How Do I Get Out of Debt?

We all want to be responsible, right?  Well, a big thing on my travel “To Do” list before I left the United States was to purchase traveler’s insurance.  I looked at a few different plans and found one that had fairly comprehensive coverage through DAN, the Diver’s Alert Network.  Even though I don’t dive often, I thought it would be good to have the added benefits and the policy was honestly pretty cheap for all the coverage it offered.  When I purchased it, I mistakenly wrote an incorrect e mail address and never got the information associated with my account until I called three months later from Nepal.  I had to “show” proof of insurance when applying for my trekking permits and thought it beneficial to have my policy number on hand!

Fast forward to my injury in Myanmar.  Before I even came back to Thailand, one of my friends called the provider. (I didn’t have a strong enough internet connection to make the call on my TextFree app).  They asked my details, including when I began traveling (July 7, 2016).  They were informed of my accident and told me the steps I needed to take to to get my coverage process started.  I began communication with the “Travel Assistance Team.”  They make recommendations based on your current medical issue/injury, but they are not the policy writers.  Initially, they recommended I go home, but I did not want to leave Asia nor did I want to fly in my condition.

I’d heard medical treatment in Thailand is really good.  I learned about Bumrungrad International Hospital and as it turns out, it’s one of the top 10 hospitals in the world. A lot of people come here for “medical tourism.” It’s  a thing! I met with the orthopedic doctor as soon as I returned to Bangkok and he ordered an MRI later that day.  I got the results the next afternoon: torn ACL and a bucket-handle tear of the meniscus (which I later learned is one of the most serious types of tears). Initially, the Travel Assistance Team did not deem my injury “Emergent” and still wanted me to go home, but I was concerned about traveling that distance in pain and with such a limited range of motion.  She recommended I contact claims to see if this type of injury would be covered.  I called.  It would be covered.

Getting wheeled around Bumrungrad.

It’s an accident.” The doctor ordered surgery “as soon as possible,” and we got ready.  Two days later I was in the OR.  I’ll leave surgery in another country for a different post, but all in all, things went well.  They kept and monitored me overnight and I was discharged the next day.  In the mean time, the Travel Assistance Team was still calling. I asked if physical therapy would be covered.  I needed to start immediately. “Call claims,” they said.  They also said to get the name of the person who tells me yes or no for MY records, “just in case.” I did. “It’s therapeutic care,” yes, it’s covered.  BUT, he said because I did not have a claim submitted yet, he didn’t give me his name/number as he would not be the one connected to my claim. When I submitted everything, I’d get my own claims manager.

On another call with claims, I told them the Travel Assistance Team recommend I go home.  Considering I sold my home last year, I felt I didn’t have a home to go to and wanted to stay in Asia (it’s cheaper anyway). He said they like their clients to follow the Travel Assistance Team’s recommendations, and with $14k worth of medical bills now on my credit card, I wouldn’t fight it.  They wanted to “repatriate” me home on business class and my doctor signed off on it.  I was on standby to see when I would get a flight.  There were some issues. They had to send my case to a supervisor in claims.  What was going on? It was almost the weekend and now my return home would be delayed.  Claims personnel work M-F. They mentioned something about a “trip.” My “trip” was longer than 31 days so there was an issue.

I looked at my policy.  A trip is defined as: A period of round-trip travel at least 100 miles away from home to your designated vacation destination associated with the purchase of this insurance, excluding regular commuting and local travel; the purpose of the Trip is business or pleasure and is not to obtain health care or treatment of any kind; the Trip has defined departure and arrival dates and defined arrival and places specified when you apply; and the Trip does not exceed 31 days in length.

“The Trip does not exceed 31 days in length.” I’m screwed.  Yet everyone, even claims personnel asked when my trip began.  I was confused, disappointed, and angry (at myself for not reading the ‘fine print). But I was really upset that not a single person on the Travel Assistance Team was aware of this.  “We don’t write the policies,” they said, but that’s not some obscure issue related to a questionable emergency, that’s a fundamental part of coverage and determines whether you are covered or not!  I was frantic that weekend.  I  made more calls.  Here is an e mail I received from a Travel Assistance Team Associate:

Yay! They can fix it!

Shortly after, I got this one:

Just kidding. You’re stuck now.

As you can see, the Travel Assistance Team cannot make decisions on behalf of the Claims personnel.  Long story short (well, that was already long- sorry!), My accident is not covered.  I didn’t read the fine print.  NOBODY caught the 31 day “Trip” deal.  A few days after that e mail exchange, I got my official letter from claims stating I would not be covered but they so kindly offered assistance to help me get home.  They can help make arrangements.  I was so aggravated, like, I’m a professional traveler!  I don’t need help making an airline reservation, I need it to be paid for though!

So, here I sit in Bangkok, recovering slowly with $14k of debt. People ask, “But why is the policy for a year then?” The policy is for a year and will cover multiple trips lasting less than 31 days in that year of coverage.  If you want coverage for a longer period of time, you must purchase a different policy, and it’s not offered by all companies.  I’ve since learned offers travel insurance for long term travel. And, I cannot purchase a policy because I’m not “home.” Moral of the story: Read the fine print. And be careful.  I’m always so careful.  That hop off the short wall in Myanmar was seriously the straw that broke the camel’s back or in my case, the hop that tore my meniscus and ACL.

Did you know about this 31 day trip coverage?  Do you have any travel related medical nightmares?  Feel free to comment below!

Author: Tiffany Batsakis

Registered Dietitian Fitness Fanatic World Traveler Food Lover Weimaraner Owner

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