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Shock Diagnosis Forces Insurance Rethink
Surviving cancer prompted motorhomer Graeme Sinden to question the cover provided by insurance companies if you were diagnosed while on the road
Words and Images by: GRAEME SINDEN W93165

Just when my wife and I thought we had earned the privilege to step back from work and business commitments and undertake even more trips in our cherished motorhome, I was forced to rethink the future following a shock diagnosis of a cancerous growth in my bowel. Suddenly I faced immediate surgery, a 12- day hospital stay, weeks of postoperative convalescing followed by a six month, 12 treatment program of chemotherapy.

My wife and I continue to enjoy our motorhome trips between my fortnightly chemotherapy treatments, albeit in a shortened version of 7 or 8 days at a time.

I wanted to share my experiences to highlight issues that may slip under the radar in normal circumstances. While the subject matter may appear to be all doom and gloom, hopefully by bringing it to the surface for discussion among CMCA members and others, it may well prevent additional stress for those of us out on the road should disaster strike in the future.

I often contemplate what if I received this very same diagnosis and required immediate surgery  when my wife and I were touring Tasmania across the other side of Australia in our motorhome 12 months earlier? The mind boggles at the potential complications this would present being so far away from home in another state across the Bass Strait to boot.

Knowing how difficult it was to overcome the shock of the initial diagnosis and subsequent traumas with the support of family and friends, the thought sends shivers down my spine thinking how we would have coped on our own.

All sorts of potential risks present themselves when we travel: slippery rocks when fishing, unstable ground when hiking, rips in unfamiliar water, vehicle hazards, campfires, the list goes on. These risks intensify for those who have sold their homes and are on the road permanently. On a trip we tend to secure our homes,  make sure the gardens are cared for, organise mail distribution, and other incidentals and check insurance policies on both the family home and motorhome to ensure peace of mind when travelling.

But in reality, do we understand what insurance we have and if it provides adequate cover when we hit the road? Is the family home covered if it’s not occupied for any length of time? What exactly is included in your current motorhome policy? Is your vehicle covered in all states and territory of Australia? The devil is in the detail and insurance is of no use at all if it’s inadequate or inappropriate for your circumstances.


With this in mind, I spoke with Con Tsobanopoulos, CEO of Ken Tame and Associates (CMCA’s preferred motorhome and caravan insurer)  to find out the answers. I wanted to know how I would have fared if, in fact, I was hospitalised for major surgery as outlined in the scenario above, while motorhoming out of state in Tasmania.

“Had this situation occurred (hospitalised whilst motoring away from home and in a foreign State), your KTA Comprehensive RV Insurance would have provided you with the peace of mind knowing that if you required transportation, accommodation, a return trip home or even transporting your vehicle back home as a result of your inability to travel due to the unexpected medical emergency, you would be covered for any of these costs you incurred, up to the value of $10,000, for any one event.

“This includes cover for your immediate family whilst travelling with you and is an automatic inclusion in your policy.”

So what kind of insurance cover people should review and take up before embarking on a trip?

“At a minimum, comprehensive recreational vehicle insurance, health insurance and ambulance cover (nationwide) would be my suggestions to recreational travellers.

‘Non-emergency ambulance cover’ maybe available as an option

“It should not be assumed this level of cover would be provided to the RV market if they are insured elsewhere. I would strongly advise members to check the level of cover provided on their current policies.”

Following my discussion with Con, I contacted HBF Health Limited, a major healthcare insurance provider in Western Australia, and asked them for their comments and input on this subject.

What about private healthcare? 

I spoke with Leroy Pereira, Manager Product Development at HBF Health, to find out if the cover offered by HBF Healthcare would extend to all states of Australia?

“Yes it does.”

Great. But what about ambulance cover when out on the tracks?

Well, according to Leroy, HBF provides urgent ambulance transport by road to a hospital emergency department in its standard hospital, extras and package (also known as a “combined policy”) in all states, but air ambulance transportation is not included.

“For these scenarios, transportation may be provided by the RFDS where available. In Western Australia, members with HBF hospital cover can also purchase cover for non-urgent ambulance (as classified by ambulance provider St John  Ambulance WA) as an optional addon,” Leroy explains.

If you require patient transfer to your home state due to an illness or injury, Leroy says you’ll need to access your travel insurance policy.

“Cover for this type of transportation may be available via domestic travel insurance and is typically on a case-by-case basis dependent on the opinion of the treating doctor.

“We recommend contacting your travel insurer to confirm what cover is available under their domestic travel insurance policies.”

Insurance holders may have to rely on the RFDS for transport by air

Leroy recommends readers contact their health fund to understand exactly what they’re covered for in what circumstances.

So there you have it; insurance can be a minefield and there are no silver bullets. Both Ken Tame Insurance and HBF Health Limited recommend policy holders contact their insurers to understand the level of cover they have included in their specific policies.

The level of cover varies considerably from individual providers. It is vital you know and fully understand it before setting out on a road trip.

In my own experience, while I was covered for most items on my private health insurance policy, I was shocked at the huge gap payable for radiology services while in hospital. Services like CT scans, x-rays, blood tests and other pathology tests were not fully covered by my health care insurer leaving a significant gap for payment after the Medicare refund.

Insurance is there to protect you ‘just in case it is needed’; however, if you do not have the cover you need, it’s of little comfort or use when required.

Tags: Insurance Sickness Cover Motorhome Campervan RV Caravan TAS Tasmania Spirit of Tasmania VIC Victoria Bass Strait Sheffield
Category: Features
Written: Fri 01 Sep 2017
Printed: September, 2017
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