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Travel Insurance … Peace of Mind or Essential Protection

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Pat Towers is not only Private Client Executive at Russell Scanlan, but also resident travel insurance expert. A keen traveller herself, Pat understands that getting the right cover in place can be that final reassurance and peace of mind that makes a holiday that perfect break. But does it feel as if a growing number of insurance options feels more like a barrier to climb rather than a passport to relaxation?

Deciding upon the right travel insurance these days does make you feel as if you should spend days researching the market, comparing policies and examining the small print. Online offers and comparison websites can bombard you with offers whilst the media, consumer affairs programmes and even reality tv channels are ever present to report on those poor individuals and families which did not do their homework and caught out by insurers determined to  avoid paying out for legitimate claims. So, with summer most definitely here, now is the time to pay close attention.

Insurance is about protection against all events, even the unplanned and unpredictable – from a simple mislaid item to a tumble whilst skiing to a more serious situation requiring specialist medical assistance. Some travellers wrongly assume that the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a substitute for such insurance but in fact the card just entitles card carriers to be treated for the same cost as a local resident (which can vary hugely even across central European countries). And there are other misconceptions – apparently 26% of travellers believe that the EHIC will pay for repatriation, which unfortunately it does not.In fact medical issues are still the most common form of travel insurance claim. We know that some travellers may be tempted to hide pre-existing conditions from their insurer in an effort to reduce costs but in our experience this is simply false economy. If you did need to seek medical assistance abroad and needed to claim, the insurer has the right to access medical records and if they find a condition not disclosed on application then a claim will be rejected. A really tough outcome when we know that the average medical claim is around £9142. Of course there are occasions when it is necessarily to challenge an insurer’s decision and to take that challenge further.

I read recently of a retired couple, aged 70 and 69, which had booked a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to New Zealand (with non-refundable flights). A few days before they were due to fly, the husband’s mother unexpectedly passed away aged 100 and as a result, the couple sadly felt they had to abandon their trip. They duly submitted a claim to their insurer for the cost of the flights, some £8,000, which was rejected. The insurer claimed that the husband’s mother, rather than passing away from natural causes, had been prescribed antibiotics for an infection the previous year which classes as a “pre-existing condition”1. It took some intervention from The Telegraph to secure a full refund for the cost of the flights, plus compensation. It seems the threat of bad publicity ultimately did the trick.

And while on the subject of self-help, there is a whole parcel of things to be done that may seem simple and straightforward but a quick reminder really can’t hurt. Remember to take all your travel insurance documents with you, and I really mean all! Make sure that you check the policy excess and consider if that level works for you and your family. Do recognise that cheap policies will have limitations and that may mean scanning the small print to find them. Shopping around will always deliver the best deal but will take some investment of time and effort. The alternative is to ask your Broker to search and scrutinise on your behalf and dig around for that perfect policy. They can offer absolute peace of mind.
If you have young members of the family embarking on an extended holiday or a gap year with global aspirations then share your knowledge and experience (if they will let you!). These longer trips often to glamourous ad off the beaten track destinations may require a more carefully considered policy to cover all possible eventualities.

At the other end of the age spectrum, I’m sorry to report that the cost of travel insurance becomes more expensive the older you are. The reason is that insurers would seem to believe that there is a greater likelihood of an accident or medical issue arising, even though statistics tend to disprove this and show that people aged over 70 are less likely to make a claim. Some insurers will not even provide cover for older travellers but there are specialist companies that offer good deals, but as specialists are rarely listed on price comparison websites.  

In short the perfect travel insurance policy for everyone is out there but it may take the services of a Broker to find it for you. But surely that’s the way it should be? We do our job and you focus on the plans, the packing and more than a little peace of mind. For more information contact Pat on 01159 838813


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