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Don’t depend on EHIC when travelling with a medical condition warns and make sure your travel companion is also insuredMedical Travel

Warnings to UK travellers not to rely solely on the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) for emergency treatment while they are on holiday should be heeded especially by people with pre-existing medical conditions., the first stand-alone comparison site for people with current or past medical conditions is urging those heading to Spain in particular, to ensure they have travel insurance to cover their medical condition.  While the EHIC does cover flare-ups of pre-existing conditions and procedures such as kidney dialysis, there’s confusion about what treatment the EHIC will cover and not all countries are abiding by the agreement.

Lauren Stovell, Business Development Manager for MedicalTravelCompared said: “The EHIC should entitle travellers to emergency treatment for new and pre-existing conditions in countries that are part of the reciprocal Health Agreement.  However, in July the European Commission issued legal proceedings against the Spanish government in response to 100s of cases of UK travellers in possession of an EHIC being asked to pay in cash, claim on their insurance or being turned away from public hospitals. ABTA has also reported of isolated incidents in other parts of the Mediterranean. 

“The other major issue is that in some holiday areas, there’s limited presence of public hospitals. As the EHIC is not accepted in private hospitals, the patient has the choice of a long journey at their own cost to get emergency treatment or a big bill to be treated privately. 

“We don’t want the EHIC to give travellers with pre-existing conditions a false sense of security that if they need emergency treatment, it will always be available at no cost. They also need to consider the costs for rescheduled flights and accommodation not covered by the card.

“Comprehensive travel insurance specifically covering any pre-existing medical conditions will offer cover in all of the above eventualities subject to the terms and conditions of the policy.”

The EHIC will NOT cover:

  • Private hospitals
  • Any additional costs incurred to travel to and from a state/public hospital (this could be miles away from the resort)
  • Replacement flights if the individual is advised not to fly on their return date/cannot fly on their return date due to being ill
  • Additional hotel and accommodation costs for the individual or the travelling companions

 Ensure your travel companion is covered too explains

Travellers with pre-existing medical conditions heading off on holiday with a companion should check their travel insurance policy covers both themselves and their fellow traveller – or both parties could find themselves separated and alone if accident or ill-health occurred.  MedicalTravelCompared, the first stand-alone travel insurance comparison site for people with pre-existing conditions is urging travellers to use the same insurer and link their travel insurance policies before they jet-off.

In 2012, travel insurers dealt with 337,000 claims for overseas emergency medical treatment and medical claims represented 56% of the total cost of travel insurance claims.*

“Clearly, the first priority, if you have a medical condition is to confirm you have the right level of travel insurance cover.  However, it’s vital to check travel companions are also supported in the event that their fellow traveller’s situation changes. Speaking to your insurer should clarify what is covered by the policy and any information that should be supplied from those travelling” said Lauren Stovell, Marketing Manager for MedicalTravelCompared.

MedicalTravelCompared’s Cover Checklist for Travelling Companions

  • Make sure that everyone travelling declares any existing medical conditions within their party - not just their own
  • Try to get all those travelling to use the same insurer and ask to have their policies linked
  • Confirm with your insurer what the policy covers in the event of an emergency. For example, if the holiday has to be cancelled due to the individual’s medical condition deteriorating
  • Check the small print of the policy regarding any stipulations or conditions that the policy imposes
  • Make sure all travellers carry any necessary documents and contact details for the insurer in the event that emergency treatment or help is required
  • Don’t forget, if you have an immediate relative who has a pre-existing medical condition, check you will be covered in the event that their health deteriorates causing you to cancel or curtail your trip.

Lauren Stovell concludes: “Having separate policies can prove costly and problematical if accident or ill-health occurs.  It could mean that if the individual with the medical condition has to be flown home, their companion is not entitled to escort them. A call to your insurer before you book the holiday or more importantly, before you leave home should clarify the cover available and provide an opportunity to put the right level of insurance in place before you leave.”

EU261 is no alternative to Travel Insurance warns

The misconception that airlines will compensate and repatriate travellers in the event of a medical emergency is leaving almost a quarter* uncovered by travel insurance and at risk. That risk is heightened if the traveller has a pre-existing medical condition.  MedicalTravelCompared, the insurance comparison site specifically for people with pre-existing conditions is urging travellers to arrange travel insurance cover when they book their holiday rather than rely on EU legislation to pay for any medical treatment they may need - or a repatriation home.  

The warning from MedicalTravelCompared follows fears expressed by the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) that European rules on flight delays and cancellations could do more harm than good and may threaten passenger welfare.

Regardless of the cause of a flight delay, EU261 legislation requires airlines to provide meals, accommodation and phone calls. Following feedback from the customer-care departments of airlines, BAR UK believes that the legislation is being misinterpreted by travellers who mistakenly believe airlines will pay up if things go wrong – and that includes any medical cover they may need.

Lauren Stovell, Business Development Manager for MedicalTravelCompared said: “The legislation is there to protect passengers but if it’s being misunderstood as BAR UK fears, there is a real danger that travellers, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions with a higher risk of ill-health abroad, are leaving themselves exposed to medical costs that can dwarf the holiday budget as a whole.  EU 261 is no substitute for travel insurance cover.  With premiums starting at just £8.81 a day for someone with blood pressure travelling to Spain, it really isn’t worth the risk of travelling without insurance.”

Silver surfer swallows should sort cover before they fly from the UK

Retirees escaping the UK for sunnier climes over winter, some returning months later like swallows in Spring, should shop around to get the best deals on travel insurance online but also ensure they declare any pre-existing conditions – no matter how minor.  Otherwise they risk hefty bills for treatment abroad or even costs for flight and accommodation cancellations if they become unwell and can’t travel.   The warning from MedicalTravelCompared, the only stand-alone travel insurance comparison site for people with pre-existing conditions comes as many retirees begin to plan their winter sojourn and either assume they are too old to access cover or insurance will be too costly due to a medical condition.

Lauren Stovell, Business Development Manager for MedicalTravelCompared said: “Stopping the post, cancelling the milk and setting the lights to come on are not the only items on the ‘to do’ list for retirees planning to escape the UK for a few months this winter.  With 7 out of 10 UK adults aged 65-74 using the internet according to the latest ONS data, organising travel insurance online through sites such as offering access to products with no upper age limits, can be quick and simple.  However it is important travellers declare all pre-existing conditions, including common health problems such as high blood pressure which affects 60% of over 65s, to ensure cover is there when they need it.”  

Failing to take insurance cover or not declaring a condition to an insurer could put a serious dent in retirement funds.  This is particularly true for holidays to the US but also closer to home in Spain where only 50% of hospitals are public and travellers are experiencing problems with acceptance of the European Health Insurance Card.

Lauren Stovell concludes: “Some insurers are averse to insuring older travellers, however, we offer access to a good choice of travel insurance products where age is not a barrier and cover a broad range of pre-existing conditions.  With so many 65-74 year olds using the internet, shopping around and securing travel insurance has become a great deal easier for retirees.” is a travel insurance comparison site specifically for over 65s and those with a pre-existing medical condition. The MedicalTravelCompared insurance panel currently comprises over 18 insurance products.  Travellers complete a simple question set and a list of insurers, covers and premiums are returned. is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The FCA Number is 592298.      0844 887 2102

©  Medical Travel - August - October 2013

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