About a week or so ago I mentioned that I believe that I will try to start carrying travel insurance when I go abroad. I still think it is a valuable item to have when you travel outside the U.S. However, I also mentioned in that post about a potential snafu that happened with the travel insurance that one of our students had. That snafu has actually got me on the hook for thousands of dollars. Let me explain.
So when we were in South Africa we had a student who broke her ankle. She slipped on a steep driveway and we rushed her to a private hospital in South Africa. The previous day we had a student go into the same hospital with an illness. For whatever reason, the admissions clerk could not figure out how to use the travel insurance issued by my university. At the time I didn’t think much of it. I plunked down about $75 for his treatment and figured I would get it back through a claim to the insurance company.
The next day we go back to the hospital and get the same admissions clerk. He again has problems with the insurance. He told us he called all of the numbers and could not get anyone.
At the private hospital in South Africa it was expected that we would initially put down a deposit. So I did that, hoping the insurance would take care of it. Then our student had to go in for X-Rays. In South Africa, the x-ray techs bill separate from the hospital so it is a pay and claim system. So to get her x-rays I put down another $100 (so far I am out about $210).
We then get news that she must be admitted for potential surgery. However, in order for her to get treatment they required a guarantee of payment up front of over 70,405 Rand, which was over $5000.
Now when we heard this my colleague and I were stunned. I mean we just don’t have $5k to plunk down.
I should also say that when we hear this we are trying to contact our Study Abroad director (who is great by the way) for advice. However, we couldn’t get a hold of him and our student needed treatment. She needed surgery either that or she would have to go to a public hospital, which would be bad.
Because of this implied threat of discharge I put down the guarantee of payment on a credit card.
This is where it gets interesting.
Within 10 minutes I had talked to our director of study abroad and he assured me the insurance worked. Therefore, I took a closer look at the cards. I called the number that was in bold and got someone within 30 seconds.
I immediately then put the admissions clerk on with the insurance company, who then proceeded to take over and would guarantee payment for her treatment.
Hearing this I thought I would get my money back so I asked can you simply refund the charges.
He said “NO” for two reasons. First, the insurance company was going to take a couple of hours to send over the guarantee of payment. Second, because it was a Saturday there was no manager to refund my money.
So now I have over $5k in hospital charges that I shouldn’t be responsible for.
Since that time I have filed claims with my credit card company to have the charges removed. I called the actual hospital in South Africa three times to send me forms for a refund and then just yesterday I filed multiple claims with the insurance company to get reimbursed.
I probably won’t get the charge removed from my credit card because they require an itemized receipt, not the guarantee of payment I have from the insurance company. Because it might take 30-90 days for a receipt it will go past the 2 weeks that my credit card company is investing in this claim. So my best options are the hospital and/or insurance company.
To say the least I am a bit PO’ed. I have over 5k on my credit card earning interest because they screwed up and couldn’t figure out how to read the insurance cards.
The good thing is that this little snafu is forcing my university to potentially rethink what happens when faculty take students abroad. In the future, we might be issued credit cards for emergencies or something. That would mitigate these kinds of disasters.
Until then I will have to fight to get my money back.