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Older travellers put at risk by lack of cover

A couple of grey panthers on holidayThousands of older travellers risk incurring huge medical bills abroad due to lack of insurance, the government has warned.

Figures published this week by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office show that one in 10 people aged 55 or older admit they do not always take out travel insurance before they go on holiday.

Invalid cover

Of those who do buy policies, 20 per cent risk having legitimate claims turned down because they fail to tell their insurers about existing medical conditions.

Providers are normally entitled to reject claims if a customer did not fully disclose any relevant information about their medical history when they signed up for cover.

A further 15 per cent of those surveyed say they would not tell their insurer if they developed a new illness or were prescribed new drugs for an existing ailment.

This could again potentially invalidate the cover.

‘Risky assumptions’

Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds said: "'It won’t happen to me,' or 'I’ll be fine,' are risky assumptions to make when deciding whether or not to take out comprehensive travel insurance.

"Our consular staff around the world deal with thousands of cases each year that prove that things can and do go wrong.

"Being unwell abroad is stressful enough without the added pressure of having to find thousands of pounds to pay for treatment."

No preferential treatment

Simmonds added that travellers could not rely on consulates to help them pay foreign hospital bills or get them treated any more urgently than locals.

He said: "We will do everything we can to support people who find themselves needing medical assistance or treatment abroad, but the Foreign Office cannot pay medical bills or fund medical repatriation back to the UK."

Over-50s organisation Saga said that the average medical expenses claim from older travellers was more than £2,000.

Cancellation costs

The company added that the cost of medical treatment was not the only reason older people should prioritise travel insurance.

Saga’s research found that 42 per cent of claims were for cancellation of trips, typically due to illness.

Saga’s Roger Ramsden said: "Not packing travel insurance can be a costly mistake – paying thousands for a cancelled holiday or medical bills is sure to wipe the smile from the most genial of globetrotter’s faces.

"So it’s important to make sure everything is covered from the moment you book your holiday."

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) admitted that older people could sometimes find it difficult to get cover.

But he added that a new agreement between the industry and government meant that providers were now obliged to direct customers to alternative insurers if they were unwilling or unable to offer them a policy.


Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris