13 Jun

Brits unaware of medical costs abroad

ABTA and FCO urge Brits to “Pack Your Policy” this Summer

Many Brits are unaware of the costs of medical treatment abroad and may be putting themselves at risk of sky high medical bills by travelling uninsured, according to new research by ABTA – the Travel Association. As part of the ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign, ABTA – The Travel Association and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are urging holidaymakers to “pack their policy” this summer.

A quarter of Brits (24%)1 now travel abroad without insurance despite the need for medical assistance to be relatively common. According to ABTA research 1 in 5 (19%)2 Brits have visited a doctor or hospital abroad.

Most at risk are younger travellers as almost half (48%)3 holiday abroad without taking insurance.

Furthermore, FCO research released today has also found that 4 out of 5 (82%)4 young people admit to taking part in more adventurous behaviour on holiday – yet fewer than half (45%) check that their insurance covers risky pursuits.

Almost half of Brits (47%) mistakenly believe it would cost £5,000 or less to treat a broken leg in the USA5 despite the actual figure being more than eight times than that, costing approximately £40,000. This lack of awareness of the true costs of medical treatment may be to blame for the alarmingly high numbers travelling uninsured.

Why get insurance?

Many British holidaymakers also fail to understand the importance of insurance; 16% mistakenly believe that travel insurance is unnecessary as the UK Government will pay for their treatment if they become ill abroad6. In addition, 17% of travellers (and a third (33%) of 15-24 year olds)7 wrongly assume that when travelling in Europe, they don’t need insurance because they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but this only provides access to basic state medical care and does not cover the costs of repatriation to the UK, whether by regular flight or air ambulance which can cost £16,000 from popular tourist areas such as the Canary Islands8.

What’s the cost?

The perceived high cost of policies is likely to be a determining factor in this choice to travel uninsured. The number of travellers who think insurance is too expensive has increased sharply; nearly a third (31%) of consumers cited this as a reason for not taking out insurance in 2012, compared to one in five (20%) in 20119.

However, consumers pay an average of £24 for annual travel insurance10, a similar price to what they are happy to spend on unplanned purchases at the airport where 16% spent £25 or more11 on last minute items including cosmetics and toiletries, electronics, newspapers, magazines, books and snacks.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said: “With the peak holiday season coming up and British tourists heading abroad, we urge holidaymakers to think about travel insurance and to pack their policy. Unfortunately, accidents can and do happen and sometimes these accidents can lead to costly medical bills.  It is just not worth taking the risk, when an average annual travel insurance policy costs less than £25.”

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, Mark Simmonds said: "Many people travel abroad without insurance and that means if they are injured or fall ill it could be very expensive, it could even be a matter of life and death. Many don’t realise that the Government will not pay their medical bills abroad or pay for repatriation. I strongly urge everyone to take out comprehensive travel insurance so they can enjoy their holiday without risking their health or their savings.”

ABTA has launched a new advice section on travel insurance for consumers. Visit www.abta.com/travelinsurance for full details.

1. Consumer research was conducted by Arkenford Ltd (www.arkenford.co.uk) who specialise in tourism and leisure market research. The ABTA Consumer Trends survey generated response from a nationally representative sample of 2008 consumers using an online research methodology and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to September 2012. Fieldwork was conducted in September 2012

2. Research conducted by YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2016 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th June - 6th June 2013.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+)

3. Travellers aged 15-24, Arkenford September 2012

4. Survey conducted online by Censuswide. Total sample size was 1,690 UK Adults who have travelled abroad. Fieldwork was undertaken in May 2013

5. YouGov June 2013

6. Arkenford September 2012

7. Arkenford September 2012

8. Foreign Office - https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-insurance

9. Arkenford September 2012

10. Association of British Insurers (ABI) UK Insurance Key Facts, September 2012

11. YouGov June 2013.