Organ Transplant Patient Denied $3K In Travel Insurance

They were exceptionally lucky with a dicey organ transplant but less fortunate with an ordinary airline ticket. Their story is a lesson in the fine print of travel insurance.


Last summer, Juan Barerra of Hayward needed a new kidney. He found a donor right next to him: his wife, Elia.

“Thankfully I was compatible with him,” Mrs. Barrera said. “We were able to have the surgery June 1.”

Three months after the surgery, Juan wanted to plan a trip to Mexico City to visit his family because they couldn’t make it for the transplant.

“My parents were not able to be here with me,” he said.

With the doctor’s blessing, the Barreras booked flights for themselves and their two kids on American Airlines for Christmas.

The tickets were almost $3,000 and non-refundable, so they paid an extra $151 for travel insurance considering Juan’s recovery.

“It was a long journey to that transplant,” Elia said.

All was set.

Then, just before the Barrera family was supposed to fly to Mexico, Juan caught a bad case of the flu, and his doctor said flying could compromise his immune system.

“I recommend now that you don’t take this trip because there’s a high risk of infection,” Mrs. Barrera recalled the doctor saying. “Especially since (Juan) had been hospitalized a few weeks before the trip was planned.”


Following the doctor’s orders, the couple canceled the Christmas trip. They figured their costs were covered because they had travel insurance.  

They filed a claim — complete with a doctor’s note — and were promptly denied.

A letter from Allianz Global Assistance concluded that Juan’s kidney transplant was an “existing condition” and was ineligible for reimbursement. The Barreras stood to lose every penny they paid for the trip.

“It was almost $3,000,” Juan said. “It was a big amount.”


Then, Elia saw a TV commercial touting Telemundo 48 Responde and NBC Bay Area Responds. She immediately asked for our help.

“We have nothing to lose,” she…

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