Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Opinion | Not having a comprehensive travel insurance cover can pinch you hard

It is important to consider the possibility of emergencies and unexpected bills

Failing to buy travel insurance for your international trip can surely turn into a nightmare, and no one else can right now better understand this than the family of Pragya Paliwal, a 30-year-old software engineer from Madhya Pradesh who died in a road accident in Thailand. Pragya, a software engineer by profession, belonged to Chhatarpur district of Bundelkhand region in Madhya Pradesh and was working with a company in Bengaluru. She reached Thailand on 8 October to take part in the annual conference of a Hong Kong-based organization. The news of her death was shared with her family by her roommate in Bengaluru who informed the family on 9 October that Pragya died in a road accident in Phuket.

Since Pragya did not purchase comprehensive travel insurance before travelling to Thailand, her family found it difficult to bring back her mortal remains to the home country. The matter was recently in the news as the family was seeking help from the local government in India to bring back the body of Pragya. The matter was taking a long time as none of the family members had a passport. The Madhya Pradesh government then arranged a sum of 2.02 lakh and fixed an agency to bring back the mortal remains. After a lot of problems, Pragya’s mortal remains were finally brought back to India. Pragya’s case isn’t the first one to come in the news where the family of the deceased has asked for help from the government to bring back the mortal remains of their loved one.

With the rise of the upper middle class, a lot of Indians can now afford to travel abroad. According to a report from India’s ministry of tourism, there has been significant growth in international departures in the last five years. It is predicted that Indian travellers will be spending nearly $40.7 billion on international travel by 2025, according to data from the tourism ministry. However, there has also been an increase in the number of Indians dying abroad every year. The numbers have been increasing significantly since 2013, with more than 8,000 Indians dying abroad every year and the biggest cause of these deaths has been heart-related ailments and road accidents, according to government data.

Healthcare is quite expensive these days, particularly when you’re travelling abroad. Health expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 17.2% in the US, which is a popular travel destination for Indians. Healthcare expenditure as a percentage of GDP in another popular holiday destination, Switzerland, is 12.5%, according to data quoted in a newspaper report. Thus, getting hospitalized abroad while travelling could really burn a hole in your pocket unless you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy.

When planning a trip abroad, being prepared for events causing death would be the last thought on anyone’s mind. However, it is important to consider the possibility of medical emergencies and unexpected bills. A comprehensive travel insurance policy with emergency evacuation coverage also includes repatriation of remains to cover the transport of a deceased insured’s body back home in case of death in a foreign land. This coverage in travel insurance is beneficial to those who want a comprehensive approach to insuring their trip. While there are measures and systems in place to make the reclamation process smooth, due to different religious, legal and political policies in different countries, the task of repatriation can become excruciating.

“Repatriation of mortal remains" covers reasonable expenses incurred to repatriate the insured’s body from the place of death to India. Covered expenses include but are not limited to embalming, cremation, coffins and transportation. Assistance service providers of insurance companies also assist the bereaved family and next-of-kin with the road or air repatriation of the mortal remains back to the home country.

However, one must know that not all travel insurance policies offer “repatriation of mortal remains" cover and the availability of this feature widely varies from insurer to insurer. While buying a comprehensive travel insurance cover, it is important that you properly check what all the policy covers and the extent of the coverage. Depending upon the specific needs and requirements, customers must buy a plan that righty caters to all their travel needs. It is always suggested to compare different travel insurance plans before selecting one as this will not only help the customer in getting the best prices but will also assist in securing the right coverage.

Tarun Mathur is co-founder and chief business officer,