Pneumonia in Germany

For the past few years my wife, Nancy, and I have purchased DAN® Annual Travel Insurance policies. We both have primary medical insurance that is supposed to provide coverage for medical emergencies overseas.

While we were in Germany visiting friends, Nancy caught pneumonia and was hospitalized. I had to use my credit card to pay for the emergency room that admitted her as an inpatient, and the next day I had to pay an estimated cost for her entire stay.

I called the DAN emergency hotline via Skype the day after she went into the hospital, and DAN's travel insurance carrier offered to fly a nurse to Munich who could accompany us on a flight home, if necessary. The insurers also offered to arrange and pay for the return flight. Fortunately, the hospital was excellent, and Nancy improved steadily. She was released nine days later, and we returned to California on a commercial flight.

Getting our primary insurance carrier to reimburse us should have been easy. The diagnosis was obvious on the hospital records even though they were in German; the doctor had written a summary of the diagnosis and treatment in English, and I had sent all the records to the insurer along with the claim. But our primary insurance carrier gave me one lame excuse after another about why they weren't reimbursing us.

The story changed every time I called them. First they needed to wait to get an English translation from someone in-house, then they wanted the hospital to translate the records into English, then they wanted me to translate the hospital records into English, then they wanted nursing notes in English, then they said they needed help converting the bill from euros to U.S. dollars and so forth. That went on for almost three months, and I was getting nowhere.

A single "please help" call to Robin Doles, insurance manager at DAN, led to everything being sorted out. She was wonderful. She immediately put me in touch with DAN's travel insurance carrier, and together we called the primary insurer again. Shortly after that call, the primary insurer finally paid its fair share of our claim for emergency medical services.

Before DAN got involved, the primary insurer had successfully stalled the claim. I was about ready to give up, but the people I spoke to at DAN reassured me that they would work with the primary carrier to get our claim paid. DAN's Annual Travel Insurance is secondary insurance, so getting our primary insurer to meet its obligations was in DAN's interest as well as ours.

The difference in the time that it took the two insurers to process the claim was striking, too. Our primary insurer took about three months to reimburse us for its share. By comparison, DAN's travel insurance program underwriter took only two days to process and approve our claim for the remaining 20 percent of the medical expenses. We received a check from them within a week.

Another lesson we learned from this experience was that having a backup high-limit credit card with a low current balance during an overseas trip may be really helpful. The German hospital told me they did not deal with foreign insurance companies — too much hassle — and they would not even see Nancy in the ER until they had run a charge of 500 euros on our card. I suspect that in less-developed countries, that's even more likely to be the case.
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© Alert Diver — Q2 Spring 2017