According to travel association ABTA more than one in five Brits travels abroad without taking out any form of health insurance.
The recently-published statistics suggest that the problems are actually worsening, particularly among young people. ABTA’s research suggests that last year 22% of travellers aged between 16 and 24 travelled abroad without proper insurance cover. This year that figure has ballooned to an astonishing 33%.
Clearly a third of young travellers are taking unnecessary risks with their health by not properly covering themselves before leaving home.
And while it may be the 16-24 year old age group which has the lowest level of protection among those surveyed, they are far from the only age group taking unnecessary risks with their health – and their bank balance.
Following closely behind are 25-34 year olds, of whom 32% still knowingly go without insurance when on holiday.
Unsurprisingly it seems that older age groups appreciate the value of travel insurance rather more; with the average across all age groups clocking in at 22% of travellers going without.
When travelling within the EU, many Brits opt instead for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) believing this fully covers any accidents which may occur overseas. However this is far from the truth. In reality an EHIC only covers you for emergency medical treatment – and even then only within Europe.
So what does private health insurance bring that an EHIC card cannot?
Firstly, it is important to state that all private medical insurance policies differ so it is important to check exactly what services are included with your package. However typically the first benefit of investing in private healthcare is that you can gain access to private medical facilities.
In many cases private medical establishments will not only facilitate shorter waiting times, but often also higher standards of medical care. In many countries where English is not the native tongue it is not uncommon to find far more English-speaking doctors in private medical establishments, making for easier communication and higher standards of care.
But it’s not just access to private healthcare facilities that private medical insurance can grant. Another consideration are the costs of repatriation should it be required. This can often be an expensive proposition, costing thousands of dollars. Sadly, these costs are not covered by EHIC cards. On many occasions ill-prepared tourists have found themselves stranded in a foreign country.
Unless you have the financial backing to pay for repatriation you may find yourself stuck in your country of travel. And even if you can afford such things, it is important to appreciate that the costs would still be lower had the tourist invested in a fully-featured travel insurance policy rather than simply paying for it outright.
Lastly, some private international healthcare policies will also cover the costs of travel and accommodation for relatives should this be required. Ask yourself what costs would be incurred if you fell ill abroad and had to stay on past the date of your intended departure. With private healthcare insurance your partner or children may well be financially covered, allowing them to stay on to support you without worry.