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Insurers paid out £1m a day in 2016 but a quarter still travel without cover

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
One in four holidaymakers travel without insurance but stark statistics reveal pay-outs topped £1m a day in 2016 – the highest since the Icelandic ash cloud disruption of 2010.

An estimated 70 million overseas trips are made each year but many holidaymakers forego the protection of travel insurance, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

It said that more than 1,300 travellers a day are helped by insurers when things go wrong abroad, showing why travel insurance is essential.

Analysis of claims data revealed that payments for emergency medical treatment account for over half (54%) of all claims costs at £199m.

A total of £370m – equating to £1m every day in 2016 – was paid to help 480,000 travellers and their families who needed help abroad, such as emergency medical treatment and lost baggage. This was the highest amount paid since 2010, when disruption caused by the Icelandic ash cloud pushed claims costs to an all-time high.

More than 154,000 travellers needing emergency medical treatment were helped by insurers last year, including pay-outs for a £100,000 bill for treating an abscess in the US, £16,000 for the treatment of a fractured leg in a motorcycle accident in Thailand, and £11,000 to remove a brain tumour in Spain.

A total of £130m was also paid out on 159,000 claims for cancelled holidays; £17m was paid on 83,000 claims for baggage and money lost while travelling.

The ABI said the average medical claim bill totals £1,300 while the cost of the average annual travel insurance policy is £37, though single trip policies can be cheaper.

Mark Shepherd, assistant director, head of property at the ABI, said: “As millions of people gear up for the summer holidays, for some unlucky travellers their break could turn into a nightmare. Falling ill abroad must be the number one worry as medical treatment abroad and repatriation back home can cost tens of thousands.

“Travel insurance is not a ‘nice to have’ but should be an essential purchase. Insurers support and help thousands of travellers and their families should the worst happen, paying nearly 9 in 10 claims that are made. With a wide range of competitively priced polices available, shop around for the policy that meets your needs, and remember that the cheapest policy may not be the best for you.”

Tips to ensure you’re covered while on holiday

Here are tips from the ABI to make sure you’re covered against the unexpected when travelling abroad:

Shop around: Travel insurance policies vary to suit different needs so it’s essential to shop around, and know that the cheapest policy may not cover all that you need.

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 care and stay safe: Holidays should be fun and relaxing, but take care and act responsibly. Drink alcohol responsibly, check safety before taking part in any activity, and follow laws and customs. Generally, travel insurance policies will not cover accidents if someone has not taken reasonable care or had excessive amounts of alcohol.

Check FCO advice: Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice and information pages for your destination before you travel.

Declare any medical conditions upfront: Tell your insurer about any medical conditions when you take out a travel insurance policy.

Know how to contact your insurer if you need to: Make sure you take note of your insurer’s emergency phone number. If something happens when you’re on holiday and you need to make a claim, call your insurer first who can help.

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