Tourist Steve Kokich considers himself lucky.
Not only did he survive a horrifying hit-and-run while on holiday in Bali, he was spared an eye-watering medical bill of $43,000, thanks to a genius tip shortly before the accident.
The 42-year-old New Zealand man needed emergency surgery, multiple blood transfusions, a 25cm rod and 17 screws inserted in his leg, and spent two weeks in hospital, after he was thrown off his motorcycle during a holiday in Kuta in January.
“Someone just pulled out in front of me and hit me off the bike,” Mr Kokich said.
“I don’t think they even stopped to see what they’d hit. I couldn’t walk and was in so much pain, but I count myself lucky — it could have been so much worse.”
Mr Kokich didn’t take out travel insurance before his trip to Bali, which would have meant he would have to fork out for $43,000 in medical expenses he racked up at Kuta’s BIMC Hospital, plus the huge cost of being medically evacuated to New Zealand for more treatment and rehabilitation.
But in stroke of good luck, three days after he arrived in Bali — and right before the accident — he was speaking to his mum over the phone when he realised he’d forgotten to get insured.
While it has always been the case travel insurance policies need to be taken out before day one of travel, a small number of insurance companies are starting to offer late travel insurance to travellers who have already started their holiday.
Mr Kokich managed to buy travel insurance from Bali — even though at the time he didn’t know how much he’d end up needing it.
“I didn’t think it was a big deal, but most places wouldn’t sell me cover because I’d already left home,” he said.
“If I hadn’t found a company that did, I would be a lot worse off right now.”
He said the insurer, Travel Insurance New Zealand, were involved within moments of the crash.
“I was lying on the side of the road and got straight through to their emergency people,” he said.
“They got me to the hospital, contacted my mum and dad, called in to check on me after the surgery and organised my flight back home. I was pretty surprised and am very thankful to both them and the doctors for patching me up.”
YES, YOU CAN BUY INSURANCE MID-HOLIDAY
The kind of mid-holiday insurance Mr Kokich got is a new phenomenon that only a handful of insurers offer so far.
“Many travellers do not realise that most insurers’ terms require you to start your policy in your home country, otherwise the policy is invalid,” Comparetravelinsurance.com.au director Natalie Ball said.
“But there are a few companies responding to travellers’ needs. ‘Already overseas travel insurance’, as it is known in the industry, is a good option to explore if you’re on holidays and realise you’ve forgotten to get cover or your policy has expired.
“While we always recommend travellers buy travel insurance as soon as they have spent money on flights or accommodation, Mr Kokich’s case highlights that with the possibility of astronomical medical bills, it’s better late than never to get covered.”
1Cover, Downunder and Travel Insurance Direct are the Australian brands that offer already
“They all have different age limits and waiting periods, so it’s important to check the Product Disclosure Statement carefully to see if it will work for you and your circumstances,” Ms Ball said.
Ms Ball said it was especially useful for long-term travellers and others who are travelling with no fixed end date — if they were still oversees when their original policy ran out, it was a way of staying insured until they decided to end their trip.
BUT THERE ARE CATCHES WITH MOTORCYCLES
Mr Kokich was one of a growing list of travellers in Bali injured in motorcycle accidents.
Holiday-makers need to know travel insurance — whether they bought it from home, or after the start of their holiday — won’t always cover them in those accidents.
Mr Kokich’s medical expenses were fully covered because he had a current motorcycle license, he was wearing his helmet, and he had not been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
He was also riding a 125cc motorcycle, which is typical in Bali, but other kinds of motorcycles may not be covered by insurance.
“Most insurers limit cover to people without a local or Australian motorcycle license to scooters of 50cc or less, which are not widely available in Bali,” Ms Ball said.
“If you find yourself riding a bike with an engine displacement more than this, or even travelling as a pillion passenger to someone who isn’t licensed, you most certainly will be riding uninsured.
“Additionally, those with motorcycle licenses will find that many brands have maximum engine size limits.
“Even if you’re licensed and operating the right size engine, being under the influence or failing to wear a helmet can immediately void your policy also.”
Last year, an insured Australian woman managed to avoid $62,000 in medical costs after she was riding pillion in a scooter that crashed into a car in Canggu, Bali.
The horror crash left Amethyst Chrystal, 19, with five facial fractures, a shattered kneecap, exposed femur, and tendons and ligaments ripped from the bone.
She also needed to be medically evacuated home to Australia, an expensive trip, usually in business class, that requires on-board medical staff for mid-flight care.