If you’re heading overseas for a holiday this summer, you’ve probably already started to look at different options for your travel insurance. It’s a common misconception that most travel insurance policies are the same, and that it doesn’t really matter what company you go with. That’s really not the case, and if you haven’t taken the time to understand the terms and conditions of your policy and apply online for your EHIC before leaving home, you could end up being substantially out of pocket.
Many of the problems surrounding travel insurance claims, especially for medically related incidents, is that some policies set the excess limit very high. Excesses for medical claims are usually £100, but can be more if you choose to take a higher excess in return for paying less for your policy. Excess means that you cannot claim from an insurer until your claim passes the excess amount. If you are prepared to pay more, most insurers will allow you to set your excess to zero. Another trick the insurers have up their sleeve is to charge separate excesses for each area of claim, so if you are injured in a mugging and have your wallet stolen, you pay the £100 excess for the medical side of the claim, and another £100 for the theft. Cancellation was a particular issue as along with the excess, refunds are often capped at £3000, which is often not the entire cost of a family holiday.
Reduce Excesses with EHIC
EHIC – the European Health Insurance Card – offers a neat way to sidestep the issues surrounding insurance policy excesses. EHIC has to be applied for online before you leave the UK, and allows you to claim access to public health treatment as if you were living in that country. Many travel insurance companies will offer discounts to customers who have applied online for EHICs for each member of the family before leaving home. In many cases, using EHIC to pay for your basic healthcare needs will allow you to reduce your excess for that component of your insurance to zero. Not all insurers do this, so check the terms of your insurance before agreeing to go ahead. Remember also that EHIC will only cover the costs for treatment in the public sector, so if you are treated in a private hospital, you will still have to pay the excess.
Exclusions for Illnesses
Travellers who suffer from chronic medical conditions or who are awaiting diagnostic tests often find that their travel insurance policies refuse to pay out for medical claims, saying that the condition was clearly pre-existing. The good news is that EHIC will cover all medical conditions, whether newly-diagnosed or long standing, while you are in one of the EEA countries. This can go a long way towards minimising the costs of having an illness treated, and is often the most cost-effective option. Just make sure that you are still covered for all other risks associated with your holiday, including cancellation if your illness deteriorates, and repatriation in an emergency.