How to make sure your travel insurance doesn’t let you down

Broken leg cast with travel stickers © Getty Images
Will a private hospital help?

Make sure your travel insurance covers enough to prevent a holiday mishap from becoming a disaster.

Before you head off on your summer holidays make sure you have travel insurance. Research by Sainsbury’s Bank has found that 2.3 million of us go on holiday without it. But if you fall ill or get injured on holiday, being covered could save you thousands of pounds. The average travel insurance claim is £1,300, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

Don’t just buy the cheapest policy on a comparison site. They all differ and you need one that suits you. One thing to watch out for is mention of treatment at private hospitals.

While half of the 20 biggest travel-insurance firms “refer to private medical treatment in their terms and conditions…they all also include carefully-worded caveats that could be used to avoid paying for more expensive treatment”, says Ali Hussain in The Sunday Times.

Most of them have a get-out clause in the small print that states private treatment isn’t covered unless you get permission from the insurer first. The Spanish authorities said recently that around 800 Britons a day were seeking treatment at private clinics only to find their insurance wouldn’t cover it. They were then left choosing between being moved to a public facility, or paying the bills themselves.

The Sunday Times gives the example of Mary Lewis who had to pay £16,500 to fly home after breaking her leg in Greece. Her policy “would provide treatment only at an inadequately funded state facility”, says Hussain.

“Customers are better off choosing policies that have no mention of whether you can use private health facilities,” James Daley of Fairer Finance told The Sunday Times. Then if an insurer attempts to block a claim after you’ve used a private hospital, “you will be in a stronger position to appeal…to the Financial Ombudsman Service”. The Financial Ombudsman will look at what is “fair and reasonable”.

Are earthquakes covered?

Another thing to check is whether your policy covers “force majeure” (natural disasters, such as hurricanes, volcanoes, or earthquakes).

This “is typically an add-on to a travel insurance policy, so while it is not always included as standard, it is a very crucial part of the cover”, as the consumer awareness initiative Travel Insurance Explained points out in the Daily Express.

Finally, there is good news on the horizon for anyone with a medical condition looking for travel insurance. The Financial Conduct Authority will introduce a new rule that will give people a directory of insurers who will cover them and their existing conditions.

This will “crack down on rip-off premiums”, says Emma Munbodh in the Daily Mirror. People are too often “hit with extra charges for their condition, despite declaring it at the time of taking out the cover”.