GoCompare Travel Insurance is warning people to prepare for possible changes to access to healthcare arrangements in the 31 countries currently signed up to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme. The leading comparison site has also issued a reminder that regardless of the future of EHICs, travel insurance is vital for UK citizens travelling abroad.
The EHIC entitles British citizens access to state-provided medical treatment in other nations in the European Economic Area, along with Switzerland. Depending on the country, healthcare is either free or at a reduced cost. If the UK Brexits without a deal, EHICs issued in the UK will cease to be valid, leaving holidaymakers to pay for any treatment they may require. If a deal is agreed, EHICs should remain in operation until December 2020.
The high cost of emergency medical treatment abroad is the main reason why people arrange travel insurance. According to industry data*, most travel insurance claims related to medical costs. Last year, insurers supported 153,000 people in need of emergency medical treatment abroad, at a cost of £209 million, with the average medical claim of £1,368.
The Government has stated that it wants to keep the EHIC as part of future trade negotiations with the EU. However, according to reports by the BBC last week, only four countries have agreed to cover UK travellers if there is no deal. Spain and Belgium have agreed to continued reciprocal arrangements. Portugal has passed a no-deal law which guarantees, until the end of 2020, that UK tourists can access healthcare if they show their passport. Ireland will allow UK citizens access to healthcare on the same basis as they currently have whether there is a deal or not.
Sally Jaques from GoCompare Travel Insurance commented, “If EHICs cease to exist, tourists will have to foot the bill for medical treatment in the countries previously covered by the scheme. If they’re not insured, they’ll have to find the money out of their own pocket – which would be a struggle for most people.
“Medical costs can quickly escalate. Last year the average insurance medical claim tipped £1,300, but bills can be much, much higher. Insurers have already warned that if EHICs are withdrawn, travel insurance premiums will rise to reflect increases in the costs of medical claims.
“The disappearance of EHICs would hit people with pre-existing health conditions hardest. EHICs cover treatment of chronic or pre-existing medical conditions and consequently, if EHIC arrangements end, people may struggle to get affordable travel insurance for European travel.”
GoCompare tips on buying travel insurance:
- Don’t just focus on price – make sure the policy meets your needs, covers the destination you plan to visit and any activities you plan to do (e.g. scuba diving, skiing).
- Declare any pre-existing medical conditions, while the cost of cover will be higher, being dishonest would invalidate your cover.
- Don’t leave it to the last minute to buy insurance – otherwise, you will miss out on valuable cancellation cover.
- Use a comparison website to shop around for the best deal. Buying insurance from your holiday provider almost always costs more, and the policy may not cover all your needs.
For more information on travel insurance with medical conditions see: https://www.gocompare.com/travel-insurance/pre-existing-medical-conditions/
For country by country information on healthcare abroad visit: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/healthcare-when-travelling-abroad/
For further information please contact:
Anders Nilsson or Louisa Marsden at GoCompare on 01633 654 054 / 01633 655 132
Gordon, Jason or Liz at MAW Communications on 01603 505 845
Keep up-to-date with GoCompare on Twitter; @GoCompare
Notes to editors
*The Association of British Insurance claims data 2018.
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When it launched in 2006, it was the first comparison site to focus on displaying policy details rather than just listing prices, with the aim of helping people to make better-informed decisions when buying their insurance. GoCompare has remained dedicated to helping people choose the most appropriate products rather than just the cheapest, and has teamed up with Defaqto, the independent financial researcher, to integrate additional policy information into a number of its insurance comparison services. This allows people to compare up to an extra 30 features of cover.
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