December and the annual migration down to the coast or overseas will soon be a reality for the majority of South Africans as the summer holiday shutdown begins. Most of us are vigilant about our preparations ahead of going away.


We make sure our car has been serviced and also make arrangements for our animals and homes to be looked after and might event double check our household insurance policies. But, the majority of us are not as good when it comes to checking whether we have cover for medical emergencies while away, especially when travelling outside of South Africa.


Consider travel insurance to ensure you are fully covered in the event of a health scare while travelling. If you are unfortunate enough to have an accident in a foreign country the last thing you and your family need to be worrying about is the cost of hospitalisation


‘Holidays are part of living a healthy lifestyle and we encourage our members to de-stress from the daily grind of life by taking some well-deserved time out,’ says Gerhard Van Emmenis, Principal Officer of Bonitas Medical Fund. ‘We urge all our members to ensure they take their medical aid cards with them when they travel locally to ensure that will be taken care of in the case of an emergency. For those travelling internationally, we offer an International Travel on all our plans, except BonCap.’


Medical expenses that you might encounter when travelling abroad can be prohibitively expensive, especially with a fluctuating exchange rate. Van Emmenis says that to avoid having your holiday and finances totally ruined, look at what your current medical aid scheme offers in terms of medical travel cover and, if necessary, top this up with additional travel insurance.


The International Travel Benefit, offered by Bonitas covers medical emergencies when you travel outside the borders of South Africa. Cover is:

  • Provided for up to 90 days per trip, irrespective of the number of trips made during the year
  • Limited to R5 million per person, up to a maximum of R10 million per family
  • Subject to certain exclusions (such as pre-existing conditions which is limited to R100 00 and certain dangerous sports activities)


The benefits include cover for:

  • Mandatory vaccine expenses (ie when a country you’re travelling to requires certain vaccinations)
  • Emergency medical expenses
  • Medical evacuation and transport
  • Hospitalisation
  • Out-patient and in-patient treatment
  • Optical and dental expenses
  • Travel assist services


What does your medical aid cover?

It is important to check with your medical aid scheme to see what you are covered for and, just as vital, is notifying them of your travel plans. ‘Members need to activate the international travel cover when they are planning to travel out of the country,’ explains Van Emmenis. ‘The Bonitas cover is underwritten by an authorised financial services provider who need time to activate the policy. Ensuring you have cover prior to leaving will allow the medical aid to provide members with the necessary information needed in terms of vaccinations, as well as who to contact in case of an emergency abroad.’


Paying for travel by credit card

Almost all credit card providers have some form of automatic travel insurance if you use your credit card to book your air tickets. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the medical benefits offered will be adequate. Make sure you know what is covered, what the total monetary value for the cover is and where there might be a shortfall.


Travel insurance policies

There are a host of insurance companies and travel organisations – including the AA – who offer travel insurance. Often these are affordable as a form of ‘topping up’ on your existing cover that you have via your credit card insurance or medical aid.


However, if is wise to shop around for a plan that covers all bases, don’t assume that because you have travel insurance you are covered for every eventuality. In addition, check what the claim process is as you might have to keep all records, bills and payment receipted while travelling.


Cover for the adventurous

Although there are various policies you can take out for a short term period, ie for the duration of your holiday, you do need to also consider the type of holiday you are going on and the country you are visiting. Good advice to follow to us to check whether there are any travel warnings or restrictions around the city or country you are visiting and plan accordingly. Make sure you have natural disasters covered on your travel plan.


Often perceived dangerous adventure trips for the adrenalin junkie seeker will not be covered or there will be a surcharge. This means you will need to specifically look at taking out ‘hazardous activity cover’, designed to cover accidents that could happen but there are limits here too.


‘In all honesty, none of us want to think about ill health or possible disasters when we are excitedly planning a holiday,’ says Van Emmenis. ‘But there is nothing worse than being unprepared and in the case of an accident or medical emergency, not only will the holiday be ruined but financially it can be devastating too.’


Life is unpredictable so the best thing you can do before your next holiday is be prepared. Find out what your existing medical aid policy covers, research additional travel insurance options and make sure you have adequate cover and, above all, read all the fine print. Stay healthy and safe these holidays!


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