Few of us insure ourselves if we are spending a few days away in the UK, let alone if we are going abroad. Find out the real facts about travelling without insurance.
The truth is, we are just as likely to have an accident or have things stolen in London as in Paris. And as long as we have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), we are entitled to all kinds of emergency medical treatment in the EU. If a flight or train is cancelled, we may have to pay for an extra night in a hotel and, if we have to go home early, we might have to buy a new ticket home – such unexpected expenses crop up whether we are in the UK or anywhere else, right?
A 2010 poll carried out by the travel association, ABTA, revealed that an astonishing 55% of people thought they didn’t need any form of insurance when travelling in the UK. This is despite the fact that luggage, passports and other belongings can still go astray on internal flights or trains, and that people do sometimes get ill and have to cancel or interrupt their trips at the last moment.
Many travellers are prepared to chance paying up literally thousands of pounds for treatment, travel and accommodation should the worst happen. Others, who do take out travel insurance, conveniently overlook the importance of declaring their pre-existing medical conditions. This is often true of over 50s travellers, as “The Independent” clearly illustrates. Louise Proudlove, head of the Foreign Office’s Consular Assistance Department, explains: “There are more and more British nationals of this age travelling, and being adventurous, which is fantastic. But we do see cases where people haven’t declared exactly the right health conditions – and unfortunately that means they don’t get the coverage they were expecting to get.”
The problem is that, instead of budgeting for the right travel insurance, people often regard it as an optional extra, preferring to keep their fingers crossed in the hope that nothing too expensive happens.
The free EHIC
According to moneysupermarket.com, over half of us aren’t even aware of how the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can help.
Valid for five years at a time, the EHIC entitles you to treatment on the same basis as a resident of the EEA (European Economic Area) countries and Switzerland. Make sure each member of your family applies for an EHIC to get cover on this basis – you can apply online or by phoning 0845 606 2030.
What is free?
The EHICcovers some, but by no means all, eventualities.You will get the same treatment as residents of the country you are visiting only – that is where the help ends.
Unfortunately, healthcare rules are not at all consistent across Europe. For example, some countries require part payment from patients for ambulance services and others offer even more expensive, non-subsidised services. This principle also applies to treatment, which can vary in cost and availability, even with your EHIC. Some countries also charge a patient contribution – find out more in the NHS country-by-country guide. A well selected private travel insurance policy, running alongside the EHIC means you avoid unexpected expenses wherever you go.
Unlike the EHIC, the right travel insurance will get you vital help and financial cover for just about any occurrence. Staysure offers Basics Single Trip policies (including cover for cancellation and curtailment as well as many pre-existing medical conditions) from just £6.49 for a week in the UK or the rest of Europe – a tiny investment considering the endless amounts of time, hassle and money you could save should the worst happen.
The EHIC will not cover any private medical healthcare or extra costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or for lost or stolen property such as passports, baggage, wedding rings or other precious items – costs that can easily rocket to hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Staysure’s Comprehensive cover provides for such situations in addition to personal liability, trip cancellation, curtailment and interruption. Fall ill and it’s good to know that any extra travel arrangements and accommodation will be covered. You’ll also get 24-hour emergency assistance in English to help with your arrangements abroad, wherever you are.
Frequent traveller? Don’t forget the Annual Multi-Trip
To the converted, it can be annoying and expensive to apply for a new travel insurance policy each time they go on holiday. Frequent travellers find Staysure’s Annual Multi-Trip travel insurance ideal as it offers flexibility of cover for up to 183 days of travel per year, insuring up to 50 days per trip for a mere £39.99.
The cost of travelling uninsured
The Foreign Office travel advice pages categorically advise you not to travel without insurance, mainly due to the potentially high cost of hospital treatment and repatriation – just some of the costs which are not included with the EHIC. Here are a few examples of the repatriation bills you could face:
£35-45,000 for an air ambulance to return to the UK from the USA east coast and £12-16,000 from the Canary Islands.
£15-20,000 for a flight, stretcher and medical escort from Australia.
According to sundaytimes.co.uk, the average cost of becoming seriously ill abroad is £2,040, while an uninsured hospital visit in the USA will set you back an average of £6,000.
The chances of having to use any of these services are indeed minuscule, but the costs are so substantial that they would cause significant problems for most of us if we travel uninsured.
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