I promise an updated post on our trip to South Africa, but the last week has been a bit hectic (if you want to see pictures go to this Facebook page). I encountered something I have never had to deal with before: using insurance while traveling abroad. This didn’t happen to me, but actually two of my students.
As a precaution my university buys travel insurance for all of the students and faculty. It is normally just a precaution and very rarely is it used, but I guess that is what insurance is for. We actually had to use it two days in a row.
Last Friday one of my students was feeling extremely ill, he went home to his homestay family, but when others checked on him he was worse. So we transported him to a hospital and basically it must have been a bug of some kind. They gave him some Sipro (an antibiotic) and he was right as rain within a couple of hours.
The healthcare system in South Africa isn’t very good. The government hospitals, as one colleague said, are like people go there to die. So we sent my student to a private hospital. Because it was a private hospital we actually had to put up a monetary deposit. We actually had a little bit of problems with the insurance and I actually had to foot the bill.
The next day we actually had a more severe problem. One of my students actually slipped, broke her ankle, and we had to transport her to the same hospital. Luckily, she is ok. They actually got her into surgery within the same day and she was released two days later (you wouldn’t see that in the U.S.). Anyway, we had the same problem with the insurance. The admissions clerk didn’t do a very good job and I had to put up a deposit of $5000 (American). We eventually got a hold of the insurance and they are taking care of everything from here. I have actually disputed the transactions made on my credit card and I should receive a credit soon because I provide all of the documentation needed to do so (if not I am going to be pissed).
Anyway, I am now convinced, however, that travel insurance might be a really good thing if you are traveling abroad. In reality, it acts as a supplement for your regular insurance because they will try to go through your normal insurance first, even though you are abroad. However, the travel insurance will basically make sure that you pay little to no out of pocket costs.
Based upon my experience over the past week I am seriously thinking about purchasing travel insurance every time we travel abroad and/or trying to get a rider added to my insurance policy. I will always be covered if I travel for the university. However, if we travel for pleasure and we just have our normal U.S. insurance we could be out of pocket hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Hopefully, no more mishaps will occur. Good thing all of the kids are currently safe and sound.