Uninsured face hefty medical bills

11 April 2013 09:30

Many British travellers are continuing to play down the financial risk of getting sick or injured when out of the country

Many British travellers are continuing to play down the financial risk of getting sick or injured when out of the country

Nearly a quarter of British tourists are leaving themselves open to "mortgage-sized" medical bills by failing to buy travel insurance before they venture abroad, a leading industry body has said. Despite the prospect of taking a serious financial hit, travellers are continuing to play down the risk of getting sick or injured when out of the country, according to a report by the Association of British Insurers.

At present travel insurers deal with almost 5,000 claims every week, paying out a total of £4.5 million. However, there remains widespread ignorance about coverage, with 16% mistakenly believing that the UK government will pay for all medical treatment when abroad. Almost half (46%) of those quizzed did not know that a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitled them to state-provided healthcare, while a further 56% were unaware the card needed to be renewed every five years.

While the EHIC covers the full cost of medical treatment, it may not cover everything that would be free on the NHS and will not cover the cost of medical repatriation back to the UK. ABI spokesperson Malcolm Tarling said medical travel insurance was not an option but a "must have" for travellers. "Falling ill while abroad has got to be the biggest fear of any traveller," he added. "Yet too many UK travellers are playing Russian roulette when travelling abroad by failing to protect themselves against mortgage-size expensive medical bills. In the USA for example minor operations can cost £20,000."

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