Overseas students, temp workers advised to utilise travel insurance
With the increased popularity of overseas work programmes amongst tertiary-level students and graduates in Jamaica, one critical item that is often overlooked while making all the necessary arrangements and bookings for one’s trip is insurance.
Each year, hundreds of Jamaican students travel to the United States and other countries in the summer to work with the added benefit of experiencing different cultures via programmes such as the highly-subscribed J-1 Work and Travel Cultural Exchange Programme, and the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.
However, catastrophes can and do happen.
Candice Williams, Micro-Insurance Officer at local insurance provider GK Insurance, explained: “Unforeseen events can happen at any time, and having a layer of protection against these is the best way to ensure that your trip isn’t ruined by costly emergency bills and sudden expenses.
"Even the little things can be claimed for too.”
Speaking to an example of a minor but unexpected incident in which a client was thankful to have this insurance, Williams revealed: “It was a medical-related claim. The client ended up getting gastroenteritis and a urinary tract infection while she was travelling in Singapore. For claims having to do with medical expenses, we usually suggest that one contact our emergency contact centre, where a representative will assist in directing them to the nearest medical provider, coordinating the treatment, and then payment handling.”
She continued: “If the client is unable to contact the call centre, however, they do have the option of paying for medical services and claiming upon return to Jamaica. In her case, she had gone ahead and done the latter, and was reimbursed when she came back to Jamaica.”
Often too, when students take up the opportunity to work abroad, they do so with the expectation of earning enough to finance their tuition for the coming school year and to cover other miscellaneous expenses. With this in mind, one can imagine how devastating it would be to lose earnings to unexpected circumstances, including mishaps with flights, accommodations, on-the-ground transportation, lost luggage and even theft.
According to the company that functions as the insurance arm of the GraceKennedy Group, however, utilising travel insurance is still quite uncommon among many Jamaicans, with health and life insurance remaining as the most used and prioritised.
Global Insights International Exchange, a local company that provides international cultural, travel and work exchange solutions to students and other Jamaican youth, also offers internships and educational tours.
Shanique Sinclair, its Director of Operations, said that hundreds of students participate in their programmes annually and, during her tenure, she has witnessed similar emergency situations. “I have had students who have had to do surgery and [luckily] the insurance covered their emergency surgery and they paid the minimal amount.”
Sinclair elaborated that no students have actually ever inquired about travel insurance while undertaking opportunities through her agency. She said: “We have never had any students that have asked that [but] it is something that we encourage.
Paying an extra fee for travel insurance can save one from losing a lot of money in the long run. And, considering the nominal cost involved, it is worth looking into rather than taking a risk with each trip.
Sinclair said: “It is not something that students are very aware of. When we talk to students outside of the programme too and they want advice on travelling outside of the J1, we encourage them and let them know that in travelling you really should have travel insurance."