Australians are being warned after a man who was diagnosed with a brain tumour on holiday in Thailand revealed his travel insurance claim was rejected because he complained of flu symptoms weeks before his trip.
Alex Witmer was enjoying a six-week trip to the Thai island of Koh Samui with his wife Jennifer when he began suffering from a severe migraine.
After a scan at a local hospital, it was revealed he had a large tumour inside his brain that was cancerous.
He was given medication immediately to ease the pressure inside his skull.
The advice they received was to travel back home to Canada immediately for surgery as the medication only lasted several days.
However, when they lodged a claim with their travel insurance company Allianz, they were later told that it would be cancelled because Alex had gone to a hospital with flu symptoms and a headache a month ago.
"I don’t even remember him reporting a headache. I thought he just said he was vomiting, it didn’t even register to me,” Jennifer told Canadian news site CTV News.
“When the insurance company told me about the emergency room visit I said, ‘Oh, well that was for the flu’, but they said, ‘he reported a headache’."
Alex now faces an anxious wait as they try and work out a way to fly home.
They have been quoted $265,000 ($A293,000) for an air ambulance, which is unfeasible for the couple and their families.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help bring the couple home.
“The couple were distraught, to be in a foreign country and to receive such debilitating news was heartbreaking and scary,” the page’s creator Sharilyn West wrote.
So far, more than $40,000 has been raised.
Dan Keon, Vice President of Market Management at Allianz Global Assistance Canada told Yahoo News Australia the company had now decided to fund Mr Witmer’s trip home.
“We are working with Mr. Witmer’s treating physicians in Thailand to bring him and his wife home to Canada as quickly and safely as possible. His medical treatment and expenses abroad and transport home will be fully covered,” he said.
Nearly one in three Australians must declare medical advice
Natalie Ball, director of travel insurance comparison site comparetravelinsurance.com.au, said Australians must be transparent about any previous medical conditions or symptoms when purchasing insurance.
Ms Ball notes a person would not be covered if an individual sought out medical help for symptoms of a condition yet to be diagnosed.
“Generally, if anything arises from a pre-existing medical condition that you were aware of but didn’t tell your insurer about, then you would not be covered,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
“This can include seeking out treatment for a condition that is yet to be diagnosed.”
Pre-existing medical conditions can be identified as any medical or physical condition, defect, disease or illness that the traveller is aware for which treatment, medication, investigation, surgery or advice has been received.
Nearly one in three Australians have pre-existing medical conditions, according to The Australian Medicines Industry.
Ms Ball said travellers who fail to declare conditions could jeopardise their cover.
“The problem with omitting your pre-existing medical condition is that you risk not having adequate cover overseas. Cover is available for medical conditions but if anything arises from a pre-existing medical condition that you were aware of but didn’t tell your insurer about, then you would not be covered. For any condition that you weren't aware of at the time of purchasing your policy, there would be provision to claim.
Ms Ball said that while insurance policies may vary, travellers should “play it safe” and list any recent condition they can remember seeking advice for.
“Most insurers define a pre-existing condition fairly broadly. In simple terms, if you have sought medical attention for it at any time, it may be worth declaring. Our best advice would be to speak to your insurer and be as transparent as possible,” she said.
“Answer all questions and check with your doctor if you have to.”
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