Making Cents: Planning for the worst will help you relax abroad

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With school holidays underway, many families around Ireland are currently preparing for their annual summer break. Although making the to-do list can feel longer than the trip itself, there are some tasks that are particularly important — and organising your travel insurance should be one of them.

“Medical treatment abroad can be very expensive, and whilst it’s traumatic enough when a family member has to seek medical treatment in another country, it’s made even worse when you have to cover the cost from your own pocket simply because you didn’t cover yourself before you left,” says Dermot Goode of www.totalhealthcover.ie.

“Annual multi-trip can typically cost between €50-€150 and whilst you hope you never have to use it, it could be invaluable in the event of a medical emergency.”

While getting cover is the first and most important step, Mr Goode warns that families can’t spend five minutes signing up for a policy online and leaving it at that. All policies are not equal and neither are holidays — he strongly advises taking the time to ensure your cover is right for your plans.

So what are the pitfalls when you go to claim?

One of the most common is confusion around the combination of travel cover and private health insurance. We are familiar with the travel insurer offering two prices, with and without health cover, but what does this mean?

“If you link your travel cover to your Irish health insurance policy, the travel insurer will require you to claim from your health insurance first for any medical costs up to the amount included on your plan and the travel insurer will only pay if the medical costs exceed this amount,” Mr Goode explains. “Most health insurance policies cover €55,000-€100,000 for ‘Emergency Medical Cover Whilst Abroad’, but this may not be sufficient to cover all your costs, especially if you’re travelling to the US.”

For security, you should contact both your health insurer and your travel insurer and tell them where you’re going, how long you’ll be abroad, and what kind of activities you’re planning. Then have them confirm what’s covered, what’s not covered, and more importantly what to do in the event of an emergency.

You should also investigate further if you’re planning any higher-risk activities such as playing sports, diving, or working with animals. You may need to pay a higher premium.

If your inner daredevil comes out while abroad and you decide to do a one-off activity, be careful what you sign beforehand. Some activities abroad will require you to sign a disclaimer waiving all rights to claim on any travel insurance policy, so read the fine-print very carefully.

Similarly, if you are going on that long-planned trip of a lifetime or an Erasmus study period, your standard annual policy may not cover an extended period abroad. Even if your plans are for a standard family holiday, it is still worth doing some checks beforehand.

Things tolook out for when reading over your policy documents are cover for any existing conditions — which may be excluded. There are also often exclusions such as travelling beyond a certain term in pregnancy or if you have any underlying psychiatric condition. Also, don’t assume that every country that you may visit is fully covered by the policy.

The other thing to know in advance is what to do if things do go wrong. Mr Goode says in many cases there may be a requirement to ‘register’ your claim from abroad prior to being admitted to hospital. If this is missed, the claim may be rejected. Some policies also have tight timelines for submitting the claim, you’ll need to know these to ensure you get the full benefit from your cover.

Finally, if travelling within the EU, don’t forget to register each person travelling for a European Health Insurance Card. This does not eliminate the need for health insurance, but does give you the right to access state-provided healthcare for medically necessary treatment.

Deal of the Week

I know primary school children haven’t even finished this school year yet and here I am bringing up September. But, we know how quickly the new term will roll around, and how many calls there will be on your finances in those early weeks.

To help parents who want to get some items off the list now, the Marks and Spencer Ireland uniform uniform range is currently on offer and will remain so until July 2. There is 20% off the entire range, both in stores and online (where you use discount code SCHOOL to get a reduction).

Even with the discount, the Marks and Spencer range will not be the cheapest on the market by any stretch. But the retailer has long been known for the durability of its uniform and many time-pressed parents also swear by how easy the uniform is to wash and dry.

You can choose from easyto- iron and non-iron options, with stretch and permanent pleat fabrics and machinewashable wool promising a uniform that will last.

If there are any consumer issues that you’d like Gráinne to address or if you have problems that Gráinne could help with, she can be contacted at makingcents@examiner.ie

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