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Any alternative to high-priced insurance for older travellers?

Travel Q&A

Q. I am 84 and in good health. I’m planning short trips to Spain, Switzerland and France. However, some of the insurance quotes I am getting amount to more than the air fare. What’s your advice? Name withheld, Bath

A. Travel insurance is extremely expensive for older travellers, particularly those aged 80-plus – not  because insurers unfairly penalise people with the good fortune to enjoy a long life, but because the propensity to make costly claims rises with age.

The excellent travel insurance offered by Age UK (ageuk.org.uk) provides a good example. Cover for a five-day trip to Spain is £81 – far more than a basic policy for a younger traveller, and with significant exclusions: cancellation cover does not apply “if any person on whom a trip depends” has had any hospital tests or been referred to a specialist consultant in the past year.

The annual policies are also pricey:  Europe for £376, worldwide except North America for £623, or including the US and Canada (where medical costs can be astronomical) for £828. Given the high premiums, you might take the rational decision not to insure. You will lose cover for baggage loss or travel disruption. However, it may well be that, at your fine age, you are comfortable about accepting these risks.

The key issue is medical treatment – but for the destinations you are visiting, the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will oblige; get it by phone to 0300 330 1350 or online at bit.ly/EHICfree.

The card entitles you to treatment in EU countries – plus Switzerland – on the same basis as local people. Care is either free or costs a nominal sum, and covers pre-existing conditions.