Sunday 27 February 2011

Travel insurance, health insurance and medical care

Should we get travel insurance?
A one year policy would cost somewhere in the vicinity of $1,500.  Considering that we would be covered by the NHS for medical care, we wonder if it would be worth it to pay for the travel insurance policy.  But what about cancellation of airfares if something were to happen before we left… or what about if we went to Paris for a weekend… or hired a car.  The first few weeks we’d probably have a hire car and pay for some accommodation.  Maybe it would be worth buying a policy for a shorter duration to at least cover us for the bookings we would make before leaving home and the car hire insurance excess.  We could get a policy covering 2 months for about $500.  I’ll have to find out about what would happen if we travelled from the UK to other countries in Europe.  I wonder if British residents get travel insurance for these trips?

Are we eligible for the NHS?
From what we have learnt it appears we would be eligible for medical care under the NHS in the UK.  It would involve registering with a local GP to be “on their list”.  To do this you need to have a UK address and this isn’t always an easy thing for someone from Australia or New Zealand planning to live on a narrowboat.  We are hoping to use a friend’s address to receive mail from the NHS and register with a local GP.  I have discussed this with Derek and Dot previously of Gypsy Rover and recall Dot needing to attend an interview and obtain some sort of ID number.  I’ll post an update when I check with them about this.

Australia has a bilateral health care agreement with the UK so Australian residents would be granted health care at the accident and emergency department of a hospital.  I have been in this situation several years ago when I developed a corneal ulcer in my eye while I was on holiday.  I asked at an optician’s clinic what I should do and they told me to go the Eye and Ear Hospital.  It was a long wait (more than 4hrs) but they were very helpful, gave me necessary eye drops and asked for nothing more than seeing my passport and airline tickets.

More info here : Free NHS

What do I do about my health insurance in Australia?
I was wondering how being overseas, and cancelling your health cover, would affect the lifetime health cover loading.  You can cancel your cover to go overseas without affecting the loading as long as you are gone over 12 months.  For shorter periods you could apply to your insurer to have your cover suspended rather than cancelled.   

More info here : Lifetime Health Cover

For up to date information for Australians travelling to the UK, including information about medical care :


Tom and Jan said...

Thanks for the link to the NHS. I suspect the greatest huddle will be finding a GP who will accept you when you have a "moving" address!

We will take out travel insurance for the limited duration of our trip to the UK. However
I think we will cancel our Australian private medical insurance before we depart.

Peter Berry said...

This must be a difficult subject to get a grip of from your point of view. I can't say that I am any kind of expert on the subject but will give you input from what I know. We obtained very reasonable travel insurance for our 3 month world trip last year. It cost only £120, and we found it by doing one of those price comparison searches on the internet. Be very careful when considering whether you need it or not. Just one example I can think of is that the NHS won't cover any repatriation costs back to Australia in the event of an injury or illness that won't allow you to travel in the normal manner. Medically supervized flights can be very expensive. Also, before deciding on any particular policy, do read the small print to make sure it will cover you for any circumstances. I have read many a horror story when people have had to claim and then found an exclusion in their policy, leaving them high and dry. Next GP's. Any GP will add you to their list if you have a permanent address which is near to their surgery. They will not retain you on that list if you move away though. In those circumstances you have to re-register with a local GP there. So travelling in a narrowboat, (if declared), won't allow you to do that. However, you will have access to NHS walk in centres which are now in most towns and are seperate to A&E departments and deal with conditions that are not urgent. As far as being able to use the NHS service is concerned, I am not sure that even people who hold a UK passport are eligible without having made any national insurance contributions, i.e. have never worked here. To be able to be fully covered with the NHS you will need to have national insurance numbers. You may find this website useful, if you are not already aware of it:

Peter Berry said...

Hi again, Elly, Mick. I have more info in answer to your question "Do UK residents have travel insurance when going to Europe". At the time I posted my first comment I couldn't remember the name of the card we have. Being a resident of a member state of the EU, we carry an E111 card when travelling to other member states, (only EU). This provides us with BASIC health care on a reciprocal basis only, and insurance is still advisable. Again if long term care and/or repatriation is required, then this wouldn't be covered. In fact if we book a package holiday to Europe more often than not they won't accept our booking if we don't have insurance. Further on the subject on GP registration. I have confirmed that any GP will only accept registration from people who actually live within the area they cover. If you move house, for example to another town, then you would have to register with another GP in that town. This doesn't work in the same way with dentists, who will retain you no matter where you live. However, as I originally said, we now have NHS walk in centres that would negate the need to be registered with one surgery.