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The need to insure yourself and your family will vary from country to country. If you do decide to take this road, go through the offers with a fine-tooth comb. Every company claims to be the best, but they won't necessarily honour all claims in full. Quite often there is a gap between medical charges and refunds. In some cases, certain procedures aren't covered at all. As an individual, you have to seek out a policy that caters for your specific requirements - where's the sense in having family cover including ante-natal care when you are a couple in your sixties?

Life, Personal Injury and Funeral
I don't pretend to know much about this area. I have been offered it from time to time, but chose not to subscribe. I will simply reiterate what I've already said: do the research, read every word of the proposals and take nothing for granted.

Vacation and Travel
Basic flight insurance will guard against loss due to cancellations and will also cover lost or damaged baggage. I'm not sure about sea passages, but the booking agent should be able to advise about this. As for the main part of the holiday, a lot depends where you are going. If you are visiting a foreign country, insurance is as essential as a passport. But make sure you get the level of cover you are likely to need. Although insurance companies will be happy to sell you a policy, they won't always tell you that it doesn't cover you for having an accident while riding a scooter; or that it won't be paying your medical expenses, simply because you are over seventy. These are just two examples of what can happen, what did happen recently. Both victims discovered, after the fact, that their policies failed to cover the circumstances they found themselves in. Following a painful, seemingly interminable stay in a foreign hospital, the two patients were eventually brought home, thanks to family, friends and fund-raisers collecting the thousands of dollars to make it possible.

Insurance of Any Kind
Premiums will differ from company to company and it is best to shop around. Perhaps the easy way to do this would be to check out comparisons on-line. Some of these advertised lists, however, are not comprehensive; and if they are sponsored by a particular company, rest assured their quotes will appear to be the most favourable. Then there are the insurance brokers who will offer to find you a custom-made policy at the best price. As with any business, the one they are conducting needs to make a profit so, as can be imagined, they don’t give their advice for nothing and somewhere along the line you, the customer, will be paying for it. In all cases, bear in mind that cheaper doesn’t always get you the cover you really need; on the other hand, paying more can be money wasted. Look carefully at the fine print, ask the questions when in doubt, and never commit if unsure. Savings on premiums can be made by agreeing to an excess. This is usually a fixed sum which the customer pays up front when making a claim. Anything over and above this is covered by the insurance company. If you are unlikely to be frequently putting in a number of small claims, this is one way to reduce costs.

There are dozens of companies all claiming to be better than the rest, and you know from your experience with banks that you can take this with a pinch of salt. Just like the financial institutions, these guys are big - I mean really big - and they didn't get that way by throwing money away. When you first approach them, they will be all over you like a rash and nice as pie with it. You will be assured by this new friend that they have your best interests at heart and that any claim you are likely to make will be expedited quickly and to your satisfaction. You need to realise that, once they've got your hard-earned cash, these protectors of the faithful will bend over backwards to ensure they give as little of it back as legally possible.

This last point is very pertinent. Although the law may be a mystery and often ambiguous - to the average person, that is - it is still the law and, whether they think so or not, insurance companies have to abide by it. So, if and when you decide to take out insurance, be your own lawyer: read every single word of the proposal, and be very aware that you are the one doing the favour, not them! You don't have to hand your money over, and you aren't going to do it unless you get exactly what you want and are prepared to pay for. The insurers may be under the misconception that you live in a dream world; just let them know that you don't.

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