Travel Insurance with medical conditions

How to find the best travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions

Travel Insurance with pre-existing medical conditions

We are all living and staying active longer. According to the Office for National Statistics, the United Kingdom population is expected to reach over 75 million (currently 66 million) by 2039.

Improvements in healthcare technology and modern life in general, means that 18% of the population are now over 65 and 2.4% are over the age of 85.

That means, more of us are living with medical conditions. According to the latest Financial Conduct Authority report, up to 15 million people, living in the UK have a least one long term health condition.

The result is a greater number of us with medical complaints, who require them to be covered under a single trip or annual multi-trip travel insurance policy.

This is a concern for the FCA, who 12 months ago started to assemble evidence about how to help consumers with pre-existing medical disorders, find affordable travel insurance.

ThatsInsurance have created this Guide to help you discover travel insurance that will insure pre-existing medical conditions.

Why are pre-existing medical disorders a problem for Travel Insurers?

The cost of medical care abroad and repatriation to the UK can be expensive. The main concern for Insurers rightly or wrongly, is an increased chance that previously diagnosed illnesses, will reoccur whilst abroad and lead to larger bills for the Insurer.

For example the cost to treat a heart attack in the USA, is estimated to cost an average of $40,000. If surgery is involved, this can increase to well over $200,000.

It is easier and more cost effective for Insurers to only insure "Mr & Mrs Average". Increases in technology and more effective capture of customer data, allows Insurers to marginalise those who they feel may represent a higher risk, because of existing medical conditions.

A one size fits all approach to underwriting can mean those of us with medical problems are charged higher premiums, or not covered at all.

Why does insurance for pre-existing medical conditions cause such a problem for consumers?

The Financial Authorities findings highlighted four problem areas for those of us with medical issues;
  1. No helpful alternatives if you have been quoted higher premiums or refused cover all together.
  2. Confusion over exactly what insurance wordings mean.
  3. A lack of information provided on how premiums are calculated and the different factors Insurers take into account.
  4. A large variance in the premiums charged for the same risk.

How do you access the best travel insurance covering pre-existing medical conditions?

Search for "Travel Insurance" on the internet and you can't help but be swamped with offers from Comparison websites. "The Big Four" GoCompare, Moneysupermarket, Confused, and Comparethemarket, can make life easier, but the downsides to all comparison websites are;
  1. They all deal with broadly the same companies, no more than 40 of the 201 different providers, who offer online travel insurance.
That's only 20% of the whole travel insurance market place. An issue that becomes more significant when you are trying to find travel cover which will include pre-existing medical disorders.
  1. Research has also found "Significant differences between products offered directly and the same products offered by Comparison sites".

Comparison sites need to keep premiums as low as possible. In a large number of cases it was found that cover limits were lower and excesses higher, when compared to the same policy being offered direct by the Insurer.

You can see the obvious benefits of obtaining quotes for medical travel insurance direct from a Travel Insurer's website. We have been able to dramatically speed up this process by ranking and reviewing every travel policy (no other website currently does this).

The current issues for those seeking travel insurance with medical complaints are;
  1. Not every Insurer offers cover to those with medical disorders.
  2. There are 201 different websites. Visiting each one in turn would take you a long time.
  3. Prices can vary greatly depending on the individual medical problem.
  4. Just because an Insurer is competitive for one condition, it doesn't mean they are competitive for all.

The Solution to finding the right Travel Insurance that covers medical conditions

Our Search Facility gets you one step nearer to solving this problem, as you have the ability to filter out those Insurance Providers who don't offer online screening for Medical complaints.

We provide details of the basic premiums, cover levels and rankings, which you can use to help you decide on a potentially suitable policy, before going onto the Insurers website direct, to complete a full medical screening.

Although this is a step in the right direction, our future goal is to analyse each individual medical complaint, provide a comprehensive report on the policies that provide the best cover and are most competitive for that specific condition. You will be able to see a list of common medical conditions below and link to them for the report.

In the meantime to help you fully understand Travel Insurance for pre-existing conditions, we have provided answers to a list of frequently asked questions below.

Travel Insurance and Medical Conditions - Your Questions Answered

What is a pre-existing medical condition?

Wordings can vary greatly between policies, but the general definition of a pre-existing condition is;

"Any injury, illness, sickness disease or condition, whether physical, mental or nervous, that existed up to a certain number of years prior to you making an application for travel insurance."

Specific criteria vary from Insurer to Insurer. Some only require you to declare conditions you have received treatment for in the last twelve months. For others it can be two, three or even five years. Some Insurers require you to declare any condition for which you are taking medication.

If you want to include specific medical complaints, you must read Insurers requirements carefully, as you may not need to declare a condition with one Insurer, whereas you are required to do so with another.

To give you an idea of the specific requirements, we have provided a typical set of questions for you to read below.

Any medical conditions for which in the past 2 years:
  1. You have had or are waiting for any consultations, investigations or follow-ups;
  2. You are having or have had treatment or prescription medication;
  3. You are on a waiting list for, or knew you needed surgery, inpatient treatment or tests at a hospital or clinic at the date you bought the policy or the date you booked your trip;
Have EVER been diagnosed with or treated for any of the following:
  1. A Stroke, TIA (Transient Ischaemic Attack) or High blood pressure
  2. A brain haemorrhage
  3. A breathing condition (including Asthma)
  4. Any type of Cancer
  5. Any type of Diabetes
You must declare a condition if you are:
  1. Receiving or waiting for tests, investigations or treatment for any condition or set of symptoms that have not been diagnosed;
  2. Have been given a terminal prognosis by a doctor.
Insurers will not pay any directly related claims if you:
  1. Travel against the advice of a medical practitioner or where you would have been advised against travel if you had sought their advice before beginning your trip;
  2. Incur costs for medical treatment or consultation at any medical facility during your trip that you knew would be required before travelling;
  3. Are travelling specifically for the purpose of obtaining and / or receiving any elective surgery, procedure or hospital treatment;
  4. Are not taking the recommended treatment or prescribed medication for a medical condition as directed by a Medical practitioner; Read our guide on Taking medication abroad for more information.
  5. Travel against health requirements stipulated by the carrier, their handling agents or any other Public Transport provider.

If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, you must declare the condition to your Insurer.

REMEMBER; Most Insurers also need to know about the health of any relatives, a business colleague, travelling companion, or a friend or relative with whom you have arranged to stay. They may not be specifically insured on your policy, but Insurers will not pay out any claim, caused by the medical problems of another person, unless they have been fully declared and accepted by the Insurer.

Some Insurers will not cover this scenario at all, so you should think carefully about anyone who could cause you a potential problem.

What do Travel Insurers class as a pre-existing medical condition?

While most medical complaints will need to be declared, some Insurers will cover minor ailments without the need for medical screening.

Ailments like Acne, high cholesterol, Blindness, Deafness, Nose Bleeds, Gout, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, repetitive strain injury, sprains and throat infections, to name a few, are listed as accepted conditions.

Check carefully any list of automatically accepted conditions, as your problem may already be covered, without the need to declare it.

Why is it important to declare pre-existing medical conditions?

There are two main areas of a travel insurance policy where a medical issue can cause a claim. The first is cancellation.

If you suddenly become too ill to travel and have to unexpectedly cancel your trip, you would be entitled to claim a full refund of the cost under the cancellation section.

The second is medical expenses. If you are suddenly taken ill whilst abroad and need medical attention, the costs will be paid for under the Emergency Medical Expenses section of a policy.

If either of these claims were as a result of an existing complaint and you hadn't declared it to the insurance company, your potential claim would be declined and could end up costing you thousands of pounds.

You might think "It won't happen to me", but you also run the risk of not being covered for unrelated incidents. For example, if you broke your leg when on holiday, but an undisclosed condition made the treatment more complicated or expensive, an Insurer would be within their rights to dispute the validity of your claim.

What happens if I don't declare my medical history?

It very much depends on the Insurer. Some Companies are explicit, that non declaration of medical ailments totally invalidates the policy and refuse to pay out for any claim whether related or not.

Others will only refuse to cover claims that are related to the condition, but as you can see from the example above it is a grey area, open to interpretation and fraught with danger.

How is the cost of travel insurance with pre-existing conditions calculated?

The basic rating structure for travel insurance is fairly simple by Insurance Standards. It is the destination, number of days travelling (single trips), number of people on the policy, their ages and the level of cover required.

Trips to Europe are the cheapest to Insure and trips to the USA and Canada are generally the most expensive. Typically the older you are the more expensive the cost of travel insurance, although some Insurers do charge more for travellers under the age of 25. Insurers often provide a choice of three or four levels of cover; the more benefits provided the greater the cost.

Some Insurers will tell you the premium before underwriting any medical problems, other companies will carry out all the underwriting before revealing the cost. Personally, I like to see the basic cost, so I know how much I am being charged extra to include a specific medical issue.

Underwriting specific medical conditions is much trickier, hence the disparity between the premiums that are charged. Take Asthma for example. You can be asked to answer anywhere from six to eighteen questions depending on the Insurer and the severity of your problems.

That's eighteen different answers depending on the individual that have to be taken into account when calculating any additional premium. Multiply this by over 2000 different medical disorders and you can appreciate underwriting medical conditions becomes extremely complicated.

What are the most common Pre-existing medical conditions?

This is a list of common ailments, which we are currently investigating. If the link is clickable, then we have completed our report and you can click the link to read it.

  • Asthma
  • Alzheimer's
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart Conditions
  • High Blood Pressure
  • HIV
  • Kidney Disease
  • Lung Disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Breast Cancer
  • Skin Cancer
  • Mental Health Issues

What does medically fit to travel mean?

Very simply that your doctor or medical practitioner can see no reason why flying or taking a trip abroad, would be detrimental to your health. If there is a chance that travelling abroad will exacerbate an existing condition or is likely to cause medical problems, the Insurers are not going to take the risk and will not cover you.

For long term illnesses this is generally recognised as there being no change in your medical condition or change in medication/hospital admission, for at least six months prior to your trip.

If you are unsure, you must visit your doctor, to discuss your journey and take his or her advice.

Do travel insurers charge more for all medical conditions?

Most Insurers will charge an additional premium to cover pre-existing conditions, but as I have mentioned above, there are some who will cover minor ailments as standard and of course if you don't take medicine or have been treated for a condition, that falls, outside the Insurers requirements, you won't need to declare it and be charged an additional premium.

Does Pregnancy count as a pre-existing medical condition?

Pregnancy does not count as a pre-existing disorder and does not need to be declared to your Insurer.

Although the exact wording varies from Insurer to Insurer most will cover emergency medical expenses or cancellation costs that occur up to week 28 of your pregnancy (24 weeks for multiple births).

Some Insurers refuse to pay any claim after that date and others, only if there is an unforeseen complication connected to your pregnancy.

This is a list of the most common complications in pregnancy.

Toxaemia, Gestational diabetes, Gestational hypertension, Ectopic pregnancy, Post-partum haemorrhage, Pre-eclampsia, Molar pregnancy or hydatidiform mole, Retained placenta membrane, Placental abruption, Hyperemesis gravidarum, Placenta praevia, Stillbirth, Miscarriage, Emergency Caesarean, A termination needed for medical reasons, Premature birth more than 12 weeks (or 16 weeks if you know you are having more than one baby) before the expected delivery date.

Remember to check with your doctor that there are no complications with your pregnancy and you are medically fit to travel.

What if I develop a condition after I have taken a policy out?

If after taking out travel insurance and before you travel;
  • You are diagnosed with a new medical problem.
  • Your doctor or consultant changes your prescribed medicine.
  • You receive inpatient treatment.
  • You are placed on a waiting list for investigation or medical treatment
You should contact your Insurance Company to declare the new information. There will be three possible outcomes;
  • They will continue to cover you without charging an additional premium.
  • They will require an additional premium to continue cover.
  • They will refuse to continue cover.
If you do not want to pay the additional premium or the policy has to be cancelled, the Insurer will make a pro-rata refund (refund the unused portion of your travel insurance policy). If you are unable to travel because of your new medical condition, you will be able to claim for non-refundable costs associated with the trip.

What if I am waiting for a condition to be diagnosed?

If you are waiting for a condition to be diagnosed, tests or results, or even a condition that you have not discussed with your doctor, you must declare that to Insurers. Unfortunately it is unlikely that you will be able to obtain cover and may have to postpone your trip until you have received your diagnosis and a suitable course of action.

I have a medical condition how do I apply for travel insurance?

Find a suitable online travel insurer that will cover pre-existing medical conditions. Answer the questions regarding your trip. You will then be asked to declare your medical condition(s). Answer the simple set of questions relating to your medical problems and the Insurer will provide details of the cost and any additional terms and conditions required.

Make sure you have written confirmation on any policy you take out, that your conditions are covered.