Higher Premiums For Pilgrims To Mecca For Increased Coverage

Before the end of the month, Muslims who are planning to go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for their annual pilgrimage will find some changes in their insurance plans. According to the Sunday Times, pilgrims will be offered higher limits for medical coverage with unlimited coverage in case of emergency medical evacuation. However, increased coverage means higher premiums.

Sources told Sunday Times that a recent incident spurred discussions within the Muslim travel agency communities. The recent incident involved Abdul Ghafur Mohd Ibrahim, a 59-year old pilgrim whose left leg had to be amputated above his knee because of a flesh-eating infection. Mr. Ghafur is currently hospitalized in Amman, Jordan and his current medical bills amount to about 70,000 dinars (S$142,000).

The core issue is about the inadequacy of the compulsory $35 insurance plan that only covers $20,000 for hospitalization and $50,000 for repatriation. According to Ayoob Angullia of ST&T International, the only company that is authorized to sell insurance to pilgrims going to Mecca, they want to provide better coverage but they do not want to make the premiums too expensive.

Premiums must be practical and affordable with changes applying only to umrah not haj where the pilgrims already enjoy comprehensive coverage through the higher premium of $150. At present, pilgrims who are performing umrah have to pay $35 for the insurance plan to avail of the free emergency medical assistance in Saudi Arabia. However, since the cap is $20,000, the pilgrim has to pay for additional medical expenses.

If the pilgrims will pay an additional $30 for coverage on top of the $35 when they travel to nearby countries like Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Turkey, they will have extra insurance coverage. The extra coverage is not compulsory because some of the pilgrims may already have travel insurance or life insurance coverage.

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