Southern Cross Travel Insurance launches a new International Medical Only product for cost conscious travellers 

4 June 2024 by Sue Hamilton


  • Southern Cross reveals how small mishaps cost thousands in medical bills when travelling 
  • Avoiding purchasing travel insurance, well think again 

With the cost of living biting, it’s tempting for some to write off travel insurance as a luxury rather than a ‘must-have’. According to Southern Cross Travel Insurance’s (SCTI) Future of Travel 2024 report, while 51 per cent of New Zealand travellers put an escape at the top of their ‘must spends’, 10 per cent claim they won’t purchase travel insurance as a way to save money.  

However, there’s a mammoth risk.  

While the likes of slip and fall accidents might seem inconsequential at first glance, they can lead to huge medical bills. For example, over the last year SCTI has supported one traveller who fell in the USA and incurred more than NZD1.2 million in medical fees. Total medical claims from 1 July 2023 to 30 April 2024 are running at more than $9 million.  

With the need for cover and acknowledging some New Zealanders are not wanting to take the risk of no insurance but are trying to save wherever they can, Southern Cross has launched an International Medical Only product designed for the more budget-conscious traveller who is looking for medical expenses cover only for their overseas adventures.  

Jo McCauley, CEO, says, “While a small number of travellers think they can get away without taking out comprehensive insurance, many New Zealand travellers underestimate the potential costs associated with common travel mishaps. From trips and slips outside a restaurant to piercing a foot playing a quick game of football, what seems like something small can end up costing thousands of dollars in medical costs.  

“For around $12 a day1 it’s certainly well worth investing in affordable insurance for health cover rather than panicking about how on Earth you’ll meet hospital costs far from home.” 

“The Future of Travel report showed us that 51 per cent of New Zealanders planning to travel this year consider travel to be more important than other discretionary spending, however 85 per cent of those doing so are looking to cut costs to afford their adventure.  

“International Medical Only is an alternative to our flagship International Comprehensive policy; catering to those on a tighter budget who still want medical protection but without other regular features of travel insurance policies, such as cover for cancellations and lost luggage.” 

As we were looking into what travellers need and want from insurers it became increasingly clear that younger travellers (under 30) are more likely to take the risk of travelling with no insurance to save money. We’re also seeing an increasing reliance of older travellers (65+) on credit card travel insurance which might not offer all the protection they need.

“In our experience, for both young and old, medical costs can escalate beyond what most people can afford when unexpected health issues occur for uninsured travellers.” 

McCauley points to just some of SCTI’s claims resulting from seemingly simple mishaps or sudden illness over the last two years: 

  • 10 year old skiing in the USA suffered multiple injuries and some further complications as a result - $406,000
  • A 39 year old tripped and fell at a skate park in the USA and broke their arm requiring urgent surgery - $107,190
  • A 69 year old fell backwards at his hotel injuring his back. He required an emergency air ambulance out of Indonesia due to inadequate local hospital care - $256,959
  • A 13 year old near drowning in a hotel pool needed inpatient care in Indonesia - $36,000
  • A 31 year old fell off a motorbike and fractured his ribs in Indonesia - $43,000
  • A 15 year old stood on a metal peg while playing a friendly game of football on a field in South Africa - $36,000
  • A 56 year old slipped on a mat coming out of a restaurant and broke his leg in Indonesia - $39,000
  • An 80 year old slipped on a wet marble floor getting out of the hotel shower in Italy - $41,500
  • An 80 year old twisted her leg and broke her ankle in her hotel room in Germany - $42,000
  • An 81 year old, suffered a coronary event in Thailand, requiring surgery, a business class upgrade and a suitable companion to get home - $16,500 

McCauley says, ”When you look at the cost of a policy against the actual medical costs Southern Cross members have claimed, it puts everything in perspective.” 

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[1] Based on two adults (40 yrs old), plus two dependent children, for 8 days travelling to Fiji, no excess, including a 5% discount for Southern Cross health Society membership. Or $12.50 per day if no discount applied.