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Travel insurance with medical conditions

We look at how pre-existing medical conditions can affect your travel insurance and some tips to help you

A photo of Daniel Sharpe-Szunko, the author

By Daniel Sharpe-Szunko

Published on: 27 March 2022

10 min read

Travel insurance with medical conditions

The most infuriating thing about finding travel insurance with medical conditions is getting good cover and not paying ridiculous premiums. If you’ve suffered from a medical problem in the past then it can have a significant impact on your travel insurance premiums.

There are loads of travel insurance companies to choose from and some will be good for medical cover, but others just aren’t. In this guide we look at how pre-existing medical conditions can affect your travel insurance and some tips to help you.

Booking your holiday should be exciting and you shouldn’t have to worry about how much your travel insurance will be. There are potentially big savings that can be made by getting your cover from the specialist insurers.

SUMMARY: you can get travel insurance with almost any pre-existing medical condition for your holidays to any location around the world. The key is to get proper advice from a travel insurance medical specialist to make sure that you don’t pay more than you need to for good cover.

What is a pre-existing medical condition?

There are two main types of pre-existing medical condition that people get, which are acute and chronic. All medical conditions can be classed as pre-existing but there might be some conditions that may be disregarded if less severe or a long time ago.

The two main types of pre-existing medical conditions

  • Acute is a type of medical condition that is a one off or short term episode that can be recovered from and not need long-term treatment or care. An example of an acute medical condition will be cancer, heart attack, stroke etc.
  • Chronic are pre-existing medical conditions that are generally life-long and not curable. Some of these conditions are diabetes, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, asthma, cystic fibrosis etc.

You might have had an acute medical episode several years ago that in the eyes of some insurers might be disregarded. An example might be someone that has had a mental illness episode several years ago but not had any symptoms or treatment for over 10 years.

Note: pre-existing medical conditions travel insurance will vary dramatically from one insurer to another, depending on their attitudes to risk. Some high street insurance brands will offer this type of cover for less severe medical conditions, but there are specialist insurers that may be better suited and cheaper.

Can I get travel insurance with a pre-existing medical condition?

Yes, generally you should be able to get travel insurance for almost all types and levels of pre-existing medical conditions.

Travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions is designed to make sure that you have medical protection for any treatment abroad. It is common for people with pre-existing medical conditions to have issues when they travel or to need medical treatment.

Medical treatment overseas can be extremely expensive, so this type of cover can save you a fortune. The only potential limitations with travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions, are:

  • Affordability as premiums can be higher and unaffordable for some people
  • Terminal or severe illness might be limited with some travel insurance providers

Each travel insurance company will have its own medical criteria so might not be suited to all medical conditions. There are some specialist insurance providers that are better suited to some people in more severe or extreme circumstances.

Common pre-existing medical conditions for travel insurance:

  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney disease
  • Mental illness (e.g. Anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, Stress etc.)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sleep Apnoea
  • Stroke
  • Ulcerative Colitis

These are all types of medical conditions that can require further treatments and care when travelling abroad. If you suffer from an episode or attack while you’re travelling overseas then your cover should be extremely useful.

What are the best travel insurance companies for medical conditions?

There are lots of different travel insurance providers and companies that will offer cover for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

The best insurance provider for you will be based on your age and your health, so you should speak to a medical travel insurance specialist. Many insurers will offer cover for pre-existing medical conditions, but might charge significantly higher premiums than other providers.

How to get cheap travel insurance with medical conditions

There are lots of options for travel insurance with medical conditions which can be confusing. If you choose the wrong insurance provider then it can be extremely costly, both on your premiums and if you need to make a claim.

The best way to get cheap travel insurance with medical conditions is to get a quote or advice from a specialist. There are several top medical travel insurance specialists that can offer instant quotes online or over the phone.

Do I need to disclose my pre-existing medical condition?

The simple answer is yes, if you’ve got a pre-existing medical condition, you’ll need to tell the travel insurance provider about it. Most application forms for travel insurance will ask about your medical history and your health.

Common medical questions:

  • Have you ever been treated for Heart Condition, Diabetes, Stroke, Cancer, Lung or Breathing disorder or Organ Transplant?
  • Have you suffered from a recurring medical condition in the past 5 years?
  • Have you been referred to a consultant, specialist or clinic in the past 5 years?
  • Have you been diagnosed with a mental health condition?
  • Are you awaiting any scans, tests or investigations, or outstanding results?
  • Have you been diagnosed with a terminal illness?

10 TOP TIPS for travel insurance with medical conditions

To make sure that you get suitable cover and you don’t pay more for travel insurance with medical conditions that you should, here are 10 TOP TIPS:

1)   ALWAYS DECLARE YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY

If you fail to disclose information about your medical history or any pre-existing medical conditions, it’s likely that your cover could be invalid. You’ll almost always be asked questions about your health and lifestyle when you apply for travel insurance, this is to make sure that your policy is suitable for you.

There are different levels of medical conditions and symptoms can be more severe for some people than others, so you might need to get cover from a medical conditions travel insurance specialist.

Best case scenario if you fail to disclose medical information would be that you would be covered for everything except your pre-existing condition.

2)   ONLY GET COVER FOR THE COUNTRIES THAT YOU’RE VISITING

The two main destination categories are EUROPEAN and WORLDWIDE, which you will need to select when you buy cover. When you choose the Worldwide option you are including USA, Canada, Caribbean and Mexico which will increase your premiums.

If your trip(s) are solely within the European countries or EU, then your premiums will be lower. This is purely because of the cost of medical treatment in Europe, compared to USA, Canada and South America, which are all higher cost for medical assistance.

Some insurers will also include North Africa (i.e. Morocco), Turkey and Tunisia within their European cover. You should also check whether you insurer includes some other destinations such as Canary Islands or Balearic Islands as Europe, because not all do.

3)   BUY YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE WHEN YOU BOOK YOUR HOLIDAY

It’s common for people to book a holiday or trip abroad well in advance to secure deals and early bird offers. You should make sure that you buy your travel insurance as soon as possible to include early cancellation.

If you purchase your holiday and you don’t have travel insurance then you won’t be covered for cancellation should anything happen. This can be especially important for people with medical conditions who may have issues or complications that could lead to cancellation of their trip.

Most travel insurance policies will include cancellation as a standard part of the cover, and this should include any pre-existing medical conditions. By purchasing a policy when you book your trip, you’ll have cover from that point up to the date that you come home.

4)   COMPARE SINGLE TRIP AND ANNUAL COVER

It is very possible that by buying single trip cover that you could save money over an annual cover. An annual trip policy is generally more cost-effective for someone that is planning on travelling abroad more than 3 times, especially for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

There are also some restrictions that may be applied to annual trip travel insurance, such as the overall length of time allowed out of the country per trip. Most policies will allow up to 31 days per trip within a 12 month period, but this can be shorter or longer, depending on the policy and your requirements.

5)   CHECK WITH YOUR BANK AND CREDIT CARDS TO SEE IF YOU’RE COVERED

Some banks and credit cards offer a travel insurance policy as a benefit for being a customer of theirs. It is worth checking with your bank and any credit cards that you have to see whether this option is included or available to you.

If this is not an automatic benefit of your account then it may well be an optional add-on to your account. These types of travel insurance policies might not be as comprehensive as specific cover, but can be far cheaper.

You should also check to see whether the travel insurance benefit offers cover for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

6)   GET YOUR EHIC OR GHIC CARD FOR EUROPEAN TRAVEL

You might remember the old E111 form which was then superseded by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Since January 2021, if you applied for this card you might have been sent a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which is the latest version.

You’ll still need to check whether there is coverage for the EHIC or GHIC at your chosen destination, as some countries no longer accept these. This is mainly due to movement in EU nations and our own agreements with the European Union.

How to apply for a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card)

You can apply direct with the NHS for your free GHIC either online or you can contact 0300 330 1350 for more help.

For more information you can read our Guide to your free GHIC and EHIC.

7)   CHECK IF YOU’RE COVERED FOR GOING ON A CRUISE HOLIDAY

If you’re going to take a cruise then you’ll probably need to add this to your policy, as it’s not usually included. However, if you’re not going on a cruise then it’s worth contacting your insurer and checking to make sure that you’ve not got this type of cover by accident.

Cruise holiday cover can also be more expensive for people with pre-existing medical conditions due to cost of treatment and repatriation from being out at sea. A travel insurance policy for a cruise trip will cover for:

  • Missed your departure
  • Excursions that you paid for and did not use
  • Changes in your itinerary
  • Being confined to your cabin (e.g. virus outbreak)

You should also check to make sure that your policy allows you to add cruise holiday cover, especially with annual trip cover.

8)   WINTER SPORTS COVER FOR IF YOU’RE GOING SKIING

If you take part in winter sports activities such as skiing or snowboarding then you’ll need to make sure that these are included. This type of cover will generally include extra coverage for accidents and injuries whilst on the mountain, you will also have cover to pay for ski patrol and helicopter medical recovery.

Most winter sports policies will also include an amount of cover for lost or stolen equipment, including rental equipment. Ski and snowboard equipment can be extremely expensive for people who take part in winter sports.

If you are buying an annual trip travel insurance policy then you should check to see whether this is included. You might also need to pay more for winter sports cover with a pre-existing medical condition, mainly due to extra risks and higher costs of treatment in these locations.

9)   IS FAMILY OR GROUP COVER CHEAPER THAN INDIVIDUAL COVER?

Sometimes a family or group policy will be priced based on the highest risk individual in the group. This means that if you have a pre-existing medical condition then your premium could be increased for everyone in the group or family.

It’s definitely worth checking to compare prices for an individual policy as well as including you in the group or family cover. Some insurers will offer cheaper prices for lower risk groups and therefore it might just be cheaper for you to get your own cover.

Things to think about when it might be cheaper to get your own cover:

  • If one person on the policy has a pre-existing medical condition
  • Where one of the individuals to be covered on the policy is over the age of 65
  • If one of the people on the policy is travelling outside of Europe so would need worldwide cover, or if they’re taking part in a dangerous sport or activity (e.g. winter sports)

10) PROVIDE PROOF OR EVIDENCE QUICKLY IF YOU NEED TO CANCEL YOUR TRIP

It’s worth checking for reviews and any customer experiences with your chosen insurance provider, especially if you’re at risk of cancellation. Some insurers can be more difficult than others when it comes to making a claim for things like cancellations.

It’s also good to be clear and ask as many questions as you can when you take out the cover. If your calls are recorded, then you’ll have evidence of the questions and the answers that were given to you.

What does travel insurance with medical conditions cover?

When you purchase a travel insurance policy and you have disclosed any pre-existing medical conditions, your cover should include this condition or anything linked to it. You should always double check this to make sure that there are no exclusions applied to your terms and conditions, but usually your premium will factor in any additional risks.

If you take a policy that includes your pre-existing medical condition which has been fully disclosed, then you should be covered for everything, including:

  • Treatment or medication for your condition if you fall ill
  • Replacement of lost or stolen medication whilst travelling
  • Repatriation to the UK because of your condition
  • Any equipment required for your condition (e.g. pumps and meters)

How to claim on your travel insurance?

It should be simple to make a claim on your travel insurance policy and you have protection from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if there’s a problem. There are a few simple steps to follow to make the process smoother and quicker.

5 Simple Steps to Making a Travel Insurance Claim:

  1. Make your claim and fill in your claim form as soon as possible after your holiday or if you need to cancel your trip
  2. Speak to your insurer to get them to verbally accept to cover the cost of any medical treatment or care before it happens
  3. Get a police report and a police incident number for anything that is lost or stolen during your trip
  4. Keep proof of payments (e.g. receipts or invoices) for anything that you need to pay for yourself, such as lost luggage and replacement items of clothing
  5. Make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if you feel like you are being treated unfairly or if your claim is refused and you feel it’s not right.

Every insurance company and provider in the United Kingdom is governed by a regulator called the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Some issues that are fairly common will be terms and conditions that are unreasonable or unclear. You might also experience extremely poor customer service that leads to financial loss and distress.

You should contact the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) immediately if you feel like you are being treated unfairly or badly. They have an extensive complaints procedure in place for these situations and should be able to help.

Find out more about the Financial Ombudsman Service on their website.

Resources

Gov.uk – Travel insurance facts

Statista – Travel insurance claims paid by type UK

Association of British Insurers (ABI) – Travel Insurance

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