance claims can only be done with full and final checking of your original documents and proofs. So, if you happen to send the documents in electronic format, you would also have to submit the originals. But before doing so, have them photocopied for future reference, if required.
The third point is the importance of documents to get a travel insurance claim. The insured must also fill the form correctly and sign it. The documents that an insurer needs to claim medical insurance during overseas travel includes physician statement, medical records, investigation reports, medical bills, copy of your visa with the entry stamp of the host country. If you have lost your baggage or cash, then make sure you submit a certified copy of the police complaint, photocopy of your passport and even valuation certificates for items like jewellery. Most importantly, carry your identity proofs, including PAN and Aadhaar cards, along with the details of your tour operator. "Upon receipt of a notice of claim, the insurer will furnish the policyholder with forms required for filing proofs of loss. Original bills and receipts, such as pharmacy purchase bill, consultation bill, diagnostic bill and any other receipts or prescriptions in support of the treatment, should be submitted," says Ravichandran.
Remember, to claim travel insurance you need to submit originals and proofs. If you have pre-existing illnesses and you plan to travel without your doctor's permission, then you cannot ask for a travel insurance claim. If something happens to your health while travelling, then the travel policy cover will be in vain. Says Shreeraj Deshpande, Head, Health Insurance, Future Generali India Insurance: "One of the risks of purchasing a travel insurance policy is that you might have a false sense of security thinking everything is covered. For example, your medical travel insurance policy may not cover the cost of any injury that you may have while taking part in an adventure sport, such as scuba diving or skiing. Therefore, it is very essential to read all exemptions and exclusions very carefully before you purchase a policy."
To avoid claim rejection, insurers must keep all points and factors in mind. So, it's important to read all terms and conditions carefully. "Every insured shall ensure that he or she has received, read and understood the terms and conditions, exclusions and inclusions of the policy. In case of any inconsistency in the policy or concern, customer must contact the company." opines Bhandari.
At the time of claim settlement, a customer should ensure that depending on the circumstances of the case, additional information or additional documents can be asked for. So, keep all original documents handy to support your claim. "The insured should note that deductible amount as mentioned in the policy has to be borne by the insured. The insurer's liability shall apply only after deductible amount is paid by the insured and shall be applicable up to the sum insured amount mentioned in the policy. It is to note that deductible amount does not reduce the sum insured and it is applicable per event," says Bhandari. It is worthwhile to keep and attach original bills, receipts, credit card slips pertaining to your claim. To avoid travel insurance claim rejection, every claim has to be accompanied with original tickets or boarding pass, and a copy of the passport indicating travel dates.
Remember, it's very easy to make plans for your trip, but to travel safe and peacefully, it's really worth your while to read the policy document carefully to be able to make a successful claim.