May 07 2014

Travel with Confidence When You Purchase Travel Insurance

Allianz_logoFor our recent two-week trip to the U.S., we opted to purchase travel insurance when we were buying our airline tickets on American Airlines. Shortly thereafter, we received a policy from Allianz Travel Insurance which outlined our coverage and confirming the prices we paid — all of $61.10 for both of us. Here is what our policy covered: At the time, we thought it was a great deal, not realizing that we would soon need to actually use it.

Our policy coverage with Allianz Travel Insurance

Our policy coverage with Allianz Global Assistance

We were pleased with the coverage limits in general, but, to be frank, we were most interested in the emergency medical coverage. Should something happen during our visit to Baltimore, Paul could use his VA benefits and was also covered under Medicare Part A, but I had no other health insurance. Here in Costa Rica, medical costs are more reasonable and we are also covered under the Caja, the national medical system. But if something happened while we were in the States, we knew that it could end up being very expensive if we had to pay out-of-pocket. Purchasing this travel insurance policy gave us peace of mind, and the low cost made it a bargain, even if we never had to file a claim. 

When checking their website, we learned that Allianz Global Assistance offers various plans and, if you travel a lot, you can even purchase an annual policy.They state on their website, “Whether you’re traveling for leisure or business, you’ll appreciate the comprehensive coverage Allianz Travel Insurance provides. We helped over 13 million people last year plan for the unpredictable with financial protection and 24/7 support from our travel professionals around the world. Simply select the plan that best meets your needs, or compare them side by side.”

They go on to explain, “Allianz Global Assistance is one of the world’s leading providers of travel insurance and assistance services. Worldwide, Allianz Global Assistance employs nearly 10,000 travel professionals and has offices in 28 countries. The strength of this global network allows us to deliver the highest level of benefits and services to customers like you. Allianz Global Assistance products are underwritten by BCS Insurance Company or Jefferson Insurance Company depending on the insured’s state of residency.”

We’ve been extremely pleased with the service we’ve received so far from Allianz Global Assistance, since we did need to take advantage of the emergency medical benefits. We’ll report back once our claim has been filed and everything has been paid or reimbursed.

So, here’s what happened. We were working furiously to clean our our house in Baltimore, Maryland to prepare it for the new owners. We arrived on a Wednesday and closing was the following Friday. We had negotiated five extra days after closing to finish up, but we were still stressed because of how much there was to do. I take up my post in the basement where we have stored furniture, clothing, personal and household items for five years while we’ve been living in Costa Rica and renting out our house. For the next week, I was opening boxes, deciding the fate of each of the thousands of items, then Paul took care of dispensing with everything.


Slit lamp examination

Slit lamp examination

We closed on the house right on schedule, held a two-day moving sale, then were finishing up by getting our boxes ready to ship to Costa Rica and doing a final cleanup of the house to ready it for the new owners. My left eye was watering, I thought from all of the dust we had been stirring up, and I asked Paul to go to the pharmacy to get something to wash out my eyes. The pharmacist told him that the best thing for me to do was to stand under the shower and let the water wash out the dust. I followed his advice and an hour later, my eye was even more red and swollen as before. We went to another pharmacy that had a “Minute Clinic and tried to see the nurse. She strongly encouraged us to go to the emergency room to get it checked out with by a doctor with a “slit lamp.” 

That was the last thing I wanted to do but, by now, I was in a lot of pain, so, to the emergency room we went Luckily, we had elected to buy travel insurance when we purchased our airline tickets. I had downloaded the policy on my Kindle and had it with me, so I called the emergency assistance number for Allianz Travel Insurance. They had a nurse on call and she said, yes, definitely go to the hospital and that the policy would cover it. Our policy, among other things, covered up to $25,000 of emergency medical and dental expenses. At the emergency room, the doctor checked out my eyes and told me that there was nothing there to be flushed out, but that I had developed abrasions on my cornea. He prescribed something for the pain as well as an antibiotic ointment for my eye. If it gets worse, he told me, call the hospital’s eye clinic tomorrow.

GBMC ER photoI was a little better in the morning but as the day wore on, my eyes, both of them now, start hurting again. We called the eye clinic and they told me that they couldn’t give me an appointment until the next afternoon but that I shouldn’t wait. Corneal abrasions can be serious, she said.So, back to the emergency room we went. I called the nurse at Allianz Travel Insurance and she approved the second visit to the emergency room in two days. She also asked if it was okay if she called the next day to check on me.  Luckily, I saw the same doctor as I did the night before. He confirmed that my eyes were worse and that whatever the abrasions were has spread to the right eye. He immediately got on the phone to the eye clinic and arranged for me to see an ophthalmologist immediately. “This is the most interesting presentation I’ve seen in six months,” she said and she had two other ophthalmologists examine me. They didn’t know for sure what caused it, but I had developed cysts on my cornea. The reason I was in so much pain was that every time I blinked my eyes, it irritated the cysts. Ouch! She had about 50 photos taken of my corneas, inserted a contact lens “bandage” of sorts on my left eye, gave me some antibiotic drops to use, and made an appointment for me to see their corneal specialist the next morning. Of contact lenscourse, in addition to being worried about my eyes, I also thought, “I can’t even imagine how much this is going to cost.” And again, I was very grateful that we had opted to buy travel insurance which cost all of $61.10 for both of us.

The next day, the corneal specialist diagnosed that the cysts were caused by some type of toxic substance. Maybe it was mold spores from the boxes of books that we had throw away because they had gotten wet over the years and were covered with black mold. Maybe it was exposure to some of the old cleaning supplies that I had been going through and discarding. Maybe it was something else in the air down in the basement. We’ll never know for sure. The good news was that there was significant improvement in the size of the cysts as a result of protecting my left cornea with the contact lens. The bad news was that my right eye had gotten worse. This time, they put contact lens “bandages” on both eyes and told me to come back on Monday. Since we were leaving to return to Costa Rica on Tuesday, they wanted to make sure I was good to go. For the next four days, I religiously used the antibiotic drops and was without any real pain. Things were looking up. That afternoon, the nurse from Allianz Travel Insurance called and I filled her in on my treatment. We made plans to talk again on Monday after my final appointment with the ophthalmologist.

On Monday, we were relieved to learn that the cysts had cleared up on both eyes and that I was now left with a bad case of dry eye due to the contact lenses and after effects of the cysts. I was instructed to continue using the antibiotic ointment in both eyes and to use eye drops without preservatives throughout the day for the next 10 days.

I updated the nurse from Allianz Travel Insurance who then said she would call me at home in a couple of days to be sure we got home safely and that everything was all right. Sure enough, two days later she called to check on me. Then she transferred me to someone to start the paperwork to file a claim. Our policy should cover everything except for a $50 deductible, so some of the cost for the prescriptions I needed will be reimbursed. I don’t know yet what the two emergency room visits will cost, nor what the three visits to the eye clinic will cost as we haven’t received bills yet. We are hopeful that the claim process will go as smoothly as the rest of our experience with this company. But we’ll update this post once everything has been processed, paid, and reimbursed. Fingers crossed.

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