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Australian Tourist Secures Compensation for Air Ambulance From Bangkok

Australian Tourist Secures Compensation for Air Ambulance From Bangkok

A recent decision by a dispute resolution body in favor of a 74-year-old Australian traveler has emphasized the importance of clear communication and precise terms and conditions in insurance policies.
This comes after the individual engaged in a tug-of-war with an insurance company over a $195,223 claim to cover emergency medical transportation from Thailand.

The traveler found himself in a life-or-death situation while in Bangkok when he suffered from necrotizing pancreatitis and heart failure. Despite initial improvements, a deterioration in his condition led his family to pursue an air ambulance to return him to Australian care. Lloyd's Australia was contacted, but confusion and lack of confirmation regarding coverage left the family to decide on the man's urgent evacuation on their own.

Despite absence of a formal nod from Lloyd’s, the family proceeded on the pretext that the window for safe transfer was rapidly closing. Following the move, the patient incurred over a four-month stay in an Australian hospital, a period likely mirrored if he had remained in Thailand, but with potentially higher medical costs.

The insurance provider, Lloyd's, weighed the case against their policy terms and initially favored partial payment, rebuffing the high cost of emergency evacuation due to an apparent lack of pre-approval. Their stance was that the provided medical updates suggested an improvement that negated the need for air ambulance services. However, they conceded that there was a communication oversight on their end.

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) oversaw the wrangling and ultimately ruled in the traveler's favor. A compelling case was constructed around medical documents including a key letter from the Bangkok hospital and a consultant gastroenterologist's report that underscored the necessity of urgent repatriation to Australian medical facilities via ambulance plane.

While acknowledging Lloyd's deviations, particularly their failure to secure detailed medical reports, AFCA held that the insurer's proposed alternate paths would not have significantly altered the situation. Therefore, the cost-saving argument did not stand. The adjudication elevated the patient's immediate health needs over procedural discrepancies. AFCA's final judgement resonated with a fundamental ethos of insurance: serving the policyholder's dire need, which in this case, was a safe and swift return to home country medical treatment.

In AFCA's adjudicator's concluding remarks, it was underscored that the insurer could not exhibit that costs would be mitigated had the policyholder sought their express consent. Moreover, the nature of the medical emergency and the insufficiency of information did not justify the exclusion of expenses. Consequently, Lloyd's was instructed to cover the evacuation expense claim in full, reinforcing AFCA's role in ensuring the protection and rights of insurance consumers.

Published:Saturday, 11th May 2024
Source: Paige Estritori

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Term Life Insurance:
A life insurance that provides a cover for a specific period of time - usually one to five years or until the insured reaches age 65 or 70.