Six-figure medical bills revealed by insurers

The jaw-dropping cost of falling ill abroad has been revealed by insurers, providing a stark reminder about the perils of uninsured travel.

With six-figure medical bills now far from uncommon, the insurance industry has disclosed just how much it costs to help the 150,000 Britons who fall seriously ill overseas every year.

One claim for treating a stroke in the United States cost £768,000 — the equivalent of working over 25 years on an average UK salary. In another case, a jet-ski accident in Turkey amounted to £125,000.

The research from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) shows that the cost of the average medical claim at £1,300 has risen by 40% between 2011 and 2016.

Medical evacuation

The US, which attracts 3.8 million visitors from the UK every year, has some of the highest medical costs.

Other cases there have included £252,000 to treat a brain haemorrhage and broken shoulder suffered by a traveller when he fell off a bicycle. There was also £32,000 to pay for a four day hospital stay to treat a 12 year-old girl who caught pneumonia on a school trip.

Elsewhere in the world, travel insurers paid £136,000 for a policyholder who suffered complications after an insect bite in Chile. This included paying for a nurse to escort the traveller home.

In situations where medical evacuation is necessary, the ABI points out that an air ambulance from Majorca, for example, costs more than £25,000.

Insurance guide

Having the free European Health Insurance Card will provide access to state-provided healthcare but it is no substitute for travel insurance as it will not cover all medical costs, or the cost of emergency repatriation.

An estimated one in four travellers still go without insurance, despite the fact that the average cost of a single trip policy can be less than what a family spends on snacks at the airport.

The ABI has launched a new guide to help travellers understand the importance of getting the right cover, including access to assistance if the worst does happen.