Travel Insurance – Why It’s Important


Southern Cross Travel Insurance’s top 10 biggest claims of 2017 show just how costly a medical emergency overseas can get. It’s not just the cost of being treated in a United States or European hospital on its own that mean costs can spiral into six figures. It’s the cost of the air ambulance back to New Zealand.

The insurer’s biggest claim was for $682,000 for a customers who needed a lengthy stay in a European hospital following a heart attack, followed by a long air ambulance trip back to the Southern Hemisphere.

And any serious illness or injury in a land where there’s no treatment available can mean an emergency medical evacuation.

That was illustrated by another of the insurer’s top 10 claims. Southern Cross paid to air ambulance a policyholder from Antarctica to South America after they came down with pneumonia.The total claim cost was $176,500.

Nearly half of the top 10 claims happened in the US, which the Southern Cross said was renowned for having some of the highest medical care costs in the world.

Southern Cross Travel Insurance chief executive Chris White said some hospitals in the US may request a large deposit before they would even start providing treatment.

That raised an important, often overlooked benefit of travel insurance. When medical crisis strikes sick or injured people need access to insurers’ emergency assistance teams to coordinate a response, including paying the large bonds and deposits for air ambulances, and hospital treatment.

“This is one of the key areas where having travel insurance is important,” White said.

“Our emergency assistance team, who are available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, may be able to negotiate directly with the hospital on your behalf and eliminate the need for you to pay a large deposit.

“We can also keep immediate family advised of the situation and coordinate medical evacuations.”

“New Zealand’s public healthcare system means we generally don’t have to worry about the financial cost when we get injured or sick, but this isn’t the case overseas. It doesn’t take long for the bills to reach eye-watering amounts.”

The Government does not routinely pay to fly injured Kiwis back home, leaving uninsured people to turn to their own resources, or their families to foot the bill.


$682,000: Heart attack, which included an extended hospital stay and an air ambulance from Europe to New Zealand.

$212,000: Bowel illness in the US.

$182,000: Heart attack in the US.

$176,500: Pneumonia, which required an air ambulance to South America from Antarctica.

$141,000: Broken hip in South America.

$140,000: Leg injury in the US.

$135,000: Ankle injury in the US.

$134,750: Leg injury after falling, which required an air ambulance back home from South East Asia.

$110,000: Hip injury after falling down stairs on a Pacific Island, which required an air ambulance home.

$106,000: Respiratory and heart failure, which required an air ambulance home from a Pacific Island.