Friday, April 23, 2010


I paid my quite reasonable air fare, and then I went looking for travel insurance. At almost 85 I expected it to be heavy, budgeted to spend a thousand dollars. But the quotes the travel agent found were ridiculous to the point of obscenity. $4,400 with an eleven hundred dollar excess, meaning if I broke my leg I would have to pay most of the cost myself. We bargained it down to half what they quoted, but I discovered quite a lot of unsavoury information about the travel insurance racket. I now regard it as several degrees lower than used car sales.
As I rang around looking for competitive quotes I discovered that many sellers of travel insurance are offshoots of the same underwriter. When I gave my name they would log on, they knew my age, my ‘existing medical conditions’ and their quotes were identical, though not as outrageous as the initial quote. The web page of one firm, who advertise special rates for members of the Society of Authors repeatedly, lost my connection the moment they learned my age. The fact that I have been travelling overseas for twenty years without claiming anything mattered not a jot. It seems to me they were not assessing risk, they only saw a chance to ring a ruinous premium out of an aged client.
Some years ago my eldest sister booked one last round the world trip, I don’t know what she paid for travel insurance, but she was assured that she had ‘unlimited cover’. She broke her kneecap in Singapore, hobbled around England and finally, on the point of collapse reached her daughter in Boston. You’ve heard of Boston General? One of the great hospitals of the world. They had a new technique, laser surgery, and were sure they could fix my sister’s knee. But her Insurance company insisted she return to New Zealand and see her G.P. first. SIX MONTHS LATER my sister spent four weeks in Bowen hospital in Wellington having an artificial kneecap inserted. She was never free from pain again, and the unlimited insurance cover turned out to be less than five thousand dollars.
Well we have Mothers Day, Fathers Day, and all those other enticements to spend money. Why not Insurance Day, where we burn effigies of insurance underwriters and throw Molotov cocktails at those edifices in the cities that they call ‘Headquarters.’

By the way, this does not apply to the nice people at STATE who have fixed my car twice, and organised repairs when rats nibbled my water pipes, drenching my carpet.

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