British travellers urged to get insurance to avoid ‘sky high’ medical bills

A significant proportion of those who holiday overseas have felt guilty asking others if they speak English, while many believe it is important to learn a few phrases in the language of the country they are visiting. (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)
(Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

MEDICAL bills totalling more than £200 million were racked up by British travellers last year, new figures show.

Around 159,000 needed emergency treatment while abroad last year, the equivalent of 3,000 every week, according to analysis by the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The total bill of £201 million was the highest for six years, the trade body said, as it urged travellers to ensure they have insurance before going away on holiday.

Of 510,000 travel insurance claims analysed from 2017, 159,000 were for medical expenses and accounted for 52% of claim costs.

One claim for a traveller’s 15-day stay in a US hospital on a ventilator as they recovered from a stroke amounted to £233,000, the ABI said.

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A holidaymaker who had a heart attack and spent 33 days in a Las Vegas hospital before being flown back to the UK accrued bills worth £187,000.

Elsewhere, a claim for a traveller who required surgery in East Africa to treat a blocked windpipe cost insurers £118,000.

Charlie Campbell, senior policy adviser for protection, health and travel at the ABI, said: “Falling seriously ill overseas is stressful enough without the added fear of how to pay for sky high medical bills.

“Yet unbelievably, an estimated one in five people admit to having travelled overseas without travel insurance, especially when it can cost less than the average family meal while abroad.

“Should the worst happen, and you need emergency medical treatment, travel insurance can literally be a lifesaver.”

Medical claim costs by travel insurers last year were the highest since 2011, when they amounted to £203 million, the ABI said.

Its analysis was based on data supplied by members who offer travel insurance.