On Sunday, August 15, 27-year-old Carrie-Anne Dudbridge was on her honeymoon in Corfu. After finishing a romantic dinner with her new husband, Michael, she stepped out on the balcony of their first-floor room, lost her footing, and fell 30 feet, fracturing her spine in three places.
As if the pain of her injuries were not enough, Dudbridge, a citizen of the UK, did not have travel insurance. She did have a European Health Insurance Card, but it would not pay the cost of the air ambulance that would be necessary to get her back to Britain
In the end, Michael Dudbridge and family and friends at home had to appeal for donations to raise approximately 16,000 British pounds to get the young woman back to the UK. Just hours after the entreaty was posted online, the couple had their money and a flight via Mediaviation was arranged.
Thankfully, it does not appear that Carrie-Anne will be paralyzed, although one of her fractures has been termed “serious.” The British government, in the wake of the incident, has taken some pains to make sure that its citizens understand that an EHIC card is not a substitute for private travel insurance.
Americans don’t even have the luxury of that degree of coverage, however, especially when traveling abroad, and can easily face an even more serious and complicated situation than that with which the young British couple was forced to deal.
Travel insurance is, at best, an uneven insurance product, fraught with conditions that must be met and limitations that are imposed on coverage. It is not a type of coverage that should be taken out automatically, but neither should it be ruled out as an option without careful consideration. (For our previous commentary on this subject, see “Let the Traveler Beware” from August 4.)
While no one can anticipate falling off a balcony, it’s a good exercise to ask yourself what travel-related health or medical expenses you could reasonably afford to cover. Weigh your personal finances against the benefits of your health insurance coverage and carefully research what travel insurance can and can’t do for you.
Carrie-Anne’s tale is an instructive one. In the long run, she benefited from good fortune and the kindness of strangers, but both she and her husband no doubt suffered unbelievable anxiety not only as a result of her injuries, but also from their financial predicament. This is precisely the kind of case well-chosen insurance is meant to alleviate and a good example on which to base your own thinking about the wisdom of travel insurance.