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Brits without insurance risk big medical bills in Europe

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

Survey shows a worrying number of Brits likely to visit the EU without travel insurance.

Brexit may be on hold, but a worrying number of Brits planning to visit the EU risk potentially financially crippling medical bills according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA).

The two organisations commissioned Populus to poll 2,000 adults and found that nearly a quarter –23 per cent – of people say that they have no plans to take out travel insurance before their next visit to the EU, with 18 per cent undecided if they will buy cover before their trip.

A no-deal Brexit could see the end of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which allows UK travellers to receive treatment from public hospitals in the EU on the same basis as a resident of that country. This means travel insurance remains vital when travelling to the EU, and beyond.

Even if the EHIC continues to apply, it will not cover all medical treatments, or the cost of any emergency repatriation back to the UK on medical grounds.

Emergency repatriation costs can easily run into tens of thousands of pounds. For example, an air ambulance back to the UK from Spain can typically cost £18,000; or £12,000 from Germany or France.

Charlie Campbell, manager for health and protection at the ABI, said: “These findings are worrying. Travellers to the EU should of course have their EHIC, but to supplement, not to replace travel insurance. Whatever the terms of Brexit, having travel insurance when travelling to the EU, and beyond, is not a ‘nice to have’, but a ‘must have’ purchase. Without insurance, travellers risk huge medical bills if the worst happens when they are abroad.’’

Graeme Trudgill, executive director at BIBA, said: “If you have an incident while abroad your travel insurance exists to support you and prevent you from finding appropriate medical treatment abroad unnecessarily challenging and expensive.

“We strongly advocate arranging comprehensive travel insurance in addition to the limited protection granted by an EHIC. It is vital that holidaymakers and business travellers understand that they need suitable travel insurance which will not only cover medical costs, but also cancellation, missed departure, theft and loss of personal belongings and liability. Raising general awareness about this, particularly among the significant number Brits who risk travelling uninsured is essential.”