There has been much media coverage of a British couple who’s baby was born 11 weeks premature while they were on a five day trip to New York City (story broke Jan 2, 2015, BBC News Lincolnshire “Premature baby couple ’stranded in US' after birth"). Baby Dax weighed in at only 3 lbs and was last reported as being in good health. However, the five day trip turned into a possible three month stay (they were allowed home Feb 6, 2015 in a medically equipped jet: this, by the way, is called emergency medical evacuation). At first, the couple did not know whether their insurance would pay for the cost of the birth. Since then, the hospital has assured the couple (and indeed the world) that there would be no “significant” financial impact on the family since they worked with their home country insurance coverage to pay for their expenses. A friend of theirs also set up a webpage to collect donations to assist the couple in their costs of their extended stay.
This story has highlighted many things about the medical system in the US. At first, there was a general shock at the price tag of the care which was quickly estimated at $200,000. The high cost of medical care is fairly well established and this, perhaps, should alert those not in the know that this is the unfortunate case here in the US of A. However, the story seems to have turned out well for people who did not purchase travel insurance for their trip. Still, I urge you to consider the following: The cost of neonatal intensive care in the UK reportedly costs £1,500 per day (from “Born too soon - what is the outlook for severely premature babies?" by Fergus Walsh, 12/6/2012 on www.healthynewbornnetwork.org). Multiply that by 3 months and that’s £135,000, folks! (or $203,000)! Would YOUR country’s insurance be so willing to fork over this amount?
On the positive side, there ARE resources in the US for those with medical coverage issues. The couple is staying at a Ronald McDonald facility (yes, associated with the fast food chain, McDonald’s) during their three month stay. Such places are commonly found at very reasonable rates usually within walking distance of a hospital for those caring and visiting for relatives in the hospital. Also, the story has highlighted how the hospital was willing to work with an insurance company (even one across the pond). This, I think, is not particularly noteworthy for those of us in the travel insurance business. However, having coverage for your travel either to the US or wherever your travels take you should certainly ease your mind about having to deal with any such high costs!
I get many calls from individuals interested particularly in maternity coverage. There is a policy we sell that would have suited the British couple very well. The policy is called Atlas America. It will cover complications of in the first 26 weeks of gestation. This is the only policy that covers an existing pregnancy. Clearly, it is coverage you hope you do not need, but should you have need, like this couple, it would help cover costs. The policy is available at $50,000, $100,000, $200,000, $500,000 or $1,000,000. This situation might also highlight another typical question I get: How much insurance should I purchase? I try an urge clients to purchase at least $100,000 coverage. But, as you can see, this would leave $100,000 without coverage (would your country’s insurance coverage pay for that?). $200,000 or $500,000 would have been a comfortable maximum for this couple (hindsight being 20:20)!!
Even with a lower maximum coverage, the policy would cover $25,000 for emergency medical evacuation. I’m not sure what the cost of their evacuation, but the child would still be in neonatal intensive care and in most likely with a physician in attendance during the flight (as well as the company of the two parents). Luckily all our policies (even those with limited coverage) do offer at least some coverage for emergency medical evacuation which in this case could get the parents back to their home country and medical system.
Of course, the earlier you are in your pregnancy, the more difficult the delivery (if it comes premature) and the longer you will be in the hospital, so you can use this as a benchmark for estimating a comfortable maximum for your trip.
Naturally, we hope you remain healthy and the coverage you purchase just gives a peace of mind (instead of actually turning into a claim). Nonetheless, accidents and unexpected situations can and do happen. So, be prepared, be informed, and get your travel health insurance today!