Abstract

Background

Little is known about travel insurance claims made by travelers returning from abroad. This study was designed to investigate travel insurance claims made by travelers from Australia, particularly examining demographic factors, type of travel insurance coverage, nature and duration of travel, when treatment was sought during travel or when the problem arose, use of emergency assistance, nature of claim, and claim outcome, including cost.

Methods

A random sample of approximately one in five claims reported during the period 1996 to 1998 to a major Australian travel insurance company were examined.

Results

A total of 855 claims were examined, of which 42.6% (356/836) were made by male travelers and 57.1% (477/836) were made by female travelers. The majority of claimants were in the 55 years and over age groups (445/836, 53.2%). Medical and dental conditions accounted for 66.6% of claims (569/854), with the remainder associated with loss, theft, and damage (285/854, 33.4%). The most common medical conditions were respiratory (110/539, 20.4%), musculoskeletal (90/539, 16.7%), gastrointestinal (75/539, 13.9%), ear, nose, and throat (67/539, 12.4%), and dental conditions (39/539, 7.2%). Only one case of venous thrombosis was reported, secondary to a lower limb infection. Use of the travel insurance company's emergency telephone service was reported in 17.1% of claims (146/853). Almost two-thirds (559/853, 65.5%) of claims were fully accepted. Those who claimed medical treatment, assault, and theft were significantly more likely to have their claims accepted compared to those claiming dental conditions, cancellation, curtailment, loss and damage (χ2= 127.78, df = 40, p <.00001). The majority of medical and dental conditions did not require further medical investigations (427/569, 75.0%). The mean cost of claim refunds was Australian dollars (AUD)991.31 (standard deviation [SD] ± AUD5400.76) for males and AUD508.90 (SD ± AUD1446.10) for females. Claims for assault, cancellation, and curtailment were significantly more expensive than other types of claims (Kruskal-Wallis one way analysis of variance [ANOVA]; χ2= 106.87, df = 8, p <.00001). Claims for treatment of gastrointestinal, cerebrovascular, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal conditions, and pyrexias of unknown origin were significantly more expensive than other medical and dental claims (Kruskal-Wallis one way ANOVA; χ2= 61.68, df = 15, p <.00001).

Conclusions

This explorative study highlights the importance of travelers taking out appropriate travel insurance. Claims for medical and dental conditions represent the majority of travel insurance claims made by Australian travelers returning from abroad, although travel insurance also covers against such contingencies as loss, theft, and cancellation. The most common medical conditions claimed were respiratory, musculoskeletal, and gastrointestinal disorders. Travelers should be advised to take out appropriate travel insurance before departure overseas and to take care with preexisting medical and dental conditions, which may not be able to be claimed against travel insurance.

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The authors had no financial or other conflicts of interest to disclose.