Six-figure medical bills for Britons abroad not uncommon, says an insurance chief


Travel insurers say six-figure pharmaceutical bills are common when British holidaymakers need emergency therapeutic medication while travelling.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), approximately 3,000 travellers requiring treatment in another nation are supported by insurers every week usually. About £200 million is given out each year to support people who fall severely ill abroad.

The ABI stated a claim for managing a stroke in the United States cost £768,000 – a sum that would take someone more than a fourth of a century to get on an average UK wage – the bill carried £60,000 for an air ambulance to go back to the UK.

The US, which draws 3.8 million UK tourists a year, has some of the most expensive medicinal costs, the ABI said.

In another example, £252,000 was used treating a brain haemorrhage and ruptured shoulder sustained by a traveller when he slipped off a bike.

The ABI stated: “Six-figure medical bills are now not uncommon.”

Elsewhere around the globe, instances of emergency medicinal costs faced by British tourists which have been paid out by travel insurance companies include:

:: £136,000 for treating complexities following a bug bite in Chile. This included financing for a nurse to accompany the traveller homeward.

:: £125,000 to fund for surgery following a jet-ski collision while travelling in Turkey.

:: £81,000 to satisfy ongoing expenses of treating a holidaymaker who got pancreatitis in Greece.

:: £74,000 was paid to deal with a brain haemorrhage in Cuba.

:: £60,000 to treat fractures suffered in a road collision in El Salvador which included £33,000 for an air ambulance.

The ABI said the cost of the common medical application, at £1,300, rose by 40% between 2011 and 2016.

It has started a new guide to leisure insurance at to help tourists ensure they have the proper insurance to include any “sky high” medicinal bills abroad and emergency repatriation to go home.

When visiting in Europe, the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives holidaymakers admittance to state-provided healthcare given to a citizen.

But it is not a replacement for having travel protection because it will not cover all medical expenses or the cost of emergency repatriation back to the UK. For instance, from Spain, an air ambulance can cost £25,000, the ABI said.

Assistant director, head of property, commercial and specialist lines at the ABI, Mark Shepherd, said: “Incredibly an estimated one in four travellers still travel 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.

“With a wide range of competitively priced policies available, shop around, don’t forget to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions, and remember that the cheapest policy may not be best for your needs.”