The most expensive travel insurance payouts of 2023

Australians heading overseas outnumber foreign tourists arriving domestically. Photo: Getty

Australians heading overseas outnumber foreign tourists arriving domestically. Photo: Getty Photo: Getty

They say if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to go on holiday – and one company’s disclosure of its heftiest claims of 2023 seems to only prove that point.

Southern Cross Travel Insurance has released its most expensive travel claims of the year, covering everything from illnesses to injuries.

The priciest bill for a tourist who got into a spot of bother overseas was just over $180,000 and SCTI CEO Jo McCauley said many of claims made to SCTI weren’t due to “dramatic events or far-fetched situations”.

Instead, they were “the usual mishaps that can happen to any of us”.

“We understand that nobody gets excited about booking travel insurance,” McCauley said.

“But it’s fair to say that if you can’t afford travel insurance then you probably can’t afford to go on holiday.”

international travel

International travel is important to Australians. But international travel currently has additional complexities and risks.

SCTI’s most expensive travel claims for 2023

The most expensive claim SCTI paid this year was for a teenager who had a nasty fall on family holiday in the US, where medical care is notoriously expensive.

However, many of the claims were for older people:

  1. A 14-year-old fractured his shoulder after falling out of an outdoor hot tub while on holiday with his family in the US (claim paid – $187,604);
  2. A 71-year-old who suffered a heart condition and complications while on holiday in Germany (claim paid – $155,000);
  3. A 94-year-old had to return early from Fiji via air ambulance after fracturing a hip when falling (claim paid – $147,148);
  4. A 69-year-old had to cut their holiday short and return early from Indonesia when they suffered complications related to brain cancer (claim paid – $140,148);
  5. A 62-year-old suffered fluid on the lungs related to pneumonia and had to return from Indonesia via air ambulance (claim paid – $102,060);
  6. A 60-year-old sustained a serious wrist fracture and had to have surgery while on holiday in the US (claim paid – $87,000);
  7. A 48-year-old had to seek emergency treatment for gastroenteritis and septicemia while on holiday in Vietnam (claim paid – $86,500);
  8. An 86-year-old suffered a blocked bile duct while on holiday in Greece (claim paid – $84,000);
  9. A 91-year-old suffered a broken hip while on holiday in Vietnam (claim paid – $81,000);
  10. A 36-year-old suffered a broken sacrum after a surfing accident in Mexico. He needed an internal air ambulance to a better facility in Mexico and once he was fit enough to come back to Australia, he had to travel on a business-class flight (claim paid – $79,500).

The importance of travel insurance

Not only does travel insurance protect travellers financially, it also provides high-level support to patients and their families.

“If you have an accident or fall sick overseas, the last thing you want to worry about is mounting medical bills or impending travel costs to get back home,” McCauley said.

“It’s not worth taking the risk and the consequences can be severe, especially when you look at the cost of some of the larger claims on this list.”

pictured is someone about to travel

Travel insurance offers peace of mind and support.

Although important to get, just in case, a recent survey commissioned by the Insurance Council of Australia found 16 per cent of Australians didn’t bother with insurance last time they travelled.

“We hear horror stories of people on their dream holiday, basking in the sun on a pristine beach and suddenly falling ill and having to spend a night or two in hospital,” ICA chief executive Andrew Hall said.

“Without travel insurance, these people are faced with the daunting reality of having to cover the potentially exorbitant costs of medical care in a foreign country.”

Yet another cost to consider, insurance can be relatively affordable, especially when weighing the cost against any medical bills you may have to pay when abroad without insurance.

The starting cost for medical-only cover for a family of four, two adults aged 40 and two young children for a week-long trip to Bali, is as little as $82.33.

Comprehensive cover with SCTI would be about $121.82.

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