Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Taiwanese woman learns value of travel insurance

By Chang Ling-chu, and Fan Chiang-wen  /  STAFF REPORTERS , IN VANCOUVER AND TAIPEI

When Fan Jui-hsiuh (范瑞琇) from Kaohsiung joined her sister on a nine-day tour of the Rocky Mountains in Canada earlier this month, the last thing she expected was to undergo surgery for acute gastric perforation and peritonitis.

After having spent two days in an intensive care unit and five more days in the hospital, Fan found to her astonishment that she had run up a bill of almost NT$1 million.

Although saying that she often travels abroad and understands the importance of buying travel insurance, Fan now regrets not doing so for her Canadian trip.

She may now have to spend most of her savings to pay the bill.

Fan said that when Surrey Memorial Hospital admitted her, hospital staff were aware that she was a tourist and not an immigrant, and allowed her to pay an initial C$5,000 (NT$160,000).

Saying that she sometimes suffers from stomach pains, Fan visited a doctor before leaving for Canada to get some stomach medicine, but when the stomach pains set in on Oct. 5, the last day of the tour, the medicine was not enough and she had to go to the hospital for emergency treatment.

With the help of a translator, Fan found out that she was suffering from peritonitis as a result of acute gastric perforation and required immediate surgery. After the two-hour operation, she was sent to the intensive care unit for two days for observation.

Fan's sister stayed at the hospital with her, but after Fan met a Chinese-speaking person who helped her contact the Canadian branch of the Tzu Chi Foundation, her sister was able to stay with Chi Hsiuh-chen (紀秀貞), a Tzu Chi volunteer stationed at the Surrey Memorial Hospital. Chi also brought other volunteers to visit Fan.

Chi said that over the past year the organization has helped many Taiwanese tourists who had to stay in hospital while visiting Canada, adding that she sympathized with those patients who had to pay off their big hospital bills, sometimes through a payment plan.

While the cost for surgery and a hospital stay in Taiwan may not even reach NT$100,000, in Canada it is common that the same treatment reaches C$30,000.

Insurance companies say that in addition to purchasing standard travel insurance when traveling abroad, people should also get insurance for medical treatment caused by accidental injury and sudden illness overseas to get even better coverage.

In addition, most companies offering travel insurance also offer overseas emergency assistance, which generally includes services such as telephone medical advice, recommendations for medical institutions, arranging hospital stays, advancing payment for hospital stay and deposits, arranging emergency medical transfers and emergency medical transports to the home country, as well as transporting human remains to the home country.

One more well known example of such services was the return of model Lin Chih-ling (林志玲) to Taiwan after she fell off a horse in China.

An example from one of Taiwan's bigger insurance companies shows that a standard travel insurance with coverage up to NT$10 million will cost NT$959 for one person for 10 days. Adding insurance to cover medical treatment of accidental injury or sudden illness overseas will increase the cost to NT$1,880.

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