Tourists’ mistake costing Aussies $30m
More Australians are taking out travel insurance on behalf of visiting loved ones, insurers have revealed, as overseas tourists are warned they may no longer be able to enter the country if they aren't insured.
There has been a recent push to make it mandatory for visitors to Australia, including tourists, to take out health insurance before they arrive.
In NSW alone, about $100 million is spent each year treating sick or injured tourists who are hospitalised - and of that, about $30 million is covered by the Australian taxpayer.
But there is a way for Australians to make sure their visiting relatives are covered if they need medical treatment during their stay: they can actually take out travel insurance for them.
A number of major Australian insurance providers now offer Visitors Coverage, or Inbound Travel Insurance, which covers overseas visitors during their time here.
1Cover, Travel Insurance Saver and Cover-More are among the insurers offering it, although each have their own rules around it.
Since NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard proposed the new mandatory insurance rule in September, insurers have seen a spike in inquiries about visitors coverage.
Comparetravelinsurance.com.au has seen a "huge increase" in phone calls about visitors cover, especially for travellers from New Zealand, China, India, Lebanon and the UK, the company's director Natalie Ball said.
"While it is typical to purchase travel insurance from your home country before you depart, more and more travellers to Australia are taking out policies with Australian brands for their perceived reliability," Ms Ball said.
"Seniors have a heightened risk of receiving eye-watering medical bills. For many children of older travellers, there is a peace of mind in purchasing a well-known Australian brand over international brands that they are unfamiliar with."
Some visitors opt not to take out travel insurance due to Australia's reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK, New Zealand, Malta, Finland, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Norway and Slovenia, which mean residents from those countries are eligible for Medicare. The same arrangement works for Australians in those countries.
But Ms Ball said Medicare didn't cover as much as comprehensive travel insurance did.
"These agreements often have limited coverage for pharmaceuticals, ambulance fees, physiotherapy or emergency dental care, which even the most basic travel insurance policies tend to cover," she said.
"Additionally, a comprehensive policy offers additional benefits, like luggage coverage, and cancellation fees and lost deposits in the event of illness or bad weather."
While the suggestion of mandatory travel insurance under discussion, Ms Ball said she encouraged visitors not to wait until it became law.
"Travellers without coverage can risk hundreds of thousands in medical fees - it just doesn't make sense to expose yourself and your family to unnecessary financial and emotional burdens," she said.
"As always, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel."
But Ms Ball said anyone considering taking out insurance for a visiting relative needed to be upfront about their medical history.
"If you or your relative buy travel insurance, you have a duty to disclose any pre-existing conditions," she said.
"If you don't, the insurer may cancel the policy, reduce the amount they'll pay you, or even reject your claim completely."
"Each brand has different rules on what is considered a pre-existing condition, so be sure to read the product disclosure statement, and give the insurer a call if you aren't sure."