Question: Which would you rather have? Option A: a free ride in a private Learjet. Option B: a bill for £270,000. The choice, to a degree, is yours.
Gone are the times when pregnancy was considered a period of internment. These days, as attitudes and the quality of medical care improve, expectant mothers can travel the world until they get closer to their due date. Assuming they have been given a clean bill of health, most airlines are happy to carry ‘Mums-to-be’ up to 27 weeks pregnant after which they are likely to need a letter from a doctor or a midwife confirming the due date and that they are safe to fly. Each airline differs, but generally the cut-off point is 36 weeks.
Whilst swollen ankles, sun burn and indigestion are all given serious consideration, frequently the most important detail is overlooked - travel insurance (particularly in the event of premature birth) - and the consequences can be dire. Few people would be silly enough to travel without insurance, but it does still happen. Some women, having done the right thing and declared their ‘with child’ status, fail to read or maybe understand the small print, leaving them without adequate cover if the baby is born early and has medical problems. In this situation, the mother is insured, as she is named on the policy, but the child is not. A British couple discovered this terrible anomaly recently when their daughter was born in America 13 weeks early, with a heart condition. The insurers informed the parents that they would not be picking up the child’s £3,000 per day care bill, even though it was made clear that the mother was 6 months pregnant at the time of travel. The total care bill currently stands at £270K and continues to rise, and with the prospect of months, rather than days, in hospital this is an anxious time for the parents, already concerned for the health of their new born.
And this is not just a problem in the UK. An Australian mother is currently struggling to raise $60,000 so that her daughter (born 7 weeks early) can fly home from Fiji. Covered by her insurance policy the doctors said the mother is fine to travel, however she gave birth at 33 weeks, so the Medical expenses, accommodation and flights for the baby are not covered.
Whether ignorance, oversight or false economy, the right attention to detail would have changed the outcome of each of these events quite drastically, as policies with adequate cover do exist and are not that expensive. The airlines could do more to raise awareness at the time of booking, as they do with other high risk scenarios. And shouldn’t the insurers be obliged to point out this gap in cover when pregnant women take out a policy? At 31 weeks' pregnant, a British woman recently flew to Japan and no sooner had she landed in Tokyo than she went into early labour. Because the baby was born prematurely, he spent a long time in hospital, and it was 3 months before they were both able to fly home. But she had the right kind of cover, so the insurers paid out the £310,000 in expenses. All it cost the customer was the premium and the excess.
Another UK couple recently made a claim on their Tesco Insurance policy. Whilst holidaying in Spain, having done everything right, the mother unfortunately went into premature labour, again 3 months early. Unable to stop the contractions, local Doctors were forced to induce the birth, delivering a boy weighing just 2lb 10ozs, who was then taken to intensive-care. Although the mother was discharged 3 days later, the family were facing a long time abroad, until the newborn was healthy enough to travel. But then the insurance company made contact and informed the parents they would be flying the baby home in an air ambulance, supplied with an incubator, a doctor and a nurse in attendance. The plane - a private Learjet at a cost of £17,000 to the insurance company. The value of this service to the parents? Priceless…. Oh and the £119 premium their policy cost them.