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Stranded traveller left with pounds 5,000 bill.

A NORTH East woman was left with a hospital bill for thousands of pounds after travel insurers pulled the plug on her policy.

Gemma Harris, pictured, who was struck down by pneumonia in Tunisia, was fighting for her life when insurers decided a visit to her doctor two months earlier had invalidated her cover.

The 22-year-old wanted to return home to her family in Linton, Morpeth, but her passport was confiscated and she was told she could not leave hospital until she had paid the bill of almost pounds 5,000.

Her insurance company claimed that, although she disclosed she had asthma, she had not told them she had seen a specialist about the condition two months before travelling.

This meant Gemma's grandparents and legal guardians, Sidney and Maureen Chapman, both in their 60s, had to use their savings and get an emergency loan to raise the cash.

Now back home, Gemma is warning others to check their policy's small print, and is calling on insurers to take more action to make sure people know what they have to declare.

"A few months before the holiday I went to a specialist and he changed my inhalers. I didn't know I had to tell them every time I went," said Gemma, who is studying for a foundation degree in dance at Newcastle College and works as a care home assistant in Blyth.

"They said it is in the small print, but something as important as this should be in big red letters on the front."

A spokesman for the Post Office, where Gemma took out her pounds 46 annual insurance policy, said: "It is crucial that customers with an annual policy regularly update their travel insurance provider should they see any change in their health or receive any medical treatment, to ensure that cover can be maintained wherever possible."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 15, 2010
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