When you are travelling, one of the big things you don’t want to worry about is healthcare. Whether you are taking a week’s break in a sunny location or spending six months travelling the world, you always hope for the best but illness and accidents can happen to anyone. So, what is the position about healthcare when travelling and why do so many people take travel insurance?
Travelling in Europe
At the moment, the European Economic Area or EEA is a free trade zone between countries in the EU as well as others such as Iceland and Norway, also adopted by Switzerland. Under the European Health Insurance Card or EHIC, you are entitled to access state-provided healthcare that is either free or reduced cost on the same basis as someone who lives in that country.
The card covers treatment while in country and to return to the UK. It does cover existing medical conditions and routine maternity care – as long as you are not going abroad to give birth. However, it doesn’t cover things like the cost of mountain rescue if you are injured while skiing or the cost of being flown back to the UK. Nor does it cover any cost if you are going abroad specifically to get treatment of some kind.
Travelling outside Europe
Travelling outside the EEA, things get more complicated and every country has its own rules and regulations. The USA is one of the top destinations for travelling and is also potentially one of the most expensive places to have an accident or an illness – one British citizen had an accident that involves multiple fractures and an artery tear. He had to have an air ambulance to bring him back to the UK and the total bill for the treatment was almost £500,000.
Other countries have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK – Australia is one such example. Under this, UK citizens can get some healthcare assistance when in the country but there are still things you would have to pay for including most doctor surgery treatments, prescribed medication, ambulance travel and dental treatment. Some costs can be repaid to you under the Medicare system but you need to make this claim while still in Australia.
Benefits of travel insurance
All of these examples show why people mostly take travel insurance, even when travelling to EEA countries. Medical care while on holiday can cost hundreds or thousands of pounds for even relatively minor incidents and travel insurance will cover the cost of this in the vast majority of cases. It also covers costs such as getting back to the UK and emergencies when travelling which is usually excluded from other types of insurance such as private health insurance or credit card accident cover.
Additionally, it covers the cost of cancelling, delaying or cutting short the trip if there is an accident, incident or even if someone takes ill at home and you need to come back quickly. It covers lost and stolen bags as well as personal liability so if there is any kind of incident and you are liable for any damage, then the policy will most likely cover this.