Protection Essential For Medical Tourists

 By: Carole Bayliss
An increasing number of people are travelling abroad to receive lower cost surgery. Last year 70,000 people went overseas for surgery, 30% more than in 2006. The attraction is obvious. According to consumer watchdog Which? a dental implant, for example, which can cost around £2,200 in the UK, can cost as little as £750 in Hungary. A tummy tuck that would cost £4,000 in the UK could be half the price in Poland. Eastern Europe is the most popular destination according to Abbey, with 6% choosing to travel to countries such as Hungary and Poland.

But travelling abroad for medical treatment can be risky. A survey carried out by Which? found that 18% of UK residents who travelled overseas for medical treatment experienced problems. This ranged from a tummy tuck going septic to liposuction leading to one person’s stomach ‘leaking cellulite’. 8% had to return to the NHS for help in an emergency, after having treatment abroad and more than a quarter didn't feel they had received the follow-up care they needed.

However research carried out by Post Office Travel Services found that 25,000 of those travelling abroad for medical treatment were not adequately covered for this type of risk. One in five of these people admitted it simply did not cross their minds to check the policy. Worryingly 16% just assumed they would be covered. A further 9% checked their policy and realised they were not covered, yet still chose not to buy additional cover.

“As with all standard policies on the market, Post Office Travel Insurance will not cover tourists for pre-planned medical or cosmetic surgery so it’s vital that anyone considering this looks into buying additional specialist cover,” warns Helen Warburton, Head of Post Office Travel Services. “It’s also important to check exactly what the specialist insurance covers over and above medical treatment. Travellers may still require traditional travel insurance to cover any potential lost baggage, delayed flights or flight cancellation.”

For those planning to travel abroad for surgery it is important they check that their insurance policy covers expenses such as additional periods of hospitalisation and replacement flights, if their trip has to be extended. It is also advisable to be honest with the insurance provider about plans for surgery and to inform them of any pre-existing medical conditions.

Which? urges potential medical tourists to do their homework before heading off to the sun for surgery. It recommends checking doctors’ qualifications and registration with a professional body, and to make plans taking in to consideration possible problems that could arise. It is vital to read the fine print and be clear about what the contract actually covers. And don’t forget that legal rights differ from country to country.
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