We are the voice of insurance and long-term savings | Contact us

3,000 Brits require emergency treatment abroad EVERY WEEK, as average medical claim surpasses £1,300

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) today reveals that the average medical claim on travel insurance surpassed £1,300 for the first time ever in 2018 – reaching £1,368. Claims can easily reach the tens of thousands of pounds, and one recent example saw a couple in America require nearly £600,000 worth of support from their travel insurer.

The ABI’s figures also show that the total amount paid to Brits abroad in 2018 - at £400 million - was at its highest level since 2010. In the past 10 years, the average medical claim has nearly doubled from £768 in 2008.

Despite the increase in average claims costs across the board, the average premium actually decreased to £38, whilst older travellers saw the biggest price fall.

The stats for 2018 reveal that:

  • Overall, the average claim reached £800 – the highest amount on record.
  • The majority of claims paid were to support 153,000 people in need of emergency medical treatment abroad (that’s 3,000 per week), to the tune of £209 million – with a record-breaking average medical claim of £1,368.
  • £145 million was paid out for 167,000 cancellation claims, with the average claim also reaching a new high of £869.
  • Finally, 79,000 people were supported through the loss of baggage or money to the tune of £17 million – at an average of £214 per claim.

With millions of UK travellers potentially taking the risk of going abroad without cover this summer*, the ABI is urging consumers to buy cover sooner rather than later – ensuring that it is suitable for their needs and not just the cheapest option.

ABI Member Case Studies

Examples of recent claims highlight just how expensive overseas medical claims can be. They also illustrate the need to avoid reliance on an EHIC, which only provides cover for state healthcare services in the country you’re visiting if it is part of the European Economic Area (EEA):

  • Vicious Cycle: Allianz Assistance helped a 19-year-old travelling in Cambodia who suffered a serious knee injury following an incident on a mountain bike. After being hospitalised, stabilised and then flown back to the UK, the claim cost £48,733.
  • Price of the USA: Two customers of Direct Line Group were struck by a drunk driver in America. Both required serious medical treatment and the claim cost £587,000 in total.
  • Cruise Control: Aviva dealt with a claim involving a customer on a cruise ship. Following a stroke, he was safely disembarked and then flown to America in an emergency air ambulance for surgery. In total the claim cost around £118,000.
  • EHICcup: An Axa customer had to be repatriated from Spain for an urgent heart transplant, which would not be covered under the EHIC. This claim cost £76,528 in total.

Commenting on the stats, the ABI’s Senior Travel Policy Adviser, Charlie Campbell, said:

“The fact that a quarter of Brits travel abroad without the right travel insurance is incredibly worrying. Few people have the luxury of being able to afford a surprise £800 bill, let alone one that runs into the tens or hundreds of thousands if they fall ill abroad. Anyone travelling this summer should avoid unnecessary financial and emotional stress by ensuring they have the right cover in place. As not all policies are the same, people should look for cover that meets their needs, rather than the cheapest option.”

More case studies are available upon request.


Tips to make sure you are 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 local 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. If you have a serious pre-existing medical condition, specialist insurers can help find the right cover for you - or speak to a broker.

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’s emergency number as soon as possible so that they can offer additional help and support.




Notes for Editors


Enquiries to:
Malcolm Tarling                        020 7216 7410    Mobile: 07776 147667
Sarah Cordey                           020 7216 7375    Mobile: 07860 189071
Dominic Stannard                     020 7216 7350    Mobile: 07969 602749


1. The Association of British Insurers is the voice of the UK’s world leading insurance and long-term savings industry.

A productive, inclusive and thriving sector, we are an industry that provides peace of mind to households and businesses across the UK and powers the growth of local and regional economies by enabling trade, risk taking, investment and innovation.


2. An ISDN line is available for broadcast


3. More news and information from the ABI is available on our web site, www.abi.org.uk.

Last updated 07/06/2019