COMMENT:

I couldn't think of many things worse than being hospitalised miles away from home and far from the support of family and friends, other than being hospitalised miles away from home and the support of family and friends

and

lacking travel insurance.

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Sometimes, even with insurance, things turn pear-shaped. You will remember the sad case of New Zealand woman Abby Hartley, who died in a Balinese hospital a couple of months ago.

Hartley and her husband did have medical insurance but the company said that she hadn't disclosed a pre-existing medical condition and therefore it would not be paying out for the tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills.

Now, another couple is asking the New Zealand public for help because of a medical emergency.

Darryl Creevy and his wife Era were in New Caledonia for a short break when Darryl required emergency, life-saving surgery for a ruptured colon.

The Creevys don't have medical insurance. Era was reported as saying she and her husband were just looking for a cheap holiday but now it has become a very expensive one.

Now, I understand that insurance companies can be bastards. "Pre-existing condition" can be used to avoid paying out on just about anything.

A family friend was due to travel to Europe for six weeks recently but couldn't go at the eleventh hour because she was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening illness.

She had taken out travel insurance, but the insurer is holding out on paying for the costs associated with her cancelled travel because she had been to see her doctor about a persistent cough.

Most of us have had bad coughs this winter — and most of us haven't developed rare illnesses. But her insurer is citing the cough as proof of a pre-existing condition — a condition that had yet to be recognised and diagnosed by her doctor.

But even though insurers can, at times, be hard-hearted, I would never, ever leave the country without travel insurance.

At least, if you have it, you've got a fighting chance of having your bills paid. Without it, you're completely on your own. And if you can afford to travel, surely you can afford the insurance premiums.

A couple in their 60s, going to New Caledonia for a week, would pay just over $200 for travel insurance. Surely that's worth it for peace of mind. And yet according to Southern Cross Travel Insurance, nearly 30 per cent of Kiwis are willing to play Russian Roulette and head off overseas without any cover at all.

How can you possibly lie on a beach and relax without knowing that you've done your best to cover yourself should things turn pear-shaped? Chances are they won't — but that's the nature of insurance. It's there for that freak occurrence that no one imagined would ever happen to them.

The only time my daughter has made me seriously cross in recent years was when she revealed that she and her husband and the baby had travelled to Serbia and the Netherlands without travel insurance.

I pointed out, in rather clipped tones, that should anything have happened to any member of their little family, it would have put our retirement plans, and their future inheritance, severely at risk.

I could almost hear Kate's eyes rolling as she promised that, in future, the family would be covered.

I know she thought I was being overly dramatic, but I like to plan for the worst-case scenario. And I like to take care of myself as much as I can, rather than be forced to rely on the kindness of good-hearted strangers.