Older gappers cause rise in travel insurance claims

A significant rise in medical travel insurance claims has been partly attributed to the increase in older travellers taking gap years.

Medical expenses claims on travel insurance policies have nearly quadrupled in recent years. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) report that the cost of illness overseas increased from £74m in 2004 to £275m last year, with the number of claims rising from 120,000 to 337,000 during that time.

ABI spokesperson Malcolm Tarling said: "The trend we've noticed over the last 15 to 20 years is that people are travelling more, and that taking time out is not just the preserve of students. It's becoming commonplace for older people to travel to more exotic locations."

While Tarling admits older travellers are more at risk from health problems while they're away, he pointed out there are other reasons medical insurance claims have risen so dramatically. "I wouldn't put it down to one single factor," he said. "This increase is also down to more people buying travel insurance and medical inflation costs."

He added: "There has also been an increase in the sophistication of medical treatment and services available. An air ambulance, for example, can cost £24,000 a time to use."

ABI state that people are more likely to travel underinsured than uninsured, but confirm that travelling without insurance is still a serious issue. Nick Starling, ABI's Director of General Insurance and Health, said: "Medical costs can run into tens of thousands of pounds which makes travel insurance absolutely essential."