One in four people says they would travel abroad without insurance, despite 3,000 Britons a week claiming for emergency medical treatment on holiday, with Spain, Greece and France generating the most claims.
The average medical claim amounts to more than £700, which is more than the average weekly UK wage, according to the research from insurer Admiral.
Serious illnesses can be far more costly, with treating a heart attack ranging from £32,000 in France to £65,000 in Canada and Dubai, £80,000 in Barbados and an eye-watering £115,000 in the US.
Travel insurance provides you with peace of mind and, with almost a quarter of medical claims involving children, you need to cover the whole family.
Arrange cover as soon as you book because you are then protected if you have to cancel before you fly, for example, due to illness.
Medical problems account for more than four out of 10 travel insurance claims, double the number for lost or delayed personal baggage and three times the claims for delayed travel or missed departures.
Medical problems also tend to be expensive, making up nearly 70 per cent of total costs, Admiral said.
A broken leg that requires you to be sent back to the UK could cost as much as £36,000 in the US, £25,000 in Dubai and £1,800 in France.
Cosmin Sarbu, head of travel at Admiral, said having insurance could save you “considerable amounts of money as medical costs can far exceed the original price of the holiday”.
The over-55s in particular need to make sure they have adequate travel cover for medical problems and have informed their insurer of any preexisting conditions.
The most common conditions declared in this age group are high cholesterol and high blood pressure, followed by ischaemic heart disease arrhythmia and diabetes, according to research from specialist travel insurer AllClear.
Chief executive Chris Rolland said other health problems must also be declared, including back and neck problems, asthma and arthritis.
“You need to declare all conditions, even if they appear to have no impact on your day-to-day health,” he added.
“Closer investigation invariably reveals a customer’s medical history in GP visits, hospital appointments and medication.”
The danger is that the insurer may then reject your claim for failing to disclose relevant health information.
Rolland added: “The golden rule is if you are not sure, ask your travel insurer when taking out the cover. It is better to be safe than sorry.”
AllClear specialises in covering older people and has recently paid claims costing £200,000 and £125,000.
Almost two years after the EU referendum, many Britons are still confused about whether they can use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which gives free or discounted local treatment across the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).
Carolina Vicente, travel expert at insurer Columbus Direct, said you can continue to use your EHIC as usual until Brexit is concluded: “Make sure you carry the card at all times in case of an emergency, to present to medical staff before receiving treatment.”
Where treatment is free for locals, it will be free for you as well, Vicente said.
The card is free from Ehic.org.uk and even covers preexisting and chronic conditions.
However, it does not cover air ambulances, medical repatriation, care at private facilities and treatment you are going abroad specifically for, so you need to take out insurance as well.
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