The plight of a British citizen injured in the recent bomb attacks in Mumbai, India, has raised concerns over the difficulties faced by some when trying to secure financial support following terrorist outrages overseas.
The Will Pike Mumbai Appeal has been set up to help cover the costs of living with a spinal injury and to campaign for compensation. The Appeal aims to raise £2m to cover the cost of the “myriad of lifetime needs and costs associated with spinal injuries”. Although Pike, a film-maker from London, had travel insurance when he suffered the injuries in the attack, he aims to raise awareness about the lack of cover for chronic conditions provided by travel insurers and the lack of assistance available from the government for people in his situation.
However, while the cost of long-term disability sustained as a result of terrorism may not be covered by some travel or international private medical insurance (PMI) providers, the responses of providers contacted by Health Insurance suggest they do provide vital assistance without which terror victims would suffer even more hardship.
THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL PMI
Spokesmen from InterGlobal, AXA PPP, Aviva International, Bupa and Aetna Global Benefits confirmed that innocent bystanders would be covered by their policies. Both AXA PPP International’s plans and Aviva’s International Solutions policy offer evacuation while members can choose an evacuation and repatriation benefit from Bupa Worldwide Health Options, the insurer’s modular plan.
Paul Weigall, head of sales at InterGlobal, said the company would pay for evacuation to wherever treatment could be provided and highlighted the value of the partnership with Red24, a specialist international risk management company, which helped those caught up in the Mumbai bombings.
“If someone is caught ill somewhere, even in the middle of the desert or jungle, providing they have mobile phone and can define where they are, First Assistance will evacuate that person from that area and they can take their spouse with them,” he said.
While Britons abroad can contact the relevant embassy for assistance, a key advantage of international PMI is the access it can provide to dedicated support services. Aetna Global Benefits, for example, has an in-house team of clinicians who can help members to locate care around the world and even plan their trip in advance.
Cover for chronic conditions sustained as a result of terrorism abroad is more complex than evacuation and assistance.
“International products are designed for people not living in their home country,” said Kevin Melton of international PMI provider Vanbreda International. “If the member sustains injuries abroad and returns to the UK for a long period of time they may longer fulfil the definition of an expatriate. It’s always a grey area, because UK insurers tend not to cover chronic conditions so there is an incentive for the member to stay on the international plan. Although maybe for moral, or PR, reasons insurers might continue to cover that person. It depends on the contract.”
Karen Teasdale, marketing manager for overseas operations and expatriate acquisitions at AXA PPP International, said that individuals would only be covered for diagnosis of a chronic condition, the first few months of treatment and any “flare ups”, for example, an asthma attack, until the member returned to a normal level of health. Members of small corporate schemes would also be covered for routine out-patient drugs prescribed to control chronic conditions. Prestige and Comprehensive members would be covered for out-patient follow-up consultations to monitor the control of the condition while large corporates could choose to cover chronic conditions but at a price.
Aviva’s product includes up to £50,000 cover for acute phases of chronic conditions and up to £7,500 for the routine maintenance of chronic conditions while Bupa members may choose cover for chronic conditions.
KEEPING CLIENTS INFORMED
While attacks in London and New York have demonstrated that no part of the world is immune from the terror threat, advising clients on cover for high risk areas requires an insight into the limits of medical insurance.
Sarah Dennis, international business consultant at Jelf Group, an intermediary, said that while advisers need to make their clients aware of the limits of their cover, they should avoid unnecessarily alarming clients when discussing the risks of travel abroad.
“Most insurers, though they word it differently, would not leave somebody stranded if they were caught as an innocent bystander,” she said. “You could stay anywhere in he world and be a vicim of terrorism but you could scare cliens if you talked about it consisentently.”