A cruise passenger on Medicare ended up in the onboard sick bay for two days, receiving medications and requiring x-rays. When he got home, he was hit with a bill for nearly $6,000.
That made him sweat a lot more than the 103-degree temperature he had onboard the Oceania MS Marina. His travel agent had helped him purchase $25,000 worth of medical coverage from Allianz Global Assistance for the cruise (for $789), because he was fully aware his Medicare coverage would not be valid in international waters.
When he returned from the cruise, he promptly sent the medical records and invoice from Oceania to Allianz and started a claim. After two weeks, Allianz told him the claim was still under review. After another week, the Boca Raton, Florida, resident finally wrote to travel consumer advocate Christopher Elliott, asking for help.
Allianz had sent him a request for an explanation of benefits from his primary and supplemental insurance, but being on Medicare, he can't file a claim from out of the country, so he couldn’t provide Allianz with the information they were requesting.
He was caught in a Catch 22, and now he was concerned because he had already paid Oceania’s bill for $5,929.
“How long can Allianz drag this on? It advertises quick claim resolution, and states that it reviews claims in seven to ten days,” he wrote. “I would consider that to be untrue.”
Elliott investigated and explained how travel insurance claims work in situations like this. Contacting Allianz as a journalist, Elliott found out that the company “really needed you to file a claim with your primary insurance carrier, Medicare, even though the claim would be denied. Rules are rules.”
“Travel insurance works in a deliberate — often painfully deliberate — way. An adjuster needs to verify that you're not covered by other insurance and complete other kinds of due diligence before cutting a check.
“Travel insurance companies can fast-track claims of under $100, in my experience, but for something like this, they really need to cross the t's and dot the i's.”
In cases like this, Elliott recommends that travelers contact someone higher up at their travel insurance provider. He provides a list of customer service executives with numbers and email addresses on his consumer advocacy site.