Brexit may be on hold, but a worrying number of Brits planning to visit the EU risk potentially financially crippling bills according to the findings of consumer research commissioned by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA).
The research of 2,000 adults conducted by Populus, highlights that nearly a quarter – 23% – of people say that they have no plans to take out travel insurance before their next visit to the EU, with 18% undecided if they will buy cover before their trip.
While the risk of a no-deal Brexit, and with it the ending of the Emergency Health Insurance Card (that allows UK travellers to receive treatment from public hospitals in the EU on the same basis as a resident of that country) may be greatly reduced, travel insurance remains vital when travelling to the EU and beyond. Even with the EHIC continuing to apply, it will not cover all medical treatments, or the cost of any emergency repatriation back to the UK on medical grounds. Emergency repatriation costs can easily run into tens of thousands of pounds. For example, an air ambulance back to the UK from Spain can typically cost £18,000; £12,000 from Germany or France.
Charlie Campbell, Manager, Health and Protection, at the ABI said:
“These findings are worrying. Travellers to the EU should of course have their EHIC, but to supplement, not to replace travel insurance. Whatever the terms of Brexit, having travel insurance when travelling to the EU, and beyond, is not a ‘nice to have’, but a ‘must have’ purchase. Without insurance, travellers risk huge medical bills if the worst happens when they are abroad’’
Graeme Trudgill, Executive Director at BIBA added: “If you have an incident while abroad your travel insurance exists to support you and prevent you from finding appropriate medical treatment abroad unnecessarily challenging and expensive.
“We strongly advocate arranging comprehensive travel insurance in addition to the limited protection granted by an EHIC. It is vital that holidaymakers and business travellers understand that they need suitable travel insurance which will not only cover medical costs, but also cancellation, missed departure, theft and loss of personal belongings and liability. Raising general awareness about this, particularly among the significant number Brits who risk travelling uninsured is essential.”
Should the UK Government be unable to pass its withdrawal agreement and leave the EU without a deal on 31 January 2020, there is a possibility that the EHIC will no longer apply and insurance will be essential.