24 Sept 2022

Forward planning for a student gap year

Plans are afoot in our household, and no doubt in many others around the country to launch a young person into summer employment abroad, or even, in our case, a post Leaving Cert, pre-college gap/work year.

Plans are afoot in our household, and no doubt in many others around the country to launch a young person into summer employment abroad, or even, in our case, a post Leaving Cert, pre-college gap/work year.

Getting any teenager to do some forward planning and systematically address all the issues involved in getting a job abroad, or leaving home for any length of time (whether two or 12 months) is like trying to fill a bucket of water using an eyedropper: they’ll get around to it…eventually.

I also know that, while a big part of the growing up process is not having your parents doing everything for you, especially once you’ve turned 18, the simple truth is that time waits for no one. If you really want your nest to be emptied over the summer (or for an gap year) then it is in your interest as well as your child’s to help the departure process with some research.

There are some important travel/money/insurance issues that shouldn’t be left to chance or too long. This week we’ll look at health and travel insurance. Next week: budgeting and bank/money issues.

Health Insurance:

Many families still have private health insurance cover and nearly every popular health insurance plan has some level of ‘emergency medical cover while abroad’ or ‘worldwide emergency cover’.

What you shouldn’t assume, however, is that this overseas health cover is anywhere near adequate enough if your child is going off to work in a foreign country for just a few months or is taking an extended break away from home.

This cover “is not a substitute for travel insurance,” says Dermot Goode of <> , a specialist broker. “It is exactly what it ‘says on the can’ – emergency cover.” The amount of cover – between €65,000-€100,000 - “is woefully inadequate for the US or Canada” and it only pays out “if the member is detained overnight in a medical facility. If your treatment is done in a day, you won’t be able to make a claim.”

Also, you (or your child) may not be able to claim any emergency cover benefit, says Goode unless your health insurer has contacted their emergency number before treatment commences in order to activate the cover so that the health provider can manage where you are treated, how much of a payment they will sanction, etc.” (Such pre-clearance is not expected if you’re on your own when knocked down and brought to a hospital by ambulance, but the insurer must still be contacted as soon as possible, says Goode.) More importantly about the medical cover from private health insurance policies says Goode, “is how long you plan to ‘be abroad’.

Emergency cover applies to multi-trips in any year, “but not usually for any single trip lasting more than usually 30 days duration. They are not suitable cover for young people who are continuously away for several months.”

VHI and Aviva have international health insurance plans that do cover protracted absences from Ireland, says Goode, but they are quite expensive. The young person can be switched over to such a policy for the duration of their travels, with premiums suspended on their Irish policy, “but parents need to watch out for the fact that when the child returns and is put back onto the domestic plan, exemption times for pre-existing conditions will apply: if you child is an asthmatic that means no cover for that waiting period.”

Meanwhile, the European Health Insurance Card that we are all advised to carry when travelling around Europe will help with securing emergency medical care in the public health service of the EU country your child may be visiting or working in, but it doesn’t necessarily cover all the emergency costs (like an ambulance, or drugs they are prescribed) and it doesn’t cover any day to day, non-emergency medical.

Travel Insurance:

Proper travel insurance – the kind that covers medical emergencies, accidents, stolen or lost goods, legal expenses, public liability, travel delays, etc – is a must for a young person.

The commonplace, single or multi-travel policies that costs as little as €75-€100 a year for the whole family “are really not adequate if your child is travelling for longer than 30-45 days, the single trip duration for most policies,” says Goode.

Next, a child who is included in such a policy is not covered over age 18, and they’ll need a separate adult policy no matter for how long they are away.

Also, even if their stay away is shorter than 30 or 45 days, “these policies can be full of exemptions,” such as for pre-existing conditions, “and there will be excess payments,” says Goode. Adventure sports and ‘hazardous’ activities will make the cost soar. Meanwhile, medical benefits are once again usually only paid if the insured person is kept in overnight. Day case medical treatment will nearly always have to be paid out of the person’s own pocket.

There are a number of specific back backer/gap year type policies on the market for extended trips abroad.

The cost of insuring my 18-going-on-19 year old for worldwide, 12 month backpacker cover with Blue Insurances (see <> ), including up to €3 million worth of medical cover (with a €95 per claim excess), plus winter sports cover and up to Level 2 ‘hazardous’ sports activities that includes surfing, bungee jumping and white water rafting, will be c€405.50. (Level 4 hazardous activity cover would bring that premium up to €807.) A three month quote would cost c€240.00 and c€345 for six months.

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