Insurers are paying record amounts for medical treatment, with the USA and cruises proving the most costly

Insurers are paying hand over fist for emergency medical treatment for sick holidaymakers.

New data, released by the ABI reveals that the cost of emergency medical treatment for Brits travelling abroad is at a six-year high, with £3.9 million paid out every week.

Emergency medical treatment in the USA and from ocean cruises can be particularly costly.

In one case, a 15-day stay in a US hospital on a ventilator recovering from a stroke cost £233,000.

Treating a man who suffered a heart attack while on a cruise and arranging an air ambulance to get him safely back to the UK cost one insurer £202,000.

The cost of an air ambulance back to the UK alone can be very expensive. Typical costs back to the UK include £35,000 from the US, £12,000 from Majorca, and £25,000 from the Canary Islands.

Yet, despite this, an estimated one-in-five people admit to having travelled abroad without travel insurance, leaving them unprotected against potentially financially crippling medical bills.

Of the total 510,000 travel insurance claims dealt with last year, the 159,000 medical expenses accounted for 52% of claims costs, cancellations accounted for 38% and lost baggage or money for 4%.

Charlie Campbell, senior policy adviser, protection, health and travel at the ABI, said: “Most people bring back happy holiday memories, but for some, it can be the stuff of nightmares.

”Falling seriously ill overseas is stressful enough, without the added fear of how to pay for sky-high medical bills. Yet unbelievably, an estimated one in five people admit to having travelled overseas without travel insurance, especially when it can cost less than the average family meal while abroad.

”Should the worst happen, and you need emergency medical treatment, travel insurance can literally be a lifesaver.”

Five tips for travelling abroad

The ABI has released five top tips for making sure customers are not left with crippling medical bills:

  • Get an EHIC. Make sure you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when travelling in Europe. It is free and gives you access to state-provided healthcare available to a resident. However, it is not a substitute for having travel insurance as it will not cover all medical costs or the cost of emergency repatriation back to the UK.
  • Take the emergency contact details of your travel insurer when you travel. Take the emergency telephone numbers of your travel insurer should you need to contact them urgently. They, or their medical assistance provider, can advise and arrange for any emergency medical treatment that you may need.
  • Take care and stay safe. Try to avoid putting yourself at any unnecessary risk and always act responsibly. For example, avoid excess alcohol consumption. Generally, travel insurance will not cover accidents if you have not taken reasonable care.
  • Check if you are covered by your travel insurance for any activities you may do. If you plan any potentially dangerous holiday activity, such as bungee jumping, before you travel check if you are covered. If you are going on an activity holiday, there are specialist travel insurance policies to cover various activity breaks.
  • Declare any pre-existing medical conditions before you travel. Tell your travel insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions when you take out your travel insurance. Specialist insurers or an insurance broker can often help in arranging cover.


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