In April, I passed out twice in a Benidorm hotel, where staff called a private doctor who got me admitted to hospital. Not only did we have to pay the doctor, but my husband had to pay the hospital €2,000 for me to be let out to fly home. They are also demanding a further unspecified bill of €2,500.
I have a European health card and insurance from easyJet/Zurich. But the insurers say I have to pay because of pre-existing medical conditions.
The cardiologist in Spain discovered I have an irregular heartbeat, which caused the blackouts. I have never suffered with this before.
We can ill afford what we have had to pay, let alone further costs to come.
G. H., Gwent.
One reader who suffered health problems on a Spanish holiday was saddled with a huge bill despite taking out insurance
You were initially caught out by Spanish medics whisking you to a private, rather than a state, hospital. Then an intermediary handling the claim made a right old mess.
Zurich, the insurer that underwrites your policy, says your claim was valid, as your fainting had nothing to do with any pre-existing condition. The hospital misled you on this.
You contacted the insurance assistance team at 9.59 and they replied at 10.54 asking for details and the likely discharge date. Costs at that point were estimated at €2,500 by the hospital.
The assistance team spoke with you that afternoon and ran through the questionnaire, when you were told that you might not be covered if your claim was related to an existing condition.
The assistance team contacted the hospital the following day, however you had already been discharged and given a Fit To Fly certificate by a doctor.
You called to discuss your claim again on April 16. Zurich has listened to the call and, when you said you had paid the hospital, an agent shrieked: ‘Why did you do that?’ This should not have happened and Zurich has made this clear to the agent.
You were asked for receipts and then given an incorrect number to call about your claim.
The hospital then appears to have incorrectly told you the claim would not be paid.
There was a further delay, and it was not until April 24 that Zurich had a reply from the hospital.
You then received an email on April 26, which, the agent admits, was ‘a little blunt’. A further letter contained mistakes, not least being addressed wrongly.
After this, Zurich called a senior team meeting to sort things out.
Finally, your claim has been sorted out. In sterling terms, Zurich will be coughing up around £4,500, which underlines the value of travel insurance.
You paid a €2,000 deposit to the hospital and got €1,910 back, but Zurich refunded your £75 excess to cover this. Medical bills of €4,916 will be paid directly to the hospital. They will also cover the €80 doctor’s call-out fee and add €25 hospital benefit for the 24 hours you spent in hospital.
I must add that when under great stress, we do not always remember seemingly trivial things such as receipts and, in your case, you were clearly put under great pressure by the hospital.
But in future, I’d suggest you get a more specialist policy and please tell the insurer about all your pre-existing medical conditions. It may make your policy more expensive, but this would be tiny besides the cost of a rejected claim.
You Have Your Say –
Every week, Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories. Here are some from our report on how Aviva refused a payout to a father-of-three because he had a cardiac arrest and not a heart attack…
This is unfortunately the way of things. My insurer refused to pay out as I had the wrong type of open-heart surgery. Total charlatans — I paid £90 a month for almost 20 years.
C. B., Kinross.
What annoys me is that the couple in question had done all the right things and bought the necessary protection products — only then to be thwarted by nonsense technicalities.
Y. S., Ashford.
When it comes to insurance, people want everything for nothing, so insurers offer what customers want: cheap policies.
Comprehensive critical illness cover can be easily £100 per month, so a policy at just £22 per month will have many clauses and limited cover.
S. P., Cheltenham, Glos.
Insurers trade on fears: they promise the Earth in order to get your business, then find every excuse in the book to avoid meeting their obligations.
A. L., France, via email.
It’s incredible how many life-limiting conditions are not covered by critical illness insurance. Always read the list of conditions first.
B. F., Yorkshire.
If you go into a car showroom and buy a Ford Fiesta, you don’t complain when you’re not given a Range Rover. Stop whingeing and accept responsibility for the agreements you’ve signed.
U. T., via email.
When you find yourself lying in intensive care, with your life flashing before your eyes, the difference between having a heart attack and a cardiac arrest is of no importance.
M. M., Larnaca, Cyprus.
My late husband died in 1967. We had two children. I have not remarried. I inherited our home, which was worth £7,306. The estate duty plus interest came to £226.70 in today’s money.
As the current rules concerning bequests and gifts between spouses did not come into force until 1972, I am not entitled to his inheritance tax gift allowance.
But I have recently been told I am entitled to his residence allowance. Is this correct?
A. E., Devon.
Your letter highlights a terrible inequality on inheritance taxes.
Before 1972, gifts between spouses were not tax-free and you had to pay estate duties.
Your husband’s nil-rate band of £5,000 was used up in transferring assets to you. This iniquitous kink in legislation leaves the children of those widowed before 1972 at a disadvantage when it comes to inheritance.
Your children could have to pay £130,000 more tax (40 pc of the current £325,000 nil-rate band) than those who had a parent die from 1972 onwards.
But there is better news on the main residence relief, says Paul Falvey, a tax partner at business and advisory firm BDO.
He says: ‘You could receive all or part of his main residence relief. The estate of the surviving spouse can benefit from the percentage of the allowance not used on the first spouse’s death.
‘The main residence nil-rate band did not exist until April 2017, so could not have been used against his estate. Therefore, 100 per cent of his allowance can be transferred to use against your estate in addition to both your standard and main residence nil-rate bands.
‘There is a potential catch, as the relief is reduced if your total estate at death is more than £2 million.’
He says that, from 2020/21 onwards, your allowances could exempt at least £675,000 of your estate from tax — made up of your own £325,000, plus a double residence allowance of £350,000.
Mr Falvey adds: ‘If your estate is worth more than £2 million at death, the main residence nil-rate bands (your own and the allowance transferred from your husband) would be reduced by £1 for every £2 over £2 million.’
The cut-off point when all of the residence allowance has gone is £2.7 million.
Mr Falvey says: ‘This is a good reason to consider making lifetime gifts of your assets in order to reduce the value of your estate at death.’
Straight To The Point
The HSBC account I share with my wife has been closed after a disagreement with staff. Is the bank allowed to do this?
M. C., Essex.
Yes. In its terms, HSBC states it can close an account immediately if a customer’s behaviour is ‘improper’, including acting in a ‘threatening or violent manner’ towards staff. HSBC will not tell me exactly what you did, but insists that the case is closed.
May I suggest you take care to maintain a sense of decorum — whatever provocation you face — as you move your custom.
last week’s Money Mail said that Hodge Lifetime was launching a mortgage for pensioners that you could take to the grave. When will the deal be introduced?
B. J., Suffolk.
Hodge’s new, interest-only deal will be available from June 11. You will have to apply through a mortgage broker. To find an independent broker near you, visit thisismoney.co.uk/find-an-adviser.
I’ve been an Aviva customer for years, but decided to switch to another home insurer for a better deal. I called on May 15, two days before my renewal date, but was told that the £222 premium had already come out of my account.
G. L., Wickford, Essex.
Aviva says no money is taken from your account until the day of renewal. But its direct debit process is initiated three days before that — and you have to get in touch before this cut-off to stop the payment.
As your policy was set up to renew automatically, Aviva is happy to cancel it and provide a full refund. Your £222 should be in your account, along with £30 for the inconvenience.
I took out an annuity with our savings, to provide a retirement income for me and my wife. We decided to take lower upfront payments in exchange for a guaranteed income for my wife if I passed away before her. If my wife dies first, will my payments be increased?
P. L., Kent.
You have a so-called joint life annuity and, unfortunately, your income will not rise if your wife dies before you.
You have been sensible, though, in ensuring she is catered for should you die first, as many annuitants tell me they now regret not taking their spouse into account.