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Travel insurance - essential holiday planning

When booking a trip abroad, taking out a travel insurance policy should be considered a priority, yet one in five people risk travelling uninsured.* This is why the ABI is supporting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) new consumer awareness campaign which launched this week, to provide clarity when taking out travel insurance.

The work builds on the FCO's ongoing 'Know Before You Go' initiative to help travellers stay safe and healthy abroad, and aims to provide helpful tips and information to travellers with medical conditions.

Some people can think that travel insurance is mainly to cover lost baggage and cancellations, however the primary need for travel insurance is for the potentially high cost of emergency medical treatment and repatriation when travelling abroad. People should start looking for cover as early as possible, especially when they have a health condition.

This campaign aims to offer advice and clarity to consumers so they understand exactly what a policy will cover.

The average claim on travel insurance for medical expenses is £930, but some claims can be much higher: for someone with a heart condition, the cost for heart bypass surgery and repatriation from the USA can cost upwards of £300,000.

There are lots of options for customers taking out travel insurance and getting the best one to meet their needs is essential, with cover differing between providers. This campaign aims to offer advice and clarity to consumers so they understand exactly what a policy will cover. For people with medical conditions, it is especially important to be clear about your travel cover before you leave - the ABI and FCO offer the following top tips:

1. Answer insurers’ questions accurately

When buying a travel insurance policy, the insurer will ask you various questions and it is important to answer any questions about your medical history fully and honestly. If you need to make a claim, your insurer may not pay out if they find out information about your health that they did not know before. If there are any changes to your health before you travel, make sure to let your insurer know. It is important to read your policy ‘terms and conditions’, but your insurer will always answer any questions or concerns you might have.

2. Shop around

There are many different places to get a travel insurance policy. For people with medical conditions, it can be especially important to shop around to see if a different insurer could offer more affordable cover. You can also think about using a specialist insurer or broker who can help to find you an insurance policy specifically for people with medical conditions. The British Insurer Brokers’ Association run a ‘Find a Broker’ service and can be contacted on 0870 950 1790.

3. Look at different types of holiday

The cost of taking out a travel insurance policy will depend on the country you are going to, as the cost of medical care varies from place to place. Policies for short haul destinations are always much cheaper, especially in Europe, whereas trips to the USA are more expensive due to higher medical costs. Different types of holiday can also affect the price at which an insurer will sell you a policy. For example, if you are travelling on a cruise and have a medical condition, you could at times be far from the nearest medical treatment centre and therefore might need to shop around or use a specialist insurer or broker to find cover.

Also, single trip cover can often be more cost effective than an annual policy for people with existing and changing health conditions, as the insurer knows much more detail about the trip they are insuring you for.

4. EHIC is not insurance

Travellers heading for the European Economic Community should take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with them. This will entitle you to emergency state healthcare if you need it and covers treatment for existing medical conditions if necessary. However, this is not a substitute for travel insurance as the level of state healthcare can vary between countries and an EHIC will not pay for travel back to the UK, which can amount to tens of thousands. An EHIC is free and is available from NHS England.

5. Information is key

Before you go away, make sure you are clear exactly what your travel insurance covers you for. You can always ask your insurer if anything is unclear. Visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-insurance or www.abi.org.uk for more information and advice, including what your travel insurance policy should cover and where you can go to buy one.

Most people enjoy a stress-free time when abroad without ever having to make a claim on their travel insurance policy, but having the right cover in place should give you the peace of mind knowing that any medical treatment will be taken care of should the worst happen.

Aidan Kerr is Head of Travel Insurance, Association of British Insurers (ABI).

*One in five (22%). The ABTA Consumer Trends survey generated response from a nationally representative sample of 2,001 consumers using an online research methodology and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to July 2014. Fieldwork was conducted by Arkenford in August 2013. For more information visit www.abta.com.

Last updated 29/06/2016