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Does Travel Insurance Cover Medical Expenses?

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Unexpected medical expenses are typically covered by travel insurance policies. Learn about the exceptions to understand when travel insurance won't cover the cost of your medical treatment abroad. If you're wondering whether or not you need medical travel insurance, please see our related article, Do I Need Medical Insurance to Travel?

Medical Expenses Covered by Travel Insurance

Generally speaking, unexpected, emergency medical expenses are covered by travel insurance. For example, your medical costs should be covered to treat an accident (e.g., broken wrist due to a fall) or illness (e.g., pneumonia, stroke, heart attack, etc.) whilst abroad on holiday. There are some exceptions, however, such as travelling with undeclared pre-existing conditions. (If you have any health issues, you can learn about holiday cover prices in our article Average Cost of Travel Insurance with Pre-Existing Conditions.)

Overall emergency medical limits are usually quite high—at least £1 million—so most people don't need to worry too much about the specific amount of medical coverage offered by a holiday cover policy. Some plans go up to £20 million or even more. That said, some plans impose a limit on specific types of charges, such as replacement prescriptions in case of loss.

When Medical Costs Aren't Covered by Travel Insurance

There are situations when travel insurance won't cover the cost of medical treatment abroad. While terms vary by insurance company, here are some situations where you may be wholly responsible for the cost of medical treatment, without any help from your travel insurance:

  • Treatment in Europe if you don't carry and present your EHIC card
  • Pre-existing conditions that you failed to declare
  • Non-emergency medical treatment such as a scheduled procedure, treatment or tests for a non-declared existing medical condition
  • Treatment that could reasonably have waited until you got home
  • If you were drinking or on drugs when an accident occurred
  • Treatment of a tropic disease if you didn't have the proper inoculations
  • Inpatient or repatriation claims if you don't contact the insurer's emergency helpline for advice/approval
  • Amounts over inner limits such as a maximum limit for lost prescriptions

Once you're back in the UK and able to access the NHS, travel insurance typically halts their coverage. The exception is that some travel insurance companies will reimburse you for physiotherapy back in the UK for an incident that happened whilst you were under the travel insurance cover abroad. For example, Free Spirit offers a host of optional extras like aftercare following hospitalization abroad that covers home help, cosmetic surgery, dental treatment, physiotherapy and UK convalescence.

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The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.