UK holidaymakers pay out £1,700 a year on unexpected medical bills

Posted on August 20, 2015 by Guest Writer
Couple in Maldives

A new study has revealed that over-50s holidaymakers are paying out £1,700 a year for unexpected medical bills that aren’t covered by their travel insurance.

Half of the over-50s within the study suffer from a medical condition – almost a quarter of which are travelling without being properly insured – as 23 per cent admit they fail to declare their medical conditions. This means travellers are not covered should they fall ill on holiday.

The research, conducted by over-50s insurance and travel specialist Staysure also highlighted the most common misconceptions on insurance cover for medical conditions. 59 per cent of Brits think you can’t get travel insurance cover if you have cancer, while four out of ten believe you won’t find cover if you’ve suffered from a stroke. One in five respondents also claimed they have been prevented from fulfilling all their travel ambitions due to their medical conditions.

Staysure customer Catherine Davies, 67, said: “We were due to visit my sons in Portland, Oregon, who were newly married with new families. Unfortunately my husband was diagnosed with severe heart failure, which was only discovered when he went to have a check-up with a cardiac surgeon. He was immediately admitted to the CCU, and had a defibrillator and pacemaker implanted. I started trawling the internet for travel insurance that would cover us, but he is 72 and I am 67, with several medical issues myself. I didn’t think anyone would insure us for a month in the USA, so I didn’t think we would be able to travel.”

Catherine and her husband were both insured by Staysure and were able to keep their travel plans and visit their sons.

Chris Rolland, CEO of Staysure, said: “The fact that 23 per cent of people who have pre-existing conditions fail to declare them when buying travel insurance is a truly shocking statistic, as it means people are putting themselves at risk of potentially extortionate medical bills should they fall ill abroad. They’re also spending money on a policy that won’t cover them for what they need – which is a false economy.

“Our research also shows that almost one in ten Brits don’t feel confident travelling abroad with existing medical conditions – which suggests that the public don’t feel fully informed on how to approach it, or believe that the cost of cover for their needs may be prohibitive to their travel.

“We urge holidaymakers to talk to their insurer and answer all questions honestly and to the best of their knowledge, declaring all conditions and any medication they’re taking. If their medical circumstances change before they travel, they should let their insurer know. While travelling with a medical condition may feel daunting, many of our customers love to achieved incredible things that they never thought possible, from climbing mountains to seeing the wonders of the world – there’s no reason for a medical condition to hold you back from achieving your travel dreams.”


Old Square in Prague


Advice from Staysure on travelling with medical conditions:

  • If there is any doubt as to whether you are fit to travel, always take your doctor’s advice.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of a good travel insurance policy to cover your medical costs should you need treatment while you are away:
  • Declare all your pre-existing medical conditions when buying travel insurance. Claims directly arising from any pre-existing medical condition(s) will not be covered unless you have declared all your medical history, hospital visits and the medication you’re taking to your insurer at the point of purchase – and have them accepted by them in writing. It’s also important to tell your insurer if your medical history changes before you travel to ensure your policy is kept up to date, especially if you have annual cover.
  • Remember you can also get insured for cancellation, curtailment and trip interruption cover which protects you against any unforeseen illness or accident that prevents you from travelling after you have booked your holiday.
  • You may need a licence for taking some medicines abroad (e.g. morphine based pain killers). This can be obtained from your hospital, GP or hospice, but this will often need to be applied for well in advance. Rules vary from country to country, so you may need to contact the embassy for the country you are visiting to check. Full lists of foreign embassies can be found here
  • Check your insurer can help with replacing any lost medication or prescriptions while you are away. It is also recommended to carry extra medication in your hand luggage in case of delay or travel disruption.
  • Check with your doctor and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) if your destination requires vaccinations.
  • If you need help with mobility, ring the airport in advance as they can help you to your departure gate and carry your bags.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to pack and prepare, avoiding the stress of last minute arrangements and errands.
  • If you’re travelling to Europe, most insurers will require that you carry an EHIC card as well as your travel insurance. An EHIC card gets you the same state provided treatment as ordinary residents in the country you are visiting, although that is where the help ends. Your travel insurance will reimburse you for any costs incurred. Do bear in mind that healthcare norms are not consistent across all countries, e.g. some hospitals expect part or full payment from patients for non-subsidised ambulance services. Find out more in the NHS county-by-country guide.

Research conducted by OnePoll in July 2015 from a poll of 2,000 UK adults aged 45+
* Any past or current condition resulting in symptoms where treatment or prescribed medication has been required