Over-55s risk huge medical bills

Over-55s risk huge medical bills by failing to take out comprehensive holiday insurance.Visitors to Spain could face a bill for thousands of pounds for medical treatment if they are taken ill or injured whilst staying with friends and family, the Foreign Office has warned. Yet one in ten over 55-year-olds admit that they sometimes fail to take out travel insurance before going on holiday - even though more than half suffer from a medical condition.


Research1 for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office reveals that a third (35%) of over-55s who sometimes fail to take out travel insurance do so because they are 'only going on a short break'. A quarter (27%) claim it's too expensive, whilst nearly one in five (18%) think they don't need insurance because they are visiting friends or family. Many also think they can avoid buying a policy because they are covered by their bank.

Equally concerning is that one in five (21%) who do have travel insurance then risk invalidating it by failing to declare an existing condition because they are on medication to manage it. Some 15% admit they wouldn't update their insurance policy if they developed a medical condition or were prescribed new drugs for an existing condition.

Every year around 5000 British nationals2, including over-55s who have failed to take out insurance cover or have invalidated their policies, find themselves seeking assistance from consular staff in Spain. Some end up with life-changing bills of many thousands of pounds for expensive medical treatment or specialist repatriation to the UK.

Mark Simmonds, Minister for Consular Policy, said: "'It won't happen to me' or 'I'll be fine' are risky assumptions to make when deciding whether or not to take out comprehensive travel insurance. Our consular staff around the world deal with thousands of cases each year that prove that things can and do go wrong.

"Being prepared can mean the difference between the holiday of a lifetime and a holiday from hell. Being unwell abroad is stressful enough without the added pressure of having to find thousands of pounds to pay for treatment."

Dave Thomas, Consular Regional Director for Spain, added: "If you have over-55s visiting you this year, tell them to get insurance before they travel. Taking out a comprehensive policy and declaring any medical condition may be an added expense but it's a small investment compared to what you could end up paying if something goes wrong."

A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers said: "Travel insurance is a must for all holidaymakers. Policies are widely available for people of all ages, but the insurance industry recognises that some older people need help finding cover. Under the Age Agreement which we developed with the Government and British Insurance Brokers' Association, older people who are unable to find cover at the first firm they approach should be directed to an alternative provider who will be able to offer insurance, or to a signposting service."

A British Embassy spokesman added:

· "All British visitors to Spain, including over-55s, also need a European Health Insurance Card, known as an EHIC. It is free and you can apply on the NHS website or by calling 0845 606 2030. If you then have an accident or become ill, you can get the necessary state-provided medical healthcare at reduced cost or sometimes free. But it is very important to realise that an EHIC does NOT cover all your medical costs, private treatment or repatriation to the UK. You still need travel insurance to ensure you are fully covered for all eventualities.

"Many people think an EHIC is enough and don't take out insurance. They will greatly regret it when they are forced to pay thousands of pounds for an air ambulance back to the UK or have to pay for extra accommodation to stay in Spain to look after a hospitalised family member or friend they are travelling with."


Details of how the Foreign Office can provide support to British nationals when things go wrong are outlined in Support for British nationals abroad: A guide: www.fco.gov.uk/travel

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