Posted on Aug 04, 2010 by Sergio Ulloa
The Foreign Office is encouraging elderly Britons who go abroad to ensure they have full medical cover. A report released in July 2010 found many elderly British holidaymakers traveling abroad lacked adequate medical cover or had no cover at all.
The British Behaviour Abroad report - complied by global foreign office staff - analyzed insurance taken by British travelers during the period between April 2009 and March 2010. It highlighted the need for British nationals to have sufficient medical care when abroad.
The report concluded that people buy travel insurance but often fail to declare pre-existing medical conditions thus leading to policies becoming invalid. Consequently travelers are left to fund medical costs from their own pockets.
British consular assistance was required for hospitalization a total of 3,689 times during the review period, with Spain being the main country where medical aid was required. Other destinations featuring highly were the USA, Egypt, France, China, Pakistan, Thailand, Greece, Australia and Italy. The report highlighted the fact that consular offices in foreign countries are only able to assist with hospitalization needs for British nationals, but cannot pay patients medical bills.
As an example the British foreign office in the USA was required to facilitate assistance for a couple who did not declare the husband's double heart bypass before departure, rendering the medical insurance policy held invalid. The consular team was able to arrange a repayment plan with the hospital for the couple to meet the medical costs. Prior to the consular team's involvement, the couple had already paid US$10,000 (£6,500) towards medical costs incurred; assistance was required when the medical costs spiraled upwards.
The foreign office found that 19% of British travelers leave their home without any form of medical insurance. Many people believing their credit card accident cover, home insurance or private health cover will be sufficient to cover all eventualities when they are abroad - without realizing that this in fact is not the case. Comprehensive travel and medical insurance are required to give individuals proper cover when overseas.
In addition to the foreign office report, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) also announced that the total medical bill payment for 2009 reached £274 million (US$393 million ) - or £5.3 million (US$8.4 million) a week (US$8.4 million). The cost of medical expenses has increased over 270% in the last 5 years. The ABI said 336,000 claims were made for overseas emergency medical treatment in 2009 - a number that has tripled in the last 5 years. The cost of medical treatment accounts for 60% of the total cost of all claims paid by travel insurers.
The ABI's Director of General Insurance and Health, Mick Starling said: "The often high costs of overseas medical treatment make travel insurance essential for anyone traveling abroad. All travelers should ensure that they take details of emergency medical helpline telephone numbers included in their travel policy to call for advice and help should they fall ill."
A claim dealt with by an insurer included a £49,000 (US$78,000) payment for a traveler who required a coronary artery bypass and an emergency flight home, when he was taken ill in the USA. There was also a claim for a policy holder who was taken ill while on holiday in Cyprus - suffering from severe, allergic reaction; £9,000 (US$14,000) was paid out by the insurer. These figures highlight the necessity for proper medical insurance for British travelers.
Travelers or expatriates who do not have adequate medical and travel insurance, face the potential of having to fund costs for emergency medical services form their own pockets. The financial cost for air ambulance services can be £35,000 (US$ 55,000) or more and for repatriation from the East coast of the USA or a schedule flight from Australia with a doctor escort can be £15,000 (US$ 23,000) or more.
When taking out travel insurance policy cover the traveler should ensure it includes - medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad, 24-hour emergency assistance, personal liability cover, cancellation and curtailment, also specific extra cover is needed for activities such as adventure sports.
Association of British Insurers
The ABI (Association of British Insurers) represents the collective interests of the UK's insurance industry. The Association speaks out on issues of common interest; helps to inform and participate in debates on public policy issues; and also acts as an advocate for high standards of customer service in the insurance industry.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office - the Foreign Office for short - is the government department responsible for promoting British interests overseas and supporting our citizens and businesses around the globe.