Everyone going away on an expedition should be looking to see if they are covered with medical and rescue insurance. So many times we have heard of people going away and doing it on the cheap and deciding not to pay out for any insurance. It is inherit in human nature to only perceive a risk once it has happened, so by the time you see the need for insurance it is possibly to late to do any thing about it. Dave Lucas have been in two accidents on expeditions and these combined would have left him £21,000 out of pocket and they were generally minor injuries. It is not just your finances you should be worried about but those also of your loved ones. We have heard appalling stories of parents needing to re-mortgage their house so as to fly home their daughter’s body, because she wanted to save on an £80 insurance policy.
Below we have listed a few insurance options for different situations so you should always be able to find insurance.
Types of Insurance cover.
This is often the biggest reason to obtain insurance and the most important aspect of insurance. People often see that an insurance policy is a “get out of jail free card” and all problems will be solved by a quick phone call. Often or not the area you are in, which does not need to be remote, will have very basic and possibly dangerous medical care. In South Africa, which has some of the best medical care in the world, I was told by the doctor on duty I had bent not broken my collar bone, even though I could move fragments of bone around with my finger. In Sharm el Sheikh, which has millions of tourists visit a year, is a hospital that I have only ever had cases mistreated and badly diagnosed. The Bedouin believe that you will die if you stay in this hospital. Yet they believe that burns should be treated with toothpaste and pouring Nescafe into the wound should stop bad bleeds.
This principle should also extend to rescue services. Insurance can only provide rescue if the infrastructure is there in the first place. Again this is not just for remote inhospitable areas. Due to the Camp David Treaty the majority of the Sinai Desert is a no fly zone for helicopters. But yet has millions of tourists and locals that would benefit from a rescue service. You should always have a worst-case scenario plan in place, you and your team may be the only available rescue team and the medical service in the area.
If you have recently seen a doctor, if you are taking medication or having any treatment or if you are on a waiting list for tests or results. Then your insurance may have an exclusion clause that could leave you high and dry, and you should check with the insurance company before you travel to see if you are still covered.
In the event of an accident treat the 24hour help line as the emergency service number. At best they will organise a rescue, but often their policies have a time exclusion clause and you may invalidate your policy if you do not tell them or go and receive care non-approved medical care.
Public/personal liability insurance:
This is one of the most important parts of an insurance policy, but is often not seen as important as the immediate risk is less obvious then injury is. But research into a few high profile cases where death and or injury has occurred that have resulted in litigation show the massive need for it. It has been mentioned that this limit should be in the region of 10 million.
Other points within your policy should include:
- Cancellation and curtailment
- Equipment and possesions
Exceptions to be aware of:
- Being away in a professional capacity
- Vehicle use
- Where your possessions are kept
- Accepting liability.
The European health card
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) replaced the old E111 in 2006. Your EHIC lets you get state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. It will cover you for treatment that is needed to allow you to continue your stay until your planned return. It also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care, as long as you’re not going abroad to give birth. The EHIC is valid in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries, including Switzerland. For more information about what is covered in each country see their country-by-country guide. You can apply for a free EHIC online.
The EHIC is entirely free of charge. However, other unofficial websites may charge you if you apply through them. It is advisable to take out travel insurance in addition to the EHIC and other reciprocal health service arrangements. Illness or accident abroad may mean extra travel, accommodation and repatriation costs for which you should be insured. Certain travel insurers will only honour a travel insurance claim for medical costs if the policy holder can produce evidence of the European Health Insurance Card.
Other Reciprocal rights
The Australian Government has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with the governments of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, The Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta* and Italy*.
*Covered for Medicare for a period of six months from the date of arrival in Australia.
These agreements may entitle you to limited subsidised health services for medically necessary treatments whilst visiting Australia. If the appropriate documentation (passport, visa, date of entry confirmation and/or country of birth residential status) is not produced you will be expected to pay for all associated medical costs, however the fee will be waived once the documents are presented to the Patient Liaison Office. So even though there are free services available it is still advisable to get travel insurance as not all medical expenses will be covered. Below we have detailed four methods of getting travel insurance:
Bupa Worldwide Health Options
As we spend more of the year overseas than in the UK, we need affordable annual medical insurance that gives us cover 365 days a year. Bupa Worldwide Health Option offers such cover, besides which it also very importantly has no limitations on different sports nor on the countries we travel to. Their health covers can be tailor-made to suit your specific needs. Keep in mind however that their cover is only for your medical needs so you will need get cover separate for your luggage (check whether your bank offers this for example), search and rescue (Austrian Alpine Club is good for this, read more about their membership at the bottom of this page) etc.
The British Mountaineering Council
In the past Dave Lucas used to be always covered by the BMC and for trips of few weeks or few months it is still a very good option. Their insurance has saved his leg and has always given fantastic support to expedition members on many of the expeditions he has led. Remember that it is the medical 24hour help line you deal with when you are away. The BMC used to use assistance International and now use ACE international whom I have not yet used or tested.
Summary of cover:
Medical and Additional Expenses up to £10,000,000
Search, Rescue and Recovery Expenses up to £100,000
Personal Accident up to £10,000
Cancellation up to £5,000
Baggage up to £2,000
BMC Travel & Activity Insurance is a standard Travel Insurance policy with Activity cover included, so it includes cover for cancellation and possessions, as well as offering 5 levels to cover you for travelling, trekking, hill walking, climbing, skiing and mountaineering.
So whatever it is you’re doing, there’s a policy to suit you:
Travel – not participating in sports
Trek – Trekking, hill walking, scrambling and via ferrata, up to 6,500m
Rock – All Trek activities, plus: abseiling, big walling, sport climbing, bouldering, trad climbing, up to 6.500m. Also trekking above 6,500m. (Snowboarding at an additional premium)
Alpine & Ski – All Rock activities, plus: Skiing, snow and ice climbing, up to 6,500m
High Altitude & Remote Area – All Alpine & Ski activities, plus: climbs and expeditions to remote, difficult and high altitude peaks anywhere in the world.
>> All policies come with a personalised emergency contact card, and 24 hour Medical Assistance.
>> Professional rates for guides and instructors
>> In relation to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), cover is excluded only when they advise against ‘all travel’. There is no cover for travel to/through these areas. If you enter such an area, then all cover under the policy will cease, but cover will be resumed once you leave that area.
See the BMC Insurance pages for further details.
Correct at 20/08/12.
It may be that you have planned an expedition to a part of the world that is advised against all travel to the area by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In which case the BMC will not insure you.
Recently Dave Lucas had this problem when organizing an expedition to The Hand of Fatima in Mali. In order to insure the team he came across a company called Bellwood and Prestbury.
Bellwood Prestbury offers high-risk insurance for individuals who work in remote or challenging environments around the world. From offshore riggers to peace envoys in conflict areas, they provide bespoke high-risk insurance for business trips, long contracts or permanent postings. Bellwood Prestbury is an acknowledged expert in high-risk insurance, helping you to get the right level of international cover for your high-risk occupation or a posting to virtually any high-risk region throughout the world. As a Lloyd’s cover holder, they have the ability to quickly create affordable, tailored, high-risk insurance to cover all of your needs, from international life and medical cover to global accident and income protection. A three week trip in Mali in 2011 cost each individual team member £150. We did not need the insurance so are unable to comment further on the level of service they provide. Click here to be redirected to their website.
The Austrian Alpine Club
Another provider that offers insurance to any part of the world is The Austrian Alpine Club.
One of the benefits of being a member is to receive AWS Annual Alpine Association Worldwide Rescue and Repatriation Insurance. This is a limited service and should not be used instead of a comprehensive medical and rescue insurance, but it is better then nothing and fits great for alpine mountaineering trips within Europe.
To conclude in short
- Do not ever scrimp on insurance and always check the policy fits with what you intend to do.
- Always have a back up plan if your insurance is unable to assist with rescue and medical care
The idea that it is acceptable to try a pull a fast one on your insurance by claiming for lost kit is nonsense. Not only is it fraud but it also pushes up the premiums for the rest of us. Even if you do not believe in Karma please do not abuse the system. We hope that this article has gone someway to assist you in obtaining insurance. Please contact us if you have any more questions or have a service that you think should be posted on the page.