A boomer learns the hard way about traveling with protection

After a year of high tension thanks to the twin plagues of presidential politics and the pandemic, BoomerCafé wants to do its part to tone things down, which is why for a while, in addition to fresh stories, we’re running some of our “best of” pieces from the past, stories that will remind you that Yes, Virginia, there was some tranquility before the tension.

Back in January last year, before we got slammed by the pandemic, Pat O’Donnell wrote from the Kansas City suburb of Olathe about one of those trips of a lifetime: a week-long cruise off the coast of Alaska. But ERs? Paramedics? A hospital? Those weren’t in his plans, but they became his reality.

Our dream seven-night Alaskan cruise was finally a reality. We booked it a year in advance and anxiously awaited to be pampered aboard the ship while experiencing the beauty of Alaska. During the months before we set sail, we saved, planned, and researched our ports of call. Everything was set for a trip of a lifetime.

Pat and Linda O’Donnell on their cruise.

Our first night was in Anchorage, then by rail down to Whittier on Prince William Sound, where we boarded our ship. Our cabin was comfortable and included a balcony where we could watch the whales and glaciers. Evenings were spent enjoying dinner with other travelers in the dining room, then off to enjoy a live show in the ship’s theater.

Vista of Alaska.

On the last night, I became short of breath and ended up in the ship’s emergency room. After a comprehensive examination by the doctor, x-rays confirmed I had double pneumonia. The medical staff treated me through the night. When we docked in Vancouver in the morning, a team of paramedics was waiting to take me to a local hospital, where I stayed for the next seven nights.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can now say how smart I was to buy travel insurance. While it did add a few hundred dollars to the original cost of the trip, it also saved me more than $40,000.

Does the old ad phrase, “Don’t leave home without it” resonate? From this now “genius” travel planner, please take my advice: when you plan a trip as significant as a cruise, a trip abroad, or a lengthy around the USA, buy travel insurance. Especially if you are a boomer.

As you probably know, basic Medicare does not cover treatment outside the United States. But I was counting on my travel insurance to cover any costs in Canada. Sounds easy, right? Well, what I learned was that my Medicare supplement did, in fact, cover 80% of out-of-country medical treatment. Once that was paid, I could submit a claim for the remaining 20% to the travel insurance carrier.

The travel insurance also covered hotel and meal expenses for my wife while I recovered in the Vancouver hospital. It also paid for a flight nurse to travel with me from Vancouver to Kansas City to monitor my oxygen stats. Did I mention that we were even bumped to business class?

A big lesson learned is, travel insurance does not cover stupidity. While in the Vancouver hospital, I was able to connect to its wifi and use my iPhone. I ignored the texts from my carrier about buying out-of-country phone service. A few weeks after returning home, I received a bill of over $700 from my phone company. After explaining my situation, it did offer a small discount. So travel insurance, and out-of-country phone service are musts.

But remember, save all receipts, you’ll need them when filing your claims. And be ready, because if you’re anything like me, it will take at least four months to process your requests for reimbursement.

So here’s the most important advice of all: be that boomer who “knows a thing or two ’cause you’ve read a thing or two.”

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