I am one of those people who is insured for pretty much everything because I know that anything that can go wrong, probably will. It makes sense to be insured. Travel insurance fits into this category, but even with the care I take with the policies, I have still been caught out.

It was the end of summer when I went to Alaska and it was cold for a Queenslander. The leaves were starting to change colour, the days were growing cooler and I thought I’d freeze to death. We were staying at Eagle River in a house that backed onto Fire Lake, and the landscape was spectacular. Our friends wanted to show us the American bonfire experience with ’Smores and the trimmings, so a night was planned with friends and beers by the lake.

Earlier in the day I thought I’d scope things out and nervously walked down to the jetty at the back of the property— I was on bear watch. Doesn’t matter how many times I was assured that there would be no bears in the backyard, I simply didn’t believe it. I did a quick lap around the yard, made sure it was wildlife free, and headed back up the steep grassy incline to the house. The grass was soft and lush, but slippery, and I fell forward onto my face and my hand. Those reflexes aren’t quite what they used to be and my hand was awkwardly trapped under me when I fell. Despite my utter humiliation of face-planting, my face had no damage, but my hand did. The pinkie finger on my right hand was broken and stuck out awkwardly on a 45 degree angle. I could not make it sit properly, so I iced it and bandaged it into place. A quick call to the travel insurance company hotline confirmed that my inadequate policy meant that yes, I could most certainly make a trip to the emergency room or a doctor, and have some x-rays done, but I’d have to pay for it myself. Once I returned to Australia I would have to hand in my receipts with a medical certificate from an Australian doctor to confirm that the injury had not happened before I flew to Alaska. I tried to explain that I would not break my hand and finger, strap it up, fly to another country and then decide to have it treated there. It seemed too ridiculous to be true. A few calls were then made to a radiology company and a medical surgery, and it was going to cost over $1000 USD to have an x-ray and my hand strapped. No thanks, I’d deal with it myself.

I strapped my hand tightly, which effectively meant I had to tie the pinkie to the rest of my hand as it would not sit in place. My hand was bruised and painful, throbbing constantly, and I am not one to take pharmaceutical pain relief if it can be helped. The next day we took a road trip to Talkeetna and I stopped in at the dispensary. Not any old dispensary, but a cannabis dispensary. Marijuana is legal in Alaska and as a result, they have a large array of medical products for all sorts of ailments. The dispensary was beautiful; all timber and glass cabinets. Clean, well-designed, and the staff were friendly and knowledgeable. I was asked what I needed and what I needed it for. I explained that I’d fallen up a hill, and broken my hand, and without a beat I was given a small jar of CBD oil capsules. CBD oil has brilliant healing and anti-inflammatory properties. They also had melatonin in them so I was told to have one a couple of hours before bed, and they would help me with the pain, the inflammation and help me sleep. I hadn’t been able to sleep as my hand throbbed constantly. Those CBD oil capsules were incredible. Not only did they help my hand, but they also cleared up a lagging chest infection I had. I slept beautifully, and my hand healed very quickly. When I arrived back in Australia I continued to strap my hand but didn’t need any further medical intervention. I was delighted despite having to leave the incredible capsules in Alaska as I couldn’t bring them into Australia.

But getting back to travel insurance. Since that trip I have been very careful to properly examine the insurance policy paperwork before I commit to buying it. I’m happy to pay a bit extra and know that if I have an accident in another country that I won’t have to fork out a billion dollars for treatment. Did I have $1000 USD to pay for my medical costs? Yes I did, but I refused to pay for it on principle. I wouldn’t have been quite so stubborn if I’d had a leg sawn off I can assure you, but the broken hand was treatable and my now pinkie obediently sits in place. It’s one of those things I had to learn the hard way.

3 Comments on “The Fine Print

  1. A $1000 visit to the emergency room is relatively cheap for the U.S., so when coming to visit, yes: It is very worthwhile to have insurance that covers medical. We have pretty good healthcare here, but only if you have money, be it your own or the insurance company’s. Everyone else is free to suffer or die.

    Come again soon. 🙂

    Like

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