Insurers misleading relatives on funeral and repatriation travel cover

Published:  17 Jun at 6 PM
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Bereaved home country families of expats dying overseas are being forced to pay for funerals or repatriation of their loved one due to health insurers’ confusing jargon.

The bodies of around 90 per cent of British citizens who die abroad are repatriated for funerals, with the total costs running up to £17,000. Even when travel or health insurance has been taken out, bereaved families are finding that unclear wording, exclusions and confusing small print in the policies is barring them from claiming.

Many insurance companies have brought in restrictions on the amount which can be claimed towards repatriation costs, with £1,000 now the norm, less excess deductions. Rejections are rising fast, involving one in every 10 claims, and formerly adequate coverage for overseas burials is now as low as £350, leaving home-based relatives of the deceased to cover the balance.

Whilst many rejections involve fatalities related to hazardous activities not covered by the policy or pre-existing conditions not disclosed, there’s no doubt that insurance companies are doing their best to limit their liabilities. Some companies now refuse to cover older expats or travellers for repatriation costs and are hiding the details in the small print.

Poorly-worded contracts can leave the insured confused as to the real intent, as well as giving underwriters wriggle-room on the decision not to pay out. Research by a leading UK newspaper found that, in many cases, insurers are still using wording which either misleads or is open to interpretation.

One recent example involved an older man who died abroad, having purchased insurance which stated that up to £2,000 of the costs of ‘burial or the alternative repatriation of a body or ashes’ would be paid. When his widow submitted a claim, the insurer told her she was only covered for a total of £2,000, and only agreed to pay the full costs after broker intervention.
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