The importance of travel insurance

There is nothing worse than flying off to your dream holiday and unexpectedly finding yourself in a compromising situation i.e. losing your luggage at the airport or landing up in hospital due to an accident. This is why it’s important to take precautionary measures such as travel insurance.

“By taking out travel insurance you are essentially covering yourself against travel risks such as lost or stolen luggage, cancellation cover (should you not be able to travel due to unexpected medical reasons) and most importantly, unexpected medical costs abroad,” says Flight Site Agent.

Emergency medical cover

Brian Hirsch, a South African travelling abroad to the United States, had a near-catastrophic fall which left him in hospital with a brain haemorrhage and cervical spine fracture, highlights the importance and the broad reach of Discovery Health Medical Scheme’s (DHMS) basket international travel medical cover. This rarer case reached DHMS’S R5 million pay-out limit on the international travel benefit.

The benefit is offered across all DHMS plans, except KeyCare and has an extended R10 million limit on the Executive Plan. Dr Ryan Noach, deputy CEO at Discovery Health, said many similar claims were regularly paid out, although Hirsch’s case was rare in reaching the limit.

The cover kicks in for 90 days from the day a traveller leaves South Africa. Noach said that Discovery Health, through its assistance partners, has a solid and strong network of healthcare providers internationally, to ensure immediate attention to DHMS members wherever in the world they might face a medical need.

The potential consequences of not having travel insurance

Neglecting to take out travel insurance when travelling internationally could be dreadful if you found yourself in need of medical attention, warns Noach. “The hospitals will continue to treat, particularly when a patient is in dire straits. But they will pursue the family for the debt often leading to lifelong indebtedness. The expenses ramp-up very quickly and the hospitals will do their utmost to recover the debt from families, wherever they may be”.

Samantha Patron, managing director of SP Health Solutions, says that people with pre-existing conditions should take note of the exclusions linked to the policy. She points out that in the aged, and in those with pre-existing conditions, the claims data demonstrated that there is greatest potential “for things to go wrong”.

“Read the fine print and consider additional travel insurance policy if you’re at high risk to complement the DHMS cover,” advises Patron.

Noach adds that through the Discovery smartphone application, any eligible member can secure proof of travel cover and will receive the five-page international travel brochure setting out the policy cover details. He encourages all DHMS members who are travelling, do this before they leave SA shores. The brochure sets out the detail of pre-existing exclusions, which should be carefully considered prior to travel. Discovery Health states that they pay for all emergency care overseas, but may will not pay for elective car, in non-urgent circumstance.

Most insurance policies carry similar or broader pre-existing illness exclusions.

Credit Cards

Another thing to consider is any travel insurance that your credit card may offer. Credit cards often offer travel insurance as part of its benefits; it’s often free and a handy addition that is already embedded in your credit card deal if you purchase your airline tickets with your credit card.

FNB says: “Many South Africans go on holiday over the festive season, and for those travelling overseas, travel insurance is especially important. FNB Platinum Credit Cardholders benefit from automatic Comprehensive Global Travel Insurance, so there is no need for you to purchase top-up cover.”

Chris Labuschagne, CEO of FNB Credit Card, suggests notifying your bank that you will travelling abroad to avoid your credit card from being block as your bank might suspect irregular transaction occurring on your account.


Labuschagne says: “Make sure that you know exactly what you are covered for, consider even taking a printout of the travel insurance document with you so as to avoid additional stress in a moment of panic.”