Stat of the month: £5,620 - the average uninsured medical bill

20 July 2018

Failing to taking out travel insurance can be an expensive mistake if you get sick or are injured abroad and are forced to foot the bill for medical treatment.

According to research from MoneySuperMarket, the average medical bill for uninsured Brits is £5,620. Yet despite a third of UK holidaymakers requiring medical treatment on their holiday one in 10 (8%) still doesn’t buy travel insurance.

Of those that didn’t buy cover, two in five (42%) said it was because they thought it was too expensive.

The average cost of a travel insurance policy is £31 – a small investment to potentially mitigate a medical bill that is likely to exceed £5,000.

Brits are most likely to require medical treatment over the pond in the USA, with nearly a quarter (24%) of insured holidaymakers submitting a claim for illness or injury. This was followed by Spain at 23% and France at 14%.

British travellers in Europe with an EHIC can get medical treatment on the same basis as locals, meaning it is either provided free or at reduced cost. However, it is not considered a replacement for travel insurance because it may not fully cover all your medical costs.

The most likely medical problem Brits will encounter is a ‘dodgy tummy’ – with gastroenteritis and food poisoning topping the claims list. This is followed by heart conditions, respiratory problems, broken bones, ear infections, cancer-related conditions, complications arising from diabetes and stroke conditions.

Costs of medical treatment vary hugely depending on where you are travelling.

In the USA, the average cost of treatment for food poisoning is £1,250, compared to £550 in France and £510 in Spain.

Bills get much higher if you require major surgery – reaching £75,000 in the USA (where hospital room rates alone are close to £4,000). In Spain and Cyprus, you can expect to pay £13,175.

‘It’s never worth the risk of travelling uninsured’

Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket, says: “It is never worth the risk to book a holiday without travel insurance, regardless of where you are going. If you fall ill or suffer an injury, medical expenses can cost thousands of pounds. If you need to be repatriated to the UK, the costs can sky-rocket even higher.”

It is also vital holidaymakers understand the scope of their policy and declare any medical conditions they may have to ensure they are covered.

Mr Pratt adds: “The research shows that one in five (20%) of those that do take out a policy are not clued up on what they are covered for, which could lead to problems if a claim were to be made.”

Popular exclusions include dangerous sports and hazardous activities, such as  scuba diving, horse riding and rock climbing, so make sure the policy you buy includes the cover you require. Your policy may also stipulate that you must take certain precautions such as a wearing a helmet on a motor bike – even if it’s not a legal requirement.

To conclude, Mr Pratt says: “Taking out travel insurance when you book your holiday also means you’ve got cover in the event that you’re unable to go due to an illness or injury, a family bereavement, or other emergency. You’ll also have cover for your possessions, your personal liabilities and for your problems arising from travel delays.”

Separate research from insurer Aviva confirms that some travellers do overestimate the cover provided by travel insurance. It found that than just over one in 10 (12%) believe they would be covered if their pet died the day before they went away, 6% think it will pay out if they oversleep and miss their flight, while 4% reckon it would kick in if they missed their flight because they spent too long shopping in duty free.

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