According to the Australian and New Zealand Departments of Foreign Affairs, in 2018, over 23,500 Australian tourists and a further 4,250 New Zealanders will travel to Nepal. Statistically, 833 of these travellers, or 3%, will experience a medical emergency while in the country.
When the average medical bill for outpatients is approximately $2,000 United States Dollars, and the average bill for an inpatient is $12,000 USD, travel insurance companies in Australia and New Zealand are paying millions of dollars on medical case fees in Nepal. This is not including the travellers who will require a helicopter evacuation or air ambulance which can cost upwards of $50,000 USD.
To help manage these cases, in September 2017, Traveller Assist, an Australian based medical assistance and evacuation company sent their Operations Manager to Kathmandu on a three-month joint-venture with a major travel insurance company.
Jonathan Bancroft, Managing Director of Traveller Assist said, “As a company, we and our clients have been so happy with the positive results of this joint venture that we have decided to make it permanent, launching a Traveller Assist office in Kathmandu.”
Forest Williams, Operations Manager for Traveller Assist added, “In five-months, I have managed and coordinated over 250 medical cases. Our ‘boots-on-the-ground’ approach to medical assistance and cost containment in Nepal has so far saved our clients over $3 million in medical care and evacuation costs.”
Traveller Assist has also become a local source of employment in Nepal after successfully hiring six former British Army Gurkhas, including two doctors, who all have experience operating on Everest as adventurers, medics and sherpas. “Our proactive approach and alternative methods to medical assistance in Nepal, in specific, how travellers are rescued, has reduced the amount of unnecessary helicopter evacuations.” Forest Williams added.
Nepal has long been identified as a pain-point for travel insurance companies, with language barriers, high costs of medical care and reports of poor hygiene, turning even the most routine cases into a costly and complex medical problem.
For travel insurance companies to carry on providing cover for travellers in Nepal, underwriters issued a warning to insurers for them to drastically reduce their medical care costs. It was therefore imperative for insurers to retain control of medical cases, with a firm understanding and timeline of the medical treatment plan, and an accurate assessment of the predicted medical and repatriation costs.
To guarantee this, Traveller Assist staff now attend the hospitals and clinics of each patient, send an initial transcript of the verbal conversation between doctors and hospital staff, and then supervise and monitor the case. Our services also include, issuing a guarantee of payment letter, paying medical bills on behalf of the patient and insurer, and translating all medical documents. “The relationship we are building with hospitals, clinics and rescue companies is imperative for the future of travel and tourism in Nepal, and for insurers to keep offering insurance to travellers.” Forest Williams added.