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Live Mint: Medical emergencies or flight inconvenience could spoil your holiday or disrupt your studies abroad. Make sure you have travel insurance before you board the flight

08 December, 2008

It's that time of the year again. With holidays round the corner, most families will find themselves planning trips in India and abroad. Students, meanwhile, will be negotiating with foreign universities, with their session beginning early next year.
But before you pack your bags, ensure that you have adequate travel insurance to meet medical emergencies and flight inconvenience. You can buy it for leisure or business trips abroad, domestic travel, or studying abroad.
The Cover
Leisure or business travel: If you are planning a holiday or are travelling on business abroad, a standard travel insurance, which covers health and flight inconvenience, will do. It offers a health-cum-personal accident policy and pre-defined compensation against trip delays, cancellations, baggage loss and loss of passport. It also gives you third-party cover.
These covers are available for tenures of one month to a year and can be taken as single trip or annual multi trip covers. M. Ravinder, head (underwriting), Tata AIG General Insurance Co. Ltd, says: "A single trip cover is valid for the time you are abroad. You can move from one country to another, internationally, and still avail the cover. If you buy a multi trip cover, which comes for one year, you could travel between India and abroad for a year, but for a maximum of 30 days per trip."
Under the health cover, remember that inclusion of a pre-existing disease is negotiable. Ravinder says: "We don't exclude all pre-existing diseases. For instance, a pre-existing disease on account of which there has been no hospitalization for the last five years is included." ICICI Lombard's overseas travel insurance plans cover pre-existing diseases. Says Sudhir Menon, head (travel insurance), ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd, "We cover the medical cost of pre-existing diseases under `emergency and life-threatening conditions'. In such cases, we refer to the medical reports to determine the nature of the disease."
Travel insurance provides strong assistance services such as delivery of medicines at the doorstep or a doorstep check-up, which are otherwise difficult
It will not cover you if you are going for treatment abroad, or are going without the consent of a physician. But if you have been treated for a disease for which you were covered in India, it will be seen as unexpected relapse and be covered.
Domestic insurance: This category offers pretty much the same covers. But these are for shorter durations, ranging from one day to three months. Domestically, travel insurance policies may make little sense if you already have health insurance and personal accident policies. However, there is merit in looking at them if you are travelling to unfamiliar places and have valuable baggage to carry.

According to C. Chandrasekhar, chief marketing officer, Apollo DKV Insurance Co. Ltd, a stand-alone health insurance firm, "A travel insurance provides strong assistance services like delivery of medicines at the doorstep or a doorstep check-up by a physician, which are difficult in a standard health insurance or accident policy."
Student insurance: A student can take insurance in India or avail the cover given by the university he enrols in. In addition to the features of a standard travel insurance, a student-specific cover includes add-ons, such as the study interruption cover that pays for your advance tuition fees in case your studies get interrupted by a medical exigency. The sponsor protection add-on pays your remaining fees in case of death or permanent disablement of your sponsor. The compassionate visit add-on pays for the return ticket and boarding of a family member if you are hospitalized for more than a week, besides giving third-party cover. It is available for a year and is renewable. You can also take the bail bond that pays out your bail in case you are jailed for a bailable offence.
The Cost
The cost of a policy would depend on the range and extent of coverage. The range would define the covers you take and the extent would mean whether trips to the US and Canada are covered. Covers that come with add-ons are usually more expensive. Premiums would also depend on the period of travel and your age.
To give you an idea, Travel Guard Gold by Tata AIG offers medical expense reimbursements up to $200,000 (Rs99.4 lakh), accidental death and dismemberment benefit up to $20,000, personal liability benefit up to $200,000, baggage delay benefit up to $100, checked baggage loss benefit up to $1,000, passport loss up to $250, trip delay benefit of up to $100, hijacking benefit of up to $500 and emergency cash advance of up to $1,000. All this at a premium of Rs2,044 for a 30-year-old on a single one-month trip to countries, including the US and Canada (see Travel Safe).
In its lower silver variant, the medical reimbursement is reduced to $50,000 and does not have covers such as trip delay, hijack cover and hospital cash benefit. It comes at a premium of Rs1,667. If you go for the platinum cover, it has a medical reimbursement of up to $500,000 at a premium of Rs2,356.
How to choose a policy
Cost and convenience should help you choose a policy that suits you best. Ravinder says: "For travel to, say, Thailand and Singapore, the medical costs are comparable, so a $50,000 cover would be sufficient. However, for most other countries, a medical cover of $200,000 would be required."
While covers such as baggage loss and trip delays are reimbursable, most health covers are cashless. Says Sreeraj Deshpande, head (underwriting), Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd: "The policyholder needs to get in touch with us through one of our call centres. We then coordinate with the hospital. Depending on his medical records, we agree to pay the hospital up to the sum insured over and above the deductible that the policyholder has to pay."
Buy in India: For students, buying a travel insurance plan in India works out a lot cheaper than the ones offered by their respective universities. Deshpande says, "The policies there would be about three times more expensive than in India."Another advantage of buying in India is that the policy will cover you from the minute you check in and board the flight. A foreign insurance policy would cover you once you have registered at the university. However, do check with your university whether they accepts a policy bought in India. Remember, your packing is not complete without travel insurance.
Travel Safe
This is an indicative table of what is on offer under each category of travel class. The premiums will differ based on factors such as age, country of visit, number of days and the benefits opted for. Each policy would have further sub-limits
Benefits: Emergency medical evacuation benefit, cash for accidental hospitalization, personal liability, accommodation charges due to trip delays, loss of ticket, family transportation, baggage delay
Premium: Rs100-500 (for up to
30 days)
We like: Policies by Bajaj Allianz, Apollo DKV and Tata AIG General Insurance
International biz/leisure
Benefits: Emergency medical evacuation, baggage delay, baggage loss, loss of passport, personal liability, trip delay, hospital cash, emergency cash advance and automatic extension of the policy up to seven days
Premium: Rs1,000-5,000 (for up to 30 days for a 30-year-old male traveller)
We like: Policies by PSUs and private players such as Iffco-Tokio, Reliance General Insurance and Royal Sundaram
International student
Benefits: Study interruption, sponsor protection, accidental medical expenses, compassionate visit by a relative, visit by the student to India, baggage loss, personal liability and bailable bond
Premium: Rs 8,000-25,000 (one-year policy)
We like: Policies by PSUs and private players such as Tata AIG and Bajaj Allianz
Note: The benefits are in addition to health insurance and personal accident cover

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