The statistics relating to the public’s understanding of the need for single-trip or annual travel insurance are truly terrifying.
That means huge numbers of people are leaving the UK every year without appropriate cover – and the result could be calamitous.
The Terrifying Facts
In spite of the government’s and the insurance industry’s attempts to draw the attention of people to the importance of travel insurance:
• Almost a quarter of all people travelled out of the UK without insurance • That figures rises to nearly 50% for those in the 15-24 age bracket
To understand why those figures should be worrying, it’s necessary to remember that in 2011/12:
• Every single day, an average of 10 British people were hospitalised while abroad
Why Are People Not Taking Cover?
There is no definitive answer to the question but it’s possible to draw two fairly certain conclusions.
Firstly, the higher statistics in the 15-24 age range suggests that young people may be suffering from the illusion of the invincibility of youth and the “it’ll never happen to me” syndrome. Unfortunately, they’re all too often mistaken.
That’s particularly true for that age group, as they are the most likely to engage in heavy drinking, dangerous sports or related activities.
The second and more worrying cause is the ongoing mistaken belief that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides ‘free health insurance’. Nearly 20% of all age groups think that’s the case.
In fact, apart from only one or two non-EU European countries with affiliations, the EHIC doesn’t cover any country outside of the EU. Even in an EU country, the EHIC only covers the costs of treatment that would also be free to local citizens in the country itself. Therefore, it won’t cover things like medical repatriation, additional hotel and flight expenses for care providers etc.
A closely related erroneous assumption on the part of around 17% of travellers without single-trip or annual travel insurance is that ‘somehow’ the British government would pay for their medical repatriation home, should the need arise. That is simply not the case and even if the government did assist, they may take legal steps to recover the money from you once back in the UK.
The above statistics are worrying in themselves, but they become even more concerning because of a poor awareness as to just how expensive medical treatment can be overseas.
In the United State, as an example, major surgery and medical treatment could easily result in bills running into hundreds of thousands of pounds – or even millions in extreme cases. It’s not often realised that in some situations, some countries may refuse to provide you with medical assistance unless you can show you have the means to pay for it – typically single-trip or annual travel insurance.
The current levels of misunderstanding about the risks and potential costs of medical treatment abroad coupled with significant confusion over the role of the EHIC is leading to very large numbers of Britons travelling abroad each year with little or no cover.
This should be addressed as soon as possible through some form of re-launched publicity campaign.
Good single-trip, family or annual travel insurance is typically not expensive and is a small price to pay for peace of mind.