Compulsory Travel Medical Insurance for Non-EU Visitors

The Government is thinking about making it compulsory for non-EU visitors to the UK to have travel insurance to meet their medical expenses.  The NHS reckons that it writes off £5m every year in uncollected charges owed by visitors, although it is not clear how carefully the abuse is currently being monitored.

One foreign businessman was given treatment costing £55,000 after he falsely claimed to be a UK resident.  A lady who arrived in the late stages of pregnancy left owing £5,000.

The proposal is that visitors will have to present proof of health insurance to pass through immigration.  For residents of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein this will not be a problem because they are entitled to free care in the UK in the same way as UK residents may be treated free in EU countries.  However it may present problems for others and some commentators have expressed concerns about the impact on tourism.

It is not clear how it will work in practice, will visitors have to buy their travel insurance before they leave their home country or will there be travel insurance sales booths in the arrivals area? Travel insurance normally only covers emergency medical treatment rather then longer term care so presumably visitors would be repatriated once they are stable.

When you travel overseas it is best to protect yourself against emergency medical treatment with travel insurance. If you travel more than twice a year is is often cheaper of buy annual travel insurance rather then single trip travel insurance each time you travel.