Medical Treatment Abroad Can Cost More than the Average UK House

The cost of some medical treatments abroad are more than double the average price of a house in the United Kingdom, research has found.

According to figures released by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), treatment in the US for a multiple fracture of the leg and artery tear, with an air ambulance back to the UK, can cost upwards of £500,000.

Other examples of costly treatment abroad include a claim settled by an insurer for £322,000 for treating a swollen blood vessel in someone’s brain in the US and a £101,000 medical bill for the treatment of an abdominal abscess.

For comparison, the average UK house price is £211,000 at present.

Even though the average travel insurance claim is only £700, emergency medical and repatriation costs mean that many people’s bills are significantly higher.

The ABI data also highlights how emergency medical treatment for people on ocean cruises can be disproportionately expensive. This is because of the additional costs associated with transporting the individual to an appropriate medical facility and possibly needing to repatriate them via air ambulance.

For example, one Caribbean cruise holidaymaker who suffered a heart attack was left with a bill of £92,000 after needing an air ambulance back to the UK.

However, despite these high costs, it’s estimated that one in five travellers go abroad without suitable insurance in place.

The ABI’s manager of general insurance, Mark Shepherd, said that holidaymakers should always ensure they have appropriate insurance in place before travelling and declare any medical conditions when they take out their policies.

“Travel insurance should not be an after-thought, but the first thing you arrange after booking any overseas trip,” he said.

Bupa Global also commented on the ABI’s figures, saying that the US, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Canada and France are the top five most expensive places for UK travellers to receive medical treatment.

According to Bupa Global’s own data, the top five most expensive illnesses/accidents to treat abroad are decompression sickness, ski accidents, snowmobile accidents, heart attacks and cerebral haemorrhages.

Bupa Global director Michael McKaessar said: “It is critical that they [travellers] have adequate travel insurance in place, and know what they are covered for and where.”

A similar survey recently released by Gocompare of over 1,400 UK adults found that one in five (22%) have needed to seek medical treatment while abroad. Furthermore, it revealed that 23% do not always have sufficient travel insurance in place before they travel.

The Gocompare survey also found that less than half (49%) of those treated abroad rated the quality of their care as ‘good’, while 14% said they were unable to get any treatment until they’d proved they had travel insurance with medical cover.

Alex Edwards, travel insurance spokesperson at Gocompare.com, said that falling seriously ill while abroad, especially in developed countries, can lead to substantial medical bills for people who do not have insurance.

It is very important for travellers to seek advice on the cover they may need whilst travelling abroad. Some travel insurance policies will exclude cruises so seeking this independent advice is the best course for all travellers.


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