If you have a disability, or you’ve had a serious medical condition in the past you’re likely to be quoted ludicrously high prices for travel insurance by most insurers. This guide explains how you can find affordable travel cover if you have health problems, and how to make a claim.
Medical conditions travel insurance: Your 10 need-to-knows
Travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions works exactly the same way as insurance for typical travellers and is designed to cover you for the unforeseen, such as cancellation or lost luggage.
The only exception is that it also covers the cost of care for any medical condition you may have had in the past or you suffer from currently.
This is not included in typical travel insurance as standard, meaning that specialist cover is vital for holidaymakers with a history of illness. You’ll usually pay more for specialist insurance, as insurers consider you to be more of a risk than those with a clean bill of health.
Before you buy pre-existing medical conditions travel insurance, here are 10 things you need to know.
Insurance is about covering unpredictable events
“Why should I get travel insurance, I might not even use it?” you may ask. The whole point of travel insurance is to cover you for the unforeseen – ie, unpredictable events that may (or may not) occur either before or during your holiday.
If a disaster were to happen whilst you were on holiday, then you would rather be prepared, and not have to pay extortionate amounts for foreign healthcare.
Insurance is about making unpredictable events predictable in case the unpredictable happens.
Always declare your medical conditions or you may not be covered
A pre-existing condition is an illness or disease that you have had advice, symptoms or treatment for. Different insurers will have their own list of conditions they need to be informed about before you travel – the following are the most common:
- Gastrointestinal conditions
- Heart conditions (which usually includes high blood pressure)
- Breathing conditions (including asthma)
- Joint and bone conditions
As you are statistically more likely to fall ill while abroad if you have medical conditions it’s important you give a full and frank disclosure of your health issues, or those you’ve had in the past when you apply for a policy.
If your insurer doesn’t know about your medical history any pre-existing conditions will be excluded and you could face a massive bill if you become unwell.
Buy as soon as you’ve booked or risk not being covered for cancellation or pre-trip illness
It is never a good idea to wait until the last minute when you are buying travel insurance. This is even more important if you have pre-existing conditions because it may take a bit longer to get it sorted. There’s also the risk that your condition gets worse so if you’ve already got the insurance you’ll be covered.Thinking you don’t need to arrange cover yet as your holiday’s not for another six months is a big mistake.
Thinking you don’t need to arrange cover yet as your holiday’s not for another six months is a big mistake.
In fact, it’s even more of a reason to arrange travel insurance, as anything can happen before your trip. Why? It’s because travel insurance won’t just cover you while you’re away, it’ll also cover you for cancellation or anything else that might go wrong BEFORE you make your trip.The sooner you buy
The sooner you buy cover, the sooner your holiday is protected.
Never assume all policies are the same
While choosing a travel policy isn’t rocket science, don’t think you can buy cover without first giving it considerable thought.
This is even more important when looking for policies if you’ve got pre-existing conditions because they vary greatly and each has their own inclusions and exclusions, limits and excesses.
Before you decide what you are going to buy ask yourself the following questions:
- Will I be bringing expensive personal belongings?
- Will I be carrying a relatively large amount of foreign currency?
- Am I taking part in winter sports?
This will help you decide appropriate cover.
Single trip policies MAY be your most affordable option
If you have pre-existing conditions buying an annual policy may be prohibitively expensive. Get quotes for both single trip and annual cover and work out what will be most cost effective.
If it is cheaper to buy an annual policy, and you know you will be making a number of trips, opt for that instead. Of course, this varies depending on where you’re travelling to and for how long but if you also have extra trips during the life of the policy, you already have the cover in force.
Groups policies are based on the oldest traveller so separate cover could be cheaper
Group insurance premiums are based on the oldest traveller or the person deemed to be the highest risk, such as someone with pre-existing medical conditions. Insurers become more selective under these circumstances and hike up premiums.
A separate policy for you may be the best option to avoid everyone paying more than necessary, but always check both.
Here’s an example:
A family of four – A 45-year-old with diabetes and on medication for high blood pressure, 40-year-old with a clean bill of health and two children under 18 – want a worldwide annual travel insurance policy. They have two options:
However, one thing to be aware of is if, for example, the traveller with pre-existing conditions fell ill and couldn’t fly back at the end of the holiday, the 40-year old and the kids would not get a payout towards the cost of staying on as they have a separate policy. If they were all on the same policy they would all be covered.
Going to Europe? Don’t forget your EHIC (it’s FREE)
One of the most common areas of travel cover confusion is the European Health Insurance Card. Many travellers wrongly assume, due to its name, that it is a substitute for travel insurance.
An EHIC entitles you to treatment in state-run hospitals in EU countries and Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The free card allows you to be treated for the same cost as a local using the same hospital and crucially, pre-existing conditions and chronic illnesses are covered. So if they pay nothing , you pay nothing.
However, you can only use hospitals and doctors signed up to the EHIC scheme. If you are in any doubt, check with EHIC before starting treatment.
The card should not be used instead of insurance because travel insurance covers far more. For detailed info, including a country-by-country rundown, read the Free EHIC Card guide or get one direct from the website or by calling 0300 330 1350.
Going skiing? Make sure you have winter sports cover
Winter sports can be dangerous, so as soon as you’ve splashed out on your break, make sure you are insured on the slopes. As well as covering you for the basics you’d get with a pre-existing travel policy, you’ll also be insured for activity-related injury and your winter sports.
Don’t overpay on your insurance. Costlier cover is rarely worth it
As you’re buying a travel insurance policy for someone with pre-existing conditions, you’re already going to be paying more than someone with a clean bill of health.
Cover for pre-existing conditions
Whether you’re travelling in Europe or further afield, with your family or on your own, follow the steps below to find the right cover at the right price. These steps apply for single and annual policies and if you have severe medical conditions, a single policy may be the most affordable option.
Do you need pre-existing cover?
Some conditions are more difficult to cover than others, so consider your needs carefully. If you have or have had, mild asthma or high blood pressure you may still be able to get cover at normal terms. Remember that you must tell your insurer about your condition – even if you don’t deem it particularly serious. Don’t give them an excuse to refuse to pay out.
If you’ve got a serious condition, you’ll need specialist cover
More serious conditions, such as certain heart conditions or cancer, are likely to need specialist cover.
Speak to a specialist broker who should be able to help you.
How to claim on your travel cover
Claiming on your travel insurance shouldn’t be daunting and, if you understand the terms and excesses on your policy, you shouldn’t be in for any nasty shocks. Follow the four steps below in the event you need to claim.
Contact your insurer as soon as you can. Some parts of your policy may have a short window to submit a claim and it may take a while to be processed.
If you need to make a medical claim – and it is not an emergency – get an insurer to accept the claim over the phone first. For example, thieves make off with medicine kept in a handbag that you need urgently. If the insurer accepts the claim over the phone, you’re less likely to be faced with a rejected claim later down the line. For obvious reasons, don’t delay treatment if it is an emergency.
If something goes missing or is stolen when you are abroad you may need to get a crime reference number or the overseas equivalent to make a successful claim. Report the incident to the police as soon as you can – you often have to do it within 24 hours to be able to claim – to make sure your claim doesn’t get rejected.
If you are claiming for lost luggage or delay, remember to keep receipts of essential items you have bought in the interim, such as food and drink. Many insurers allow you to add these expenses to a claim and may ask for receipts as proof.
Thank you for reading our travel insurance guide. We hope you found it useful!
This information was kindly authored by Jeremy Webster of Websters Insurance Brokers.
The knowledgeable team at Websters can assist with any query regarding cover and screening procedures.
Established in 1964 Websters Insurance Brokers have the experience and expertise to find a bespoke policy for each client.
Just call 01484 713296 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and a friendly member of staff will assist in any way they can.