Australians Forgetful of Travel Insurance

Australians are reminded about importance of travel insurance
Australians are reminded about importance of travel insurance
Up to 1.6 million travelling Australians abroad have no travel insurance.

With the festive season just around the corner, Australians are reminded about the importance of travel insurance.

Recent statistics show that up to 1.6 million Australians who travel abroad each year do not take out any form of travel insurance.

An alarming 30% of people never – or seldom – remember to take out insurance before they leave Australia for their trip abroad, according to a survey commissioned by lastminute.com.au travel website.

Nearly 5.5 million Australians visited overseas last year, with many of them booking their trips over the internet instead of using the traditional travel agent to do the work for them.

While travel agents are obliged to offer travel insurance, online sites may not and many travellers simply forget to take out cover for their trips abroad.

“In the past, people were buying insurance through their travel agent when they booked. Now more people are booking online, insurance has become all too easy to forget,” said the head of research for a market analyst group.

The government and insurance industry cannot stress enough the importance of sufficient cover when travelling overseas.

“You need insurance before travelling, medical cover in particular. It is a must-have for overseas,” said the analyst. “We have a public health care system which will look after you in an emergency. Other parts of the world are not so fortunate. In the US, in particular, medical costs are quite high.”

As many as 25,000 Australians find themselves in difficulty each year, with 1200 of them admitted to hospital. Without the right travel insurance and sufficient cover, many of these patients could find themselves facing astronomical medical bills.

Travellers are thus advised to remember to pack their travel insurance next time they plan for a trip.

Support Private Health Insurance Say Experts

Study shows that private hospitals are better than public ones
Study shows that private hospitals are better than public ones
Plans are still to cut back on support to the private health insurance.

Despite the findings by a government initiated study of the Productivity Commission that private hospitals are better than public ones in Australia, the Rudd government is still going ahead with plans to cut back on support to the private health insurance sector.

The Chief Executive of the Australian Private Hospitals Association, Michael Roff, questioned the logic of these planned cuts and said that the government should be doing its utmost to encourage Australians to use private hospitals and not public ones.

“While the Productivity Commission has acknowledged that the data is somewhat experimental, it clearly demonstrates that private hospitals are safer and cost less,” said Roff.

According to the details released by the Commission, there was a 50% less chance of developing an infection in a private hospital than in a public one, in the same category of health care.

“The question is, if the private sector can deliver such results, what is the government’s justification for directing resources away from it, and winding back the 30 per cent rebate?” asked Roff. “People should be supported in going private.”

However, the precision and reliability of the data was questioned by a number of sources who said that the information was too limited to make such sweeping judgments about the public health system.

“Hospitals in both sectors need to lift their game in terms of collecting important data,” said Professor John Dwyer, of the Australian Healthcare Reform Alliance. “The information is not reliable enough.”

Professor Dwyer encouraged the promotion of a partnership between the private and public health insurance sectors.

Underinsurance Rife in Australia

Homeowners across Australia are insufficiently covered
Homeowners across Australia are insufficiently covered
In Queensland, one in three households are underinsured.

Homeowners across Australia have been warned that they are insufficiently covered in terms of insurance and that underinsurance is one of the major problems facing Australian households today.

According to the latest statistics, one in three Queenslanders are ‘dangerously’ underinsured.

The Executive General Manager for Suncorp Personal Insurance, Jason McCracken, highlighted the serious problem of underinsurance in Australia and said: “It’s alarming to think that many householders are putting themselves at great financial risk by not having an adequate level of insurance.”

One of the most underinsured areas, ironically, is the home, which contains the policyholder’s most valuable assets.

The majority of homeowners have protection, but they forget to update their policies over the years, forgetting that the addition of new appliances and gadgets, as well as renovations and other changes can add substantial value to their homes.

As such, a policy that was taken out when the homeowner was still single, for example, may not be suitable to cover the needs of an entire family ten years down the line.

“Householders should review their insurance policy at least every year and consider updating their sum insured if they have purchased additional contents or completed any renovations that may increase the cost of building,” said McCracken.

“Make sure you go through the house and consider your contents items room by room,” he advised. “Think about any new purchases, and remember to include the contents of your wardrobe and the children’s toys and belongings as all of these can add up quickly to increase replacement costs.”

Insurance Group Reveals Interesting Driver Stats

Interesting fact about Australian drivers revealed
Interesting fact about Australian drivers revealed
A study with vehicle owners found that Queensland drivers were the most dangerous.

Australian online insurance provider, 1Cover revealed some interesting facts about the country’s drivers, after conducting a study involving over 1,300 adult vehicle owners.

Unfortunately, drivers in Queensland were found to be the most dangerous in the country, yet – ironically – 96% said they were annoyed when other drivers breached road etiquette.

84% of Queensland drivers said that had dangerous driving habits including speeding, not giving way and not checking blind spots when changing lanes.

However, Queenslanders were outdone by drivers in New South Wales who earned 1Cover’s notorious title for the worst drivers in Australia. Road crimes included blocking other cars from changing lanes deliberately and road rage.

On the flip side, the title for the most courteous drivers went to Western Australian drivers, with the overwhelming majority – 98% – saying that they were upset and peeved when no courtesy was shown to them on the roads.

Naturally, 1Cover insurance group also examined the men-versus-women drivers debate and found that – unsurprisingly – women came out tops in terms of safe driving.

“We were not surprised that men admit to being more reckless on the roads,” said the Managing Director of 1Cover, Eddie Feltham. “This is reflected by our claims data which shows men have far more accidents than women.”

“In fact,” said Feltham, “it is an industry wide standard that car insurance premiums are more expensive for men than they are for women.”

Men had a long list of driving faults stacked against them including not stopping at zebra crossings (30% compared to 19% of women) and not giving way at roundabouts (31% to 21%).

Interestingly, both sexes were guilty of speeding, with 86% of men admitting to do so, compared to 82% of women.

Pet Insurance Industry Grows

People are turning to pet insurance
People are turning to pet insurance
Vet procedures are expensive, some costing as much as $6000, so owners are examining their options

One of the newest trends in the Australian market is to take out pet insurance in a bid to counter the growing cost of animal care in the country.

It is not unknown for Australian pet owners to fork out thousands of dollars per visit in order to keep their four legged friends in good health, but the recession and steeper vet fees have forced many to look for a way to keep costs down.

According to consumer advocate, Choice, pet insurance policies range from $100 to $610 a year and can cover anything from surgery to chronic illnesses.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said that in the past six months, there has been a significant growth in the number of pet owners who have taken out insurance policies. “More and more people are waiting to lock in their monthly finances,” she noted.

While pet insurance is a huge industry in the United Kingdom, it has been slower taking off in Australia. “It hasn’t quite got the attention it deserves here,” said Dr. Warren Foreman, the president of the Australian Veterinary Association in South Australia. “Australians seem to take bigger risks.”

But the cost of vet visits is enough to make Australians think again. Some procedures cost up to $6000 in the case of hip or knee replacement, and bills between $2000 and $3000 are “routine”, according to Dr. Foreman.

One woman, who has her dogs insured, said she received $13,000 back out of the $15,000 she has paid in vet bills until now. “It makes a huge difference because you’re not second guessing what you should do,” she said. “I’m prepared to do anything.”

Fewer Australians Investing in Stocks

An ASX study finds that the number of those who own shares is declining
An ASX study finds that the number of those who own shares is declining
The average portfolio value has dropped too by 31.7% compared to 4 years ago

An Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) share ownership survey conducted from November through December 2008 found a 26% decline in the percentage of Australians who own shares over the past four years.

The study, which examined investors who directly own shares and self-managed funds, also uncovered a worrying 31.7% decrease in the average value of an investor?s portfolio, to $130,000?down from $190,600 just four years ago. Additionally, the survey indicates a number of investors have completely opted out of the stock market?15% of the 2400 investors sampled sold all shares without reinvesting.

The ASX study, conducted biannually since 1991, shows the percentage of individuals who invest directly in the stock market to have remained consistent at roughly 25%. Thus, the decline in Australians who invest their funds in the stock markets is attributed mainly to self-managed funds. Moreover, a change in the 2006 survey now includes self-managed super funds (SMSFx); without the inclusion of which there would be an additional 3% drop in the number of investors.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. Even at the conclusion of the study in late 2008?the height of the Wall Street downturn signaled by the collapse of investment bank giant Lehman Brothers?investors expected the market to improve. A plurality (43%) of respondents claimed that now was a good time to purchase securities whilst no respondents stated that one should sell.

Recent market activity proves this to be true: the All Ordinaries index is now nearly 22% higher than its low of 3111.70 on 6 March 2009. However, the index must rise nearly 80% to equal its peak of 6853.6 on 1 November 2007.

The study unexpectedly discovered a 5% drop in socially- and environmentally-responsible investing over the past two years, attributed to the market?s downturn.

Global Warming Taking Toll on Insurance Industry

The insurance industry is being battered by the severe weather
The insurance industry is being battered by the severe weather
Damage estimates have been revised after the heavy storms in NSW

The latest storms to whip across the North Coast of New South Wales, causing damage due to heavy rainfall, have many insurance companies revising their estimates, with an eye on increasing their premiums as a result.

Peter Hoeppe, the Head of Geo Risks Research at Munich Re, a global insurance giant, said that he sincerely believed that global warming was having a strong impact on natural disasters in Australia and around the world.

He based his belief on the fact that the damage caused from other natural disasters around the world remained static, while those that were caused by extreme weather conditions have increased drastically, especially in the past few years.

Talking to The Herald publication, Dr. Hoeppe said: “If you calculate the trends in weather related natural catastrophes, you find a distinct difference in recent years.”

The latest extreme weather conditions in NSW have caused over 100 educational facilities to close down and many other properties have been damaged during the storm. Insurance companies are still assessing the damage, which is expected to reach into the millions of dollars.

“It’s quite obvious that something has changed here,” continued Hoeppe, ” and I think that is really the effects of global warming. We are seeing that serious weather events are becoming much more common, while the other kinds of catastrophes like the earthquakes and volcanoes are, of course, not changing.”

Hoeppe was not too optimistic about the future and concluded that Australia is likely to see many areas under threat by weather conditions. In particular, he pointed to the southern part of the country and the northern area of NSW.

Hoeppe said that it was then to be expected that insurance companies try and protect themselves from scenarios such as the hailstorm that hit Sydney in the late nineties, causing the most damage ever recorded.

Insurance Provider Points out Driving Hazards

Some new cars have dangerous blind spots
Some new cars have dangerous blind spots
Losing sight of another vehicle due to blind spots results in an increased number of collisions

One would think that newer car models would be safer on the road thanks to stricter requirements and better testing methods.

However, SGIO insurance provider thinks otherwise. The company recently revealed the results of its latest visibility testing research and showed that some new models had blind spots that were potentially hazardous to the driver’s life.

“Modern vehicle design has improved the safety of cars for drivers and passengers remarkably in recent years,” noted the Head of Research for SGIO, Robert McDonald. “But manufacturers may need to help drivers on the road by striking a better balance between crash safety and visibility.”

“Hopefully manufacturers can consider these types of scores and statistics in vehicle design and strike a more suitable balance between vehicle safety, ergonomics and visibility,” said McDonald. ”

Using state of the art testing methods, including a laser of 180 degrees that rotates to demonstrate driver seat vision, the Car Blind Spot Rating pointed out the pitfalls of certain designs, especially when they approached roundabouts and pedestrian crossings.

“It is a concern that in some cars a pedestrian or cyclist can be lost in a blind spot from as close as nine meters and a driver can lose sight of another vehicle from about 20 meters,” noted McDonald.

Two cars in particular – the Volkswagen Golf and the Citroen C4 Picasso – scored very well in the Car Blind Spot Ratings as well as the Australian New Car Assessment Program frontal crash test.

“When drivers approach intersections, especially roundabouts, it is very easy to lose sight of a car as you give way,” concluded McDonald. “Drivers should always be aware of the blind spots on their cars and be prepared to move their head around them when necessary.”

Tips for Affordable Life Insurance

Finding affordable life insurance
Finding affordable life insurance
Disclosing any condition you might have upfront means the cover you get will hold no surprises

One segment of the Australian economy that has remained unaffected by the current climate is that of life insurance. It seems that as times get tougher Australians are doing all they can to protect themselves, including taking out life insurance policies that ensure that they are properly covered.

The Managing Director and Founder of Lifebroker believes that simple ignorance about life insurance products leads many Australians to make the wrong decision about their policies, causing them to pay more than necessary.

“Many people make simple errors when purchasing insurance that can cost them hundreds of dollars a year,” said Chris Eade.

There are a number of things that potential policyholders can do to ensure that their policies are affordable, advises Eade. One of them is to avoid policies that promise instant cover without the need to go through medical tests.

Eade says that these policies usually work out more expensive because insurance companies need to protect themselves from the eventuality that at least some of its policyholders have a serious medical problem. The idea to take out insurance where medical testing is required, says Eade could bring policy prices down, especially is you don’t have a problem to begin with.

Eade also contends that hiding a pre-existing condition is not a wise thing to do as this could lead policyholders to lose thousands if they suddenly find themselves uncovered. Instead, he advised Australians to be open about their conditions, find out which insurance companies offer cover – despite the conditions – and then choose the most affordable.

Finally, simply shopping around for the right insurance policy is the best way to save hundreds of dollars a year. “Compare products from all the major life insurance providers,” said Eade. “Many of them significantly reduce premiums to actively target people of a particular age or sex.”

Mans Best Friend Deserves Insurance Too

Have you considered pet insurance?
Have you considered pet insurance?
Taking out cover for your pet could save you a lot down the line

If statistics spoke for themselves, it would seem that the vast majority of Australians have never heard of pet insurance before, or if they have, they certainly didn’t think it was a necessary fixture in their lives.

The fact of the matter is that while Australians have no problem pampering their pets for $4 billion a year, a dismal 2% think that their furry friends are worth insuring.

The truth is that treating animals is an expensive issue. Vet fees are sometimes so exorbitant that many pet owners are left with the heartbreaking decision of putting their animals down since they simply cannot afford the treatment.

The RSPCA says that in many cases, scenarios such as these can be avoided if animal owners took out pet insurance. According to the group, if a dog gets into a fight with another and the vet demands $1150 to sew it up, pet insurance could save the owner over $900 – clearly a huge saving and sometimes even the difference between the dog’s life and death.

For those who are now convinced that their pets deserve the best cover, there are a number of options available. Around six to eight Australian insurance companies offer specialist pet cover, including the RSPCA and Vets Own Insurance.

However, pet owners should make sure that by taking out insurance policies, they are definitely covered. Things to look out for in particular include exclusion clauses which may be overlooked.

Some pet insurance policies, for example, don’t cover dogs that are older than 8 years of age. Other factors that may cause exclusion from a policy include the breed of the pet (i.e. if they are prone to accidents or illness), or the living environment of the animal.?