I was in Queenstown, New Zealand when I got into a fight with the bouncer. I swear to you—he started it! Either way, the specific events of that evening are irrecoverable due to the head trauma and the coma I spent the next 10 hours inhabiting.
I remember drifting in and out of consciousness, my eyes blinking wearily, the machines beeping steadily in the background. I tried to mumble my emergency contact details but the names and numbers just weren’t in the right order. I knew I was in the hospital, but it didn’t quite register.
After some time, a whole lot of painkillers and a few X-rays, I came to the realization that I was completely injured, dazed, and far from my home base.
I was afflicted, perplexed and high.
My iPhone was missing from my pocket and my jacket had been ripped into pieces. It occurred to me that I was not in possession of any sort of travel or health insurance, and I thought it best not to mention it.
Still, nobody asked for my insurance information.
An officer arrived at the hospital, asked me a few questions and, after a brief intermission at the station, he gave me a ride home. And that was it.
The hospital didn’t ask for payment and I never got a bill.
In fact, I never heard from them again (except for the radiologist who, coincidentally, came into my bar two days later)! They simply nursed me back to reasonable health and set me loose.
The officers charged this esteemed gentleman with some pretty hefty charges, and, with literally no work on my part, I received a not-quite-substantial-enough reparations payment.
A year later, he is still completing his community service, and I still haven’t received a bill.
I would like to say thank you, New Zealand, for your hospitality.
My head is feeling much better.
And a big bear hug to the lovely ladies at the hospital who mothered, monitored and mended me. I haven’t forgotten you.
But what does this mean for travel health insurance? This incident only further cements the idea that it’s a whole load of nonsense. Sure, I could see why it might be handy, but I’ve spent two and a half years away from home and I haven’t needed it once.
So what’s the point?
To be completely frank, I’m not really sure there is one.
UPDATE: My stance on travel health insurance has changed since this was written. I now always recommend purchasing travel health insurance before you go on a trip. Anything could happen (as is evidenced here). I personally recommend World Nomads for complete coverage.