The peculiar nature of travel insurance

After the surgery, there have been some eye movement and Sahrom is undergoing dialysis three times a week. He is still semi-conscious.

After the surgery, there have been some eye movement and Sahrom is undergoing dialysis three times a week. He is still semi-conscious.

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR — December 9, 2019: Imagine this. Your father, who flew to London for your graduation ceremony, suffered a stroke. Several surgeries were done and he -despite being bedridden- is stable enough to be repatriated but that isn’t happening.

Why? Apparently, the travel insurance that your father had bought for the trip was a ‘pay-first-claim-later’ policy’ which meant that the insurance company will not pay any upfront payment, so you were told by the insurance company’s care-line operator.

And this was a huge problem because even with the combined savings of your entire family members, the hospital bill and repatriation costs were just too much to foot. This is basically what happened to Nur Amalina’s father, Sahrom Ahmad.

Despite being covered by AXA’s travel insurance -as stated in his donation drive statement on the GoFundMe website- Sahrom needed to pay a hefty bill of £70,000 (RM 367,581) upfront, which he could not afford, hence the ongoing donation drive.

Quite a peculiar policy, indeed.

The Mole got curious and combed through AXA’s travel insurance that Sahrom purchased and interestingly, despite AXA stating that it will, reasonably, pay for repatriation costs, the policy does point out a strange requirement for such a benefit.

Page 16 of the policy stated that the documents required for claims concerning emergency medical evacuation and repatriation are as follows: (1) medical report from the attending doctor abroad, (2) original medical invoices and receipts for all amount claimed, (3) original receipts for additional expenses claimed for cost of burial or cremation or transporting of mortal remains and (4) original receipts for additional expenses claimed for additional travel and accommodation.

“The policy does not say that they’ll directly pay nor does it point out the reported pay-first-claim-later scheme but if you look at the page it does mention the need for receipts which in my opinion, means that policy holders will have to pay first and claim later,” contended an insurance agent.

It is anybody’s guess if this is a standard that all insurance companies adhere to when it comes to travel insurances because each company offers a different coverage for medical evacuation and repatriations.

In its policy, Etiqa Takaful’s Tripcare 360, the company offers upfront payments for medical evacuations and repatriations so long as the policy holder abides to its terms and conditions.

There is however, limited information to suggest that AXA is in the wrong because the company’s policy has a clause that explicitly mentions its “right to decide whether emergency repatriation is required or not.”

Also mentioned in the policy was that AXA will only initiate the necessary measures as long as its clients comply to the necessary prerequisites, failing which, the company can refuse to cooperate.

Whether Sahrom adhered to the necessary requirement is something that has yet to be known as AXA did not issue any statement about the controversy.

But as it is, the crux of the matter is that Sahrom’s family had to do a donation drive -which at press time, garnered £38,182- in order to get him back to Malaysia despite the 58 year-old was -during his trip to London- covered by a travel insurance.

Additional reporting by: Shaira Idris




About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]