Emergency medical treatment can be costly

Figures show that £375 million* was paid out last year by insurers. This was the cost of emergency medical treatment for UK travellers who fell ill or had an accident and needed treatment whilst on holiday. This figure equates to £5.2 million* each week of the year.

Being treated abroad has increased considerably over the past few years along with the amount of claims for overseas emergency medical treatment. During 2010 there were around 6,500* cases per week which is a considerable increase from the previous years.

The Association of British Insurers have confirmed statistics that show the most common illnesses requiring medical treatment abroad were stomach upsets, ear infections, allergies and heart problems.

The cost for medical treatment abroad can vary greatly. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows UK nationals reduced-cost or sometimes free medical treatment when temporarily visiting a EEA country including Switzerland. The main cost to insurers for those travelling to Europe is if the insured needs to be repatriated home in serious cases. Please note that an EHIC is no substitute for travel insurance.

The USA is known for their high medical treatment costs as there is no reciprocal agreement between them and the UK. Residents have to pay for private medical insurance and there is no free National Health Service available. Repatriation from the USA is, of course, a lot more than from Europe, which again increases the cost of emergency treatment. As an example, a holidaymaker who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder whilst in the US and had to be treated and repatriated home cost insurers £54,000.

Part of the reason that emergency medical expenses has increased over the years is because of the age of the policyholders who are claiming. As travel becomes more available for the over 60’s more and more are travelling further afield and are living longer than before. People over the age of 85 are eight times more likely to make a travel insurance claim than those under 85. The cost of treating an older patient can be three-and-a-half times more than a patient under the age of 50.

24/7 travel insurance reminds travellers to declare all existing medical conditions prior to travel. This will ensure they are properly covered as if something wasn’t declared then the insurance company may not pay out on a claim, leaving you to foot what could be an expensive bill.

The high cost of emergency medical treatment abroad makes travel insurance an essential part of preparing for your holiday.

* Source – International Travel Insurance Journal Issue 129