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The price of a house – the ABI reveals the cost of falling ill abroad

  • Insurers now helping over 3,000 travellers a week who need emergency medical care while travelling abroad.
  • The cost of some overseas medical treatments can be more than the price of the average UK house, for example over £500,000 for treating a multiple fracture of the leg and artery tear in the USA with an air ambulance back to the UK. This compares to the average UK house price of £211,000*.
  • Despite the high costs of emergency medical treatment overseas, an estimated one in five** travellers go abroad without travel insurance.

The staggering potential cost of needing emergency medical treatment abroad is highlighted today by the Association of British Insurers.

While the average travel insurance claim is just over £700, emergency medical and repatriation costs when overseas can be much higher.

With some of the highest treatment and medication costs of any country, emergency medical bills in the USA can be considerable. For example:

  • An insurer recently paid a medical bill of £322,000 for treating a swollen blood vessel in the brain.
  • Treatment for an abscess in the abdomen resulted in the insurer covering the £101,000 medical costs.

Emergency medical treatment on ocean cruises can also be costly, due to the added complexities and costs of transporting the patient to a medical facility nearby and the possibility of needing an air ambulance back to the UK. The cost of treating a holidaymaker who suffered a heart attack on a Caribbean cruise and needed an air ambulance back to the UK came to £92,000.

Elsewhere in the world, examples of emergency medical bills faced by British travellers that were covered by travel insurance include:

  • £300,000 for the treatment of multiple injuries following a fall from a waterfall in Thailand;
  • £40,000 to cover the medical costs in treating a traveller to Indonesia who was bitten by a mosquito and contracted Dengue fever;
  • £31,000 treating a broken leg in Nepal that became infected;
  • £16,000 to treat a fractured hip caused by a motorcycle accident in Thailand;
  • £11,000 treating a brain tumour in Spain.

Mark Shepherd, ABI’s Manager, General Insurance, said:

"While most travellers enjoy trouble-free holidays, falling ill abroad can be very stressful without the added worry about how you will pay for potentially very expensive medical bills.

"Anyone travelling overseas should always take out appropriate travel insurance for the duration of their trip, and declare medical conditions when they take out their policy. A valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when travelling in Europe is also strongly recommended. Though not a substitute for travel insurance, the EHIC is free and provides access to state-provided healthcare on the same basis as a resident.

"Travel insurance should not be an after-thought, but the first thing you arrange after booking any overseas trip."

Last updated 19/11/2016