Skiers Without Travel Insurance Face Mountainous Medical Bills Through Weak Pound

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Sterling's slump means huge increases in overseas medical expenses this year; More than 10 million people tempted not to buy travel insurance; Post Office, partner of Foreign and Commonwealth Office's 'Know Before You Go' campaign, cautions skiers

Credit crunch squeezed skiers and snowboarders who plan to skip travel insurance to cut costs could be leaving themselves open to colossal hospital bills if they have an accident on the slopes this year, with overseas medical expenses rocketing as a result of sterling's slump in value.

According to Post Office Travel Insurance data, medical expenses make up an estimated 72 per cent of ski holiday insurance claim costs. Yet almost a quarter of people (23 per cent ) are considering going on holiday this year without travel insurance in order to save money.

Post Office Travel Services, a partner of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 'Know Before You Go' campaign, is urging people to minimise risk by preparing properly for their skiing trip.

Post Office head of travel insurance Rachel Croft said: "Paying out for medical costs with no insurance has never been cheap, but the weaker pound means that the relative cost of hospital treatment abroad can be potentially much higher. Medical costs in popular eurozone ski destinations such as France, Italy and Austria could be around 18 per cent higher than this time last year. And skiiers going to Aspen or Vail in US are looking at a massive 29 per cent hike. "

Typical costs of an air ambulance to the UK:
France     £8,000
Italy     £12,000
Austria    £10,000
USA     £50,000

Steve Jewitt-Fleet of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's 'Know Before You Go' campaign, said: "The risks involved in winter sports holidays mean it is essential that slope-lovers are properly prepared before travelling. The most important thing is to take out fully comprehensive travel insurance and to read the small print of your policy, so you know what you're covered for. If you're not properly insured and have a serious accident, you or your family could be left picking up a huge medical bill."

Rachel Croft continued: "In addition to travel insurance, it's essential that people carry a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which offers free or reduced cost medical treatment in EU countries. However, the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance - it won't cover costs such as mountain rescue, repatriation or lost baggage - so we urge people to ensure they are fully covered against all eventualities."

A case in point: The cost of injury on the slopes this ski season:
Here are some claims that Post Office Travel Insurance is currently handling this ski season. Without comprehensive insurance, these customers would have no choice but to pick up the bill themselves .

Case 1 - France
A 50-year-old woman from Manchester suffered fractured leg bones and required repatriation from Val d'Isere with extra seats and a nurse escort.
Estimated cost of claim: £4,000

Case 2 - Germany
A 48-year-old woman from Ayrshire suffered leg injuries while skiing and had to be repatriated by stretcher from Munich.
Estimated cost of claim: £10,500

Case 3 - France
An 18-year-old man dislocated his hip and was repatriated from the Pyrenees to Humberside by stretcher for hospital admission.
Estimated cost of claim: £10,000

Case 4 - France
A 30-year-old man suffered a fractured thighbone and was repatriated with extra seats from Moutiers to Gwent.
Estimated cost of claim: £5,000

Case 5 - Italy
A 21-year-old man suffered a fractured leg and was repatriated by stretcher from Turin to Manchester for hospital admission.
Estimated cost of claim: £9,000

Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice to help you plan your skiing holiday:

  • It's essential to take out travel insurance for any trip abroad, no matter how short your trip. If you're going to be skiing or snowboarding, make sure your insurance policy covers these activities (before you head off on your holiday read the small print of your policy to check)
  • Remember, alcohol can affect you more quickly at high altitudes and most insurers won't pay out if you injure yourself or others if you've been drinking alcohol
  • Make sure you use good quality equipment and protect yourself against injury. Know your own ability - it might not be a good idea to attempt a black run after two days on the beginner slopes!
  • Make photocopies of important documents (e.g. passport, insurance details, credit card number and cancellation details) and keep them separate from the originals - this makes getting replacements or finding contact numbers easier
  • If travelling in Europe, get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This card entitles you to reduced cost or free emergency healthcare in most European countries. If you've already got an EHIC, check it's still valid. Remember though, the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance - for example it will not cover the costs of you being rescued from the slopes - you must have both to be fully covered. You can apply for an EHIC at the Post Office, online at http://www.dh.gov.uk/travellers or by phone on 0845 606 2030. (Be aware that the EHIC isn't valid in Andorra, northern Cyprus, Monaco or The Vatican City)
  • Remember to take the contact details for your insurance company with you in order that you can contact them in the event of a medical emergency.

Post Office Travel Insurance offers Winter Sports Cover as an optional extra on its range of annual and single trip policies, providing protection for costs of injury, damaged or stolen winter sports equipment and piste closure. It also covers off-piste skiing (with a qualified instructor only). Prices start from just £14 for 1-3 days (with ski and winter sports cover) in Europe. Policies can be bought over the counter at more than 10,000 Post Office branches or online at http://www.postoffice.co.uk/travel.

Post Office Travel Insurance is underwritten by Fortis Insurance Limited.

For further information please contact:
3 Monkeys Communications
Redzi Mangwana / Fiona Chow / Edith Barton-Harvey
020 7440 2410

Post Office Ltd
Hayley Fowell
020 7250 2417

Notes to Editors:
About Post Office ® Travel Services
Post Office travel insurance can be purchased as a single trip policy (up to a maximum of 90 days) or an annual multi-trip policy, and a range of great value extras is available, including winter sports cover, golf cover, and additional cover for hazardous activities. The annual multi-trip policy provides cover for any number of trips in a 12-month period, up to a maximum of 31 days' per trip.

Don't forget you can pick up travel money too: The Post Office is the UK's largest bureau de change provider offering over 70 different currencies with 0 per cent commission on all foreign currency and travellers' cheques. The Post Office pre-paid Travel Money Card offers customers a secure and convenient way to carry their holiday money.

The Post Office also provides a range of other great value travel services including EHIC forms, passport check and send service and photos, international money transfers, holiday phone cards, plus huge savings on car-hire and pre-booked holiday extras.

http://www.postoffice.co.uk

About the Know Before You Go campaign
The FCO's ongoing Know Before You Go campaign encourages British nationals to prepare for their foreign travel so they can avoid preventable problems. The campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad. The campaign works with nearly 300 travel industry partners to communicate its messages.

For more information please visit http://www.fco.gov.uk/travel

About Fortis
Fortis (Insurance UK) is a leading provider of award-winning personal and commercial lines insurance solutions in the UK. As the fourth largest travel insurer in the UK, insuring in the region of 4 million travellers, Fortis boasts a highly skilled team who on hand 24/7/365 days a year, to provide the very best service to their travel insurance policyholders. Over nearly 30 years Fortis' Assistance International and its team of multi-lingual staff have built an enviable and solid base of experience in managing a network of agents worldwide. Fortis is consistently recognised for delivering high-quality customer experiences and links quality of service to speed of settlement. Fortis Insurance Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

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