Q: I recently took a Mediterranean cruise on Oceania’s MS Marina. I bought Allianz Global Assistance trip insurance through my travel agent, and paid $789 for coverage for me and my wife. The travel insurance includes $25,000 medical coverage.

Three days before the cruise ended, I awoke shivering with a temperature of 103 degrees. The ship’s medical staff treated me with IV antibiotics and other medications, and gave me a chest X-ray. I was in the sick bay for two days.

I am over 65 and have Medicare health insurance, which does not cover anything outside the U.S. That is one main reason I bought the trip insurance. I sent the medical records and invoice from Oceania to Allianz once I returned from my cruise and started a claim. After two weeks, I called and chatted with Allianz online and was told that the claim was still under review.

After three weeks, Allianz sent me a request for an explanation of benefits from my primary insurance. I e-mailed the company back letting it know that there is no explanation of benefits, since I can’t file a claim from out of the country with Medicare.

How long can Allianz drag this on? It advertises quick claim resolution, and states that it reviews claims in seven to 10 days. I would consider that to be untrue. I paid Oceania $5,929 for two days of onboard medical care. Can you help expedite this claim?

 

A: Did you say you paid $5,929 for two days in the sick bay? What did they do, give you a makeover? These expenses should have been covered by your travel insurance, of course — and quickly. When Allianz started asking for more time, it should have explained why and given you an estimate on how much longer your claim would take. Unfortunately, travel insurance companies don’t always do that, so they leave you guessing.

You made the right call, buying insurance. Without your policy, you would have paid $5,929 out of pocket with no hope for reimbursement.

Travel insurance works in a deliberate — often painfully deliberate — way. An adjuster needs to verify that you’re not covered by other insurance and complete other kinds of due diligence before cutting a check.

It appears Allianz had asked you to file a claim with your primary and/or supplemental health insurer and to contact it when your claim had been finalized. It also requested an explanation of benefits or a letter of denial of coverage, both of which are routine but can take some time. For a claim like this, they really need to cross the t’s and dot the i’s.

I contacted Allianz on your behalf, and it paid your entire claim. So what was the holdup? Evidently, it really needed you to file a claim with Medicare, even though the claim would be denied. Rules are rules.

 

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.