Tifgroup has responded to allegations published in the 20th November 2018 issue of The Times (London) which were reported in the December 2018 issue of ITIJ.
Last November, The Times published an article making a series of claims about tifgroup and its business (https://www.itij.com/story/115009/insurer-tifgroup-under-fire). We would like to thank the ITIJ for giving us this opportunity to set the record straight.
The Times claimed that tifgroup is facing investigation for medical negligence and fraud and implied that we were responsible for patients' suffering by improperly refusing to fly patients home solely on grounds of cost. These allegations are not true.
When people do fall ill abroad their instinct, understandably, is to want to get home as quickly as possible. In our opinion that may not always be what is best for them medically.
Our focus is on making sure that our customers make the best possible short- term and long-term recovery. This means that early evacuation by air ambulance or repatriation on a commercial flight is not always in a patient’s best medical interests.
Naturally, in times of stress and worry this can create conflict between customers and their travel insurer.
We are experts in this field. We have to be. We work with doctors who specialise in aviation medicine. Sometimes our doctors' advice may well be at odds with the view of doctors on the ground, who are unlikely to be experts in this field. Sometimes local treating doctors and the medical facilities they represent have political and financial reasons for wanting patients to leave their facility sooner than aviation repatriation is medically safe.
Flying puts all kinds of stresses on the human body. If someone has been subject to severe trauma or illness the long-term consequences of putting a patient on a plane too soon can be very serious.
Most doctors working in clinics abroad do not have the same level of repatriation expertise as we do. They are however at the patients' bedside and therefore may have undue influence over the wishes of their patients and loved ones.
If we think a patient's chance of making a better recovery is by staying where they are, then that's what we'll recommend. Even if it ends up costing us more, which it often does.
As is always the case, a small number of our customers are not satisfied with the decisions made by our experts. This can lead to complaints about decisions which have been made by our experts. We understand why this is the case and we would always fully co-operate with the GMC in respect of any such complaints. No complaints against our doctors have been upheld by the GMC. tifgroup has further not been notified of any formal investigation into it by the FCA.
We believe that The Times has misunderstood the nature of the issues and has accepted these one sided complaints without proper investigation, as we intend to demonstrate in the libel courts.
We have campaigned endlessly for a moral and ethical approach to travel insurance; an approach that has helped us become one of the sector's biggest providers. tifgroup recently won an insurance industry award for "delivering big benefits for customers in a challenging and competitive industry'.
Underpinning our success is that our foremost concern is ensuring we always do what is right by our customers.
We have a huge amount of sympathy for people who suffer accidents or who fall ill abroad. It's something our team deal with, on a personal level, every day. It gives us a first-hand appreciation of the emotional distress and worry people face in these situations.
We are proud to have led the way in campaigning for a better understanding of travel insurance and highlighting some of the dubious practices that exist in many private medical facilities in popular tourist destinations. These include demanding upfront payments from patients before offering pain relief or treatment.
In extreme cases we have seen patients have care or treatment withdrawn and their families being harassed, intimidated, threatened and physically restrained in order to extract payment locally. This demonstrates the willingness of some private medical facilities to compromise the care and welfare of patients, over financial considerations.
The recent ITIJ article [December edition, number 167], highlighting the problem of fraud in Nepal is yet another example of how unscrupulous operators take advantage of people and their travel insurance cover.
Systematic fraud, involving unnecessary helicopter evacuations and severe over treatment in medical facilities in Nepal has allegedly caused the deaths of a number of travellers and is estimated to have cost insurers millions of dollars.
We have long-campaigned for a better understanding of travel insurance, and will continue to do so. We refer to our educational campaigns at www.travelinsuranceexplained.co.uk as well as our dedicated philosophy and ethics information at https://www.tifgroup.co.uk/about/our-philosophies.
Disclaimer - The above statement is made by the Tifgroup and does not necessarily represent the views of ITIJ.