HEALTHPLAN MAGAZINE

UK Foreign Office Tells British Skiers They Won’t Pay Their Medical Bills Spain News

With many Brits hitting the slopes over winter, the Foreign Office is advising skiers to check their travel insurance.

As the ski season gets underway, the UK Foreign Office is issuing a warning to the 1.5 million British citizens expected to hit the slopes. The stark warning is that the Foreign Office will not pay expensive medical bills or help those who get into trouble during snow sports.

In the last year, there were 197 significant incidents involving British skiers and two ski-related deaths. The Foreign Office is reminding skiers that they cannot pay medical bills for injured skiers overseas, nor will it pay to fly individuals home for treatment in the UK. Instead, it is urging British skiers to ensure they have the right level of travel insurance for their trip.

The warning comes as over 1.5 million Brits are expected to enjoy a ski holiday this season. While hugely enjoyable for many, snow sports comes with a great deal of risk. Anyone who does have an accident on the slopes will have to be airlifted to the hospital; they will then have costly medical bills to pay. Travel insurance can cover evacuation and medical bills, but it is essential that the insurance covers winter sports activities and has an appropriate amount of coverage.

For example, one skier who had a fall last year received a medical bill of £90,000 which covered a doctor escort on a return flight and a two-week stay in hospital as she was not insured. Travel insurance does not automatically cover winter sports. Usually, this needs to be a separate policy or an additional cover option.

Does EHIC Cover Ski Incidents?

Many individuals wrongly assume that they do not need travel insurance for their ski trip as they have a European Health Insurance Card, known as EHIC. All the card provides is access to state-provided medical care for countries in the European Union. It is only valid in the EU and not worldwide.

Furthermore, it does not mean treatment will be free; it means you can access the same healthcare at the same cost that residents pay. In some cases, treatment may be free. However, it is not always the case.

Another aspect that EHIC does not cover is emergency assistance or ambulance travel. Skiers can buy mountain insurance with their ski pass that includes emergency assistance. Alternatively, skiers should check that their travel insurance covers assistance, ambulance travel and travel back to the UK.

It is, however, still worth having an EHIC from the UK, which is free to obtain and can ensure you have access to state-run medical care if you need it.

What About Brexit?

If a transition period for Brexit is agreed, then EHIC will be valid after 29th March 2019. However, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal (a no-deal Brexit) then finding quality travel insurance becomes essential for those travelling after the 29th March 2019.