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Every year millions of people enjoy their overseas holidays. But sadly, some will remember their trips abroad for all the wrong reasons if the worst happens, such as needing emergency medical treatment overseas. This is why having adequate travel insurance is essential, and not simply a nice to have.

Potentially jaw-droppingly high overseas medical bills

The biggest concern for most travellers is needing emergency medical treatment while overseas. And rightly so, as these costs can be jaw-droppingly high. In one case, the cost of medical treatment in Spain following a fall and emergency medical repatriation back to the UK was an eye-watering £124,000. In another case, treating a traveller who contracted Covid while in Cyprus and getting them safely back to the UK cost £70,000.

While having a current EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), or if it has expired its successor GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card), entitles you to state-provided healthcare when visiting the European Union, neither are an alternative to travel insurance as they will not cover all medical costs, or any repatriation back to the UK on medical grounds.

In one case, while the GHIC paid for 80% of the cost of treating injuries from a fall in France, this still left £16,000, including return to the UK on a stretcher. These costs were covered by the travel insurer.

In another case, a holidaymaker in the Canary Islands needing treatment for a lung condition had to be transferred from a state hospital covered by the GHIC to receive private medical treatment, followed by an air ambulance back to the UK. The total bill of £67,000 was again paid by the travel insurer.

Yet despite the risks, before the Covid pandemic struck just over one in five (21%) holidaymakers said they had travelled without insurance (source: ABTA, May 2019).