Vikram Sehgal was in the flight 30,000 ft above the sea level, reviewing the business proposal for his forthcoming meeting in London. Just as his flight was about to land, he experienced breathlessness and severe chest pain. Sehgal had to be rushed to the hospital on his arrival in London. This could happen to anyone India or abroad. Fortunately for Sehgal, his company had provided him with a business travel insurance plan, which took care of his medical expenses during the trip.
As Indian companies expand their footprint beyond local boundaries, international business travel is witnessing a surge in demand. Today, not just senior executives but even employees from the middle and even junior level are being sent on official trips abroad. International business travel involves significant expenditure and it is extremely important that the employee is insured when travelling to a foreign destination. This is because unexpected expenses can arise, paying for which may not be viable for the employee nor would it be possible for the company to take care of the employees’ emergency needs, given the distance and time factor involved. Business travel insurance covers an employee against incidents such as medical emergency, weather crisis, extended trips, trip cancellations and interruptions, among others.
Business versus personal travel insurance
One should not mistake business travel insurance with individual travel insurance. The business version of travel insurance is specially designed keeping in mind the needs of the business traveller and organization. As such, the insurance policy offers special benefits not available in a regular individual policy. For example, if you are flying on a frequent basis, you can avail “pay per day” option which offers far more competitive rates than the individual version. In this case, your employer does not pay for the days when you have not travelled. For instance, if your firm has availed a policy for 60 days and you return after 50 days, the balance (10 days) premium will be refunded on cancellation of the policy. Similarly, firms can avail a multi-trip plan which is valid for one year with multiple options such as 30 days and 45 days per trip. This takes away the need of renewing insurance every time you travel on a business trip abroad. Business travel insurance policy is also lot more cost effective compared with a personal travel insurance policy.
The claim procedure
While knowledge of the benefits of a business travel policy is essential, it is equally important to be aware of the procedure to avail a claim. More often than not, we do not feel the need to know the claim procedure until faced with the crisis or emergency situation. First and foremost, when travelling abroad, you should always keep the customer service numbers of the assistance company handy. While you may have bought insurance from the local office of the insurance firm, while travelling abroad you would have to contact the assistance company for any claims. The assistance company will offer help in multiple ways, such as contacting the foreign embassy, locating the nearest cashless clinic and hospital admission, among others.
You need to ensure that all documentation is in place while seeking a claim. Take for example claims pertaining to flight cancellation/trip delays. In this case, you must have obtained a written proof from the airline authorities stating the period of delay. Other documents such as copy of passport, visa with entry and exit stamps, copies of boarding pass, ticket and baggage tags need to be submitted while filing a claim. Similarly for claims pertaining to medical emergency, the duly completed claim form signed by the treating doctor, original documents of the doctor’s medical report, admission and discharge cards, original bills, vouchers, payment receipts stating the details of treatment and prescriptions, copy of X-ray, pathological and investigative reports need to be submitted. Remember to send all the documents to your insurer within 30 days of your return to India or before the expiry of the policy, whichever is earlier.
Another important point in the “to-do” list is to read the fine print so that you are aware of the coverage provided and exclusions. Travel insurance policies often have a deductible element. For example, for any claim, say, the initial $50 needs to be borne by the insured person depending on the policy and claim type. As such, if the medical emergency bill is $200, only $150 would be reimbursed since the first $50 would be borne by the insured. Similarly, in case of travel delays, most policies require the first $100 dollars expense per day to be borne by the insured. Another fine print that fliers are usually unaware of is the applicability of travel delay claim only in situations when the delay in departure/arrival is more than 6-8 hours.
Business travel insurance generally does not cover pre-existing illness, orthopaedic, degenerative, ontological diseases and cancer treatment, unless pertaining to unforeseen emergency measures to save the insured’s life or measures solely designed to relieve acute pain. Also, any expenses related to mental or psychiatric disorders are not reimbursed.
Even as Indian companies are coming to terms with the dynamics of doing businesses in diverse countries, they are increasingly taking cognizance of uncertainties their employees can face during international tours. So the next time you travel abroad on an official tour, ensure that you are equipped with a corporate travel insurance policy.
Neelesh Garg is executive director, ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd.