Insurance paid off

Regarding travel insurance, all travel is a risk, but so is staying home, catching up on that “to do” list.

I generally have not purchased travel insurance but did so for a trip to Austria in May ’05 with Untours (Media, PA). My reasons were simple: on a prior trip to Switzerland, my wife overextended her knee and couldn’t walk for several days. Also, I had a friend who bicycled off a trail in Switzerland and slid 500 feet down a grassy slope into a tree; the rented bike was destroyed, but she only broke a leg. So I was covering my bets.

In Austria, I awoke one afternoon to find myself on a gurney being carried down a flight of stairs. ‘This can’t be good,’ I told myself. I have no memory of the seizure my wife tells me I had, but I’ve still got the little dent in the back of my skull from where I hit the floor hard. A concussion! My vacation pictures from Austria are all x-rays of my head.

I found myself in the intensive care ward of Salzburg Hospital. Since it is a teaching hospital, I saw more nurses on one floor than you’d see in an entire hospital of similar size in the U.S. They all spoke some English. I was addressed as “Herr Professor” because I taught a class at a California state college. My stay lasted 10 days and I was released with one day left on my scheduled vacation.

Everything that wasn’t covered by my American insurance carrier was picked up by my travel insurance company, with the exception of the €33 (near $40) ambulance ride, which I forgot to submit. A similar ambulance ride in the U.S. would have cost me about $1,600.

I found my American insurer, Travel Insured International (East Hartford, CT; 800/243-3174,, a difficult company to work with. The staff had no idea where Austria was (some of their documents stated “Australia”) or why the callers had a “funny” accent, and the time zone difference made them hard to reach.

The hospital staff hung in there and made the off-hour calls and got coverage for me where they could. My wife’s calls to my insurer were frequently put on long holds, running up her phone charges.

But when we got home, I documented the outstanding balances as best I could and the travel insurer paid them all. My final act was a wire transfer to the hospital to pay their bill.

So think of me if you are in Salzburg. And keep healthy.


Sebastopol, CA