Hooray for Travel Insurance! Just keep traveling, fellow Americans…

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Author’s Note: Medical issues of a sensitive nature discussed here…

Well, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d write a post lauding the insurance industry, but since I once wrote a ‘sh*t-list’ post on the bad ethics of bad bizniz, here, then I guess it’s only fair that I write a special post for one of the good guys, in this case Aon Travel Insurance, who just wrote me a check for almost $2222 (I’m too lazy to look up the actual number), for what was hopefully the last of a series of ‘pee gravel’ episodes in my ‘Year of the Kidney Stones’. I almost didn’t even file the claim, I was so skeptical…

Back story: I’ve traveled to some 155 countries, but almost NEVER got the suggested shots, much less purchased travel insurance. After all, some of the shots seemed worse than the disease itself, and travel insurance was only as good as the doctor, and the hospital, and the country, and the policy, AND…

IMG_2567Youth can cover a multitude of sins. THEN I got kidney stones, lots of them, the kind and the size that can block your urinary tract, dead in the water, so to speak, such that a catheter up your little thingie actually feels good, such that the little things in life become the big things in life, and all you really want is just to be normal, OR…

At least get some help paying the bill. That’s where the insurance comes in, of course, sooner the better, better late than never, anything better than nothing at all. Because you’ll have to pay the bill yourself, more often than not, and then make a claim for reimbursement. The idea that you’re gonna’ make a call while you’re stuck up on a cliff with a sprained ankle, and the insurance company is gonna’ fly in a chopper for air evac is not the way it usually works, if ever, I don’t think…

So now that I’m over sixty years old I get travel insurance all the time, just in case, because you never know, but it’s certainly a whole lot more likely over that magic number, as logic would suggest. It’s like having an old beater of a car: they’re fine around town, just patch them up and keep going. But out on the open road? Better allow some extra time…

IMG_2196And get the protection plan. Who knows? It might pay off. And it did—handsomely. After a killer kidney stone in April 2016, that saw me in and out of ER in Los Angeles, CA, US of A, that is, multiple times over a period of two months, I finally got outta’ town with a fairly expensive travel insurance plan in hand, figuring I just might need it, given the stones, and the fact that I was traveling on Air China. It’s easy to get when booking a flight, BTW, just click on the button before leaving the confirmation page, then pay…

But I didn’t need it on that four-month trip. Still, I got another plan when I returned to Asia last December 2016, this time an inexpensive one, figuring the crisis was long past—not true. I had a scare in Myanmar last January 2017, urine flow blocked for several hours, during which time I pretty much saw my life pass before my eyes—and made tentative plans for self-evacuation, back to Thailand, my second home. The time limit to void your bladder is about twenty-four hours—at most—and Burma is primitive…

And then it passed, well la di da, laissez les bon temps rouler, and catch the next bus to Inle Lake. And then the same thing happened again, two-three weeks later, first day back in Thailand, on the border in Mae Sot, for two-three hours, then ssspppitt ptui, and we’re all clear once again, BUT…

IMG_2193This is getting scary. Then it finally happened. I got one that wouldn’t pass. Worst of all, I was in outback Kampuchea. So after six to eight hours, and a couple or three visits to some extremely incompetent clinics, I booked a taxi ride for $100 back to Phnom Penh. Next morning I can piss a little, but it still won’t pass—so I catch a flight to Bangkok. Next morning: same deal—piss a little, but it still won’t pass. So I get an estimate from the main ex-pat hospital, then I shop around…

Cut to the chase: within two days I’ve had an operation to remove the stone, AND—this is important—have a plan to prevent future ones, fingers crossed, all gods bribed handsomely. But I can’t finish this without emphasizing that the Thai doctor and hospital accomplished more in two days than the LA hospital, ER, primary care, and Obamacare accomplished in two months—AT FAR LESS COST!

So now my main concern is to have travel insurance when I go back to the US, not when I travel elsewhere, since the US is the worst nightmare for healthcare, where the insurance companies and hospitals are all in cahoots, and not for your best interests. You really need an advocate. Hospitals spit out bills like ‘backy chew, and an insurance company just says ‘no’. There’s only one problem: you can’t do that. Your only hope is to bargain the final bill, almost always vastly inflated, like thieves in the night…

And sure enough, last month in the US, I had another stone, and it passed in 2-3 seconds, not hours, much less days. So this story has a happy ending, I hope. The check should’ve cleared by now. And ‘oh yeah’: I’m much better now, though my travel career may be largely over, since my university career has started back up, going for my M.A. In Buddhist Studies, fingers crossed…

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