Travel Insurance for pre-existing medical conditions
Going on holiday is often the highlight of the year. We spend hours looking over internet sites, reading reviews, picking hotels, booking trips and the excitement reaches fever pitch until we are just about to click ‘BOOK NOW’ and the dreaded ‘Do you need Travel Insurance’ question raises its head.
If you are in perfect health this is not an issue, you have many choices in where to source cheap, quality travel insurance but if you have a pre existing medical condition obtaining travel insurance can become a real issue. This can lead to people not going on holiday due to the cost of the travel insurance or risking their whole financial future by travelling without cover.
This guide will not only look at the types of insurance available to people with pre-existing medical conditions but will also look at the most effective ways of obtaining your cover and some pitfalls to avoid and some tricks of the trade to keep your costs down and avoid paying over the odds.
IN THIS GUIDE:
- More info on our Top Picks
- Quick tips on finding the best deal.
- Types of Travel Insurance.
- How do medical conditions affect travel insurance?
- Do I really need cover?
- Why is it so dear?
- Do I really need to tell them about my illness?
- Can I exclude cover for my illness?
- Tricks of the Trade
- What about the E111
- Where can I buy it from?
Please read all the article before making a selection
Mild/moderate/severe Pre Exisiting Conditions:
Very Severe Pre Existing Conditions:
E111 Card Top Up Insurance:
Want to exclude your Pre Existing Conditions?
Top Specialist Travel Insurance Brokers for pre-existing medical conditions
For more serious conditions
Clear2Go is offers travel insurance for more serious medical conditions including secondary cancers and some terminal conditions. If your pre-existing condition is in the serious category we would recommend ringing Clear2Go on 0800 999 3333 quoting PREMED rather than using their online quote system.
Clear2Go Travel Insurance
Quick tips on finding the best deal
Do you already have travel insurance cover you know about?
This may sound obvious but if you have an existing travel insurance policy ask them first about your medical condition to see if they are able to cover you for a reasonable cost. We have seen many times over the years people asking for numerous quotes from pre-existing conditions specialists only to ask their existing insurers at the last minute and be offered very competitive rates.
Do you already have travel insurance that you DON’T know about?
Again, almost as obvious but not quite! Many people have ‘Packaged’ Bank Accounts where they pay a monthly fee in exchange for a number of additional benefits. Often these benefits include travel insurance and they are often underwritten in such a way that they offer immediate cover for a range of named pre-existing medical conditions. It could well be that you already have travel insurance in place AND it already covers your pre existing medical condition so CHECK YOUR BANK ACCOUNT. (see Tricks of the Trade below for more details)
Approach a Specialist for Pre-existing medical conditions
In years gone by this was a real pain. You would have to ring dozens of insurers one by one, tell them your medical history and wait for a quotation. This is no longer the case and it can all be done online. Simply enter your medical conditions once and you will receive quotes from dozens of insurers. See below for our Where can I Buy it from section.
If you have a very serious condition it may however pay dividends to ring the providers to discuss your exact personal details as they often have schemes available that are not accessible via their online quotation systems.
Travelling to Europe?
If you are travelling to a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) make sure you are in possession of an EHIC card. This will give you access to that countries health system. This may however all change dependent on how BREXIT pans out.
To apply for a EHIC card please follow this link. Applying for a card is free but please be aware that THIS IS NOT TRAVEL INSURANCE and will not cover you for items such as cancellation, lost luggage, repatriation etc. It is however possible to add to the cover that the EHIC card provides by using EHIC Plus Expand or if your medical conditions are more serious Europe Plus Cover.
Please see our Tricks of the Trade below for more details.
Types of Travel Insurance
Luckily buying travel insurance isn’t rocket science and most policies are reasonably similar. There are however some pitfalls you need to look out for and of course you should always check the level and type of cover is suitable.
Annual or Single Trip Policy
Normally for someone in perfect health you can generally say if you take more than two holidays per year it is better to take out an annual policy.
This however may not be the same if you have a pre existing medical condition as the insurer will look at how likely your condition is to produce a claim over the next 12 months. It is therefore worth getting quotes for an annual policy and individual trip policies to see which is most cost effective.
Free Cover with Credit cards
As a general rule THIS IS NOT TRAVEL INSURANCE. This usually covers you for death and maybe certain injuries if you have an accident while actually travelling on a plane, train, coach etc. You still need a ‘proper’ travel insurance policy if you want to be correctly covered.
Free Cover with your holiday
You may have received free travel insurance cover from your Travel Agent or holiday company. If you have a pre-existing medical condition you need to carefully check the cover. Most ‘free’ policies will exclude either all or most pre-existing conditions.
EHIC (European Health Insurance Card)
If you are travelling to a country in the European Economic Area (dependent on the BREXIT outcome) you should apply for a EHIC card as it will give you access to that countries equivalent of the NHS.
It will not however pay for any private treatment so you need to make sure you visit a hospital or Doctor who is available with the EHIC card (your friendly tour rep will probably send you to a private Doctor/Hospital so beware).
The card also doesn’t cover you for cancellations, lost luggage and many other items that a travel insurance policy does. It is a very useful Card but again IT IS NOT TRAVEL INSURANCE.
Please see our Tricks of the Trade below to see how you can top up your EHIC cover.
How do medical conditions affect travel insurance?
Most travel insurance policies will ask you to declare any medical conditions. Some insurers will have a list of certain conditions that are automatically covered without the need to declare them.
When you declare a pre-existing condition to an insurer they will ask you a number of screening questions and your answers will be ‘scored’ by the system. The more points you score the higher the eventual premium will be.
Unlike life insurance it is highly unlikely that the insurer will write to your Doctor or request a medical. They will believe what you tell them and price the policy accordingly.
In the event of a claim they may well then write to your Doctor to make sure you answered the screening question correctly so it is vital you are honest and fully declare your medical history. If you are unsure if something is relevant tell them.
The Insurer will then make a decision on the level of risk you pose eg. If you fall ill while away what could it potentially cost them? Do you have the type of illness that would require a long stay in hospital, specialist treatment, flying home in an air ambulance?
Some insurers simply don’t want the risk and will either decline cover or demand a very high premium. Other Insurers will want to take the risk and try and price competitively to secure the business. Hopefully we can help you find the latter.
Do I really need cover?
Insurance is there to pay for the unexpected. If you can afford the unexpected then maybe you don’t need insurance but you may still consider it good value.
If you fall ill or have an accident on holiday the costs can very quickly mount up.
In 2016 the average medical travel insurance claim was for £1200. Not too bad you may say. I prefer not to pay it but it wouldn’t be a financial disaster.
However, there was also a claim for £760,000 for medical bills for a Brit travelling in America. I guess that would put a hole in most people’s wallet.
Remember many countries do not have an NHS like ourselves. Imagine the cost of falling ill, being transported by a private ambulance to a private hospital to be treated by a team of specialist surgeons before recovering in a private bed for 10 days and then being flown back to the UK by Air Ambulance accompanied by a specialist crew.
Why is it so dear?
The insurers aren’t really bothered what your holiday cost as that is only really relevant if you have to cancel the trip. Yes they would prefer to pay out £300 for a budget holiday than £5000 for a luxury one but this is small potatoes to what really concerns them……. Medical expenses.
If you have recently had a serious illness and have been in and out of hospital and there is a chance that your pre-existing condition may flare up again you have the potential to cost the Insurers a huge amount of money.
Even if your medical condition is stable, if there is a risk of a flare up and a requirement for specialist treatment and maybe repatriation to the UK the Insurer will want to be compensated for taking that risk.
It is not unusual for medical claims to run into the tens and even hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Do I really need to tell them about my illness?
Yes, if you want to be properly covered.
The Insurer will base their premium for your policy on the information you give them in their medical condition questions.
If you don’t tell them about your pre-existing condition or you don’t tell them the full story then the quotation may be cheaper but it won’t reflect the true risk.
If you then make a claim the Insurer is in their rights to contact your Doctor to make sure the information you supplied was truthful and complete. If it wasn’t they can legitimately reject your claim.
You can however choose to exclude the cover for your condition. If this is of interest read on.
Can I exclude cover for my illness?
On certain policies you can. On others you can’t.
Some Insurers will expect you to declare all your medical conditions and will then offer you a premium to cover all these conditions. It is then your choice to accept the quotation or reject it.
Some Insurers such as Citybond will allow you to declare a pre-existing medical condition and then give you a price to cover that condition. If you decide you don’t like the price then you can still have the cover but that condition will not be covered.
Please bear in mind that cover will also be invalid for any claims that relate to the excluded condition eg, You declare diabetes but decide to exclude cover for diabetes. You then travel on holiday and have a heart attack and the Insurer successfully argues the heart attack was more than likely due to your diabetes then they would not have to settle the claim.
You should think very carefully about excluding any conditions and the possible financial impact.
Tricks of the Trade
Here are a few tricks that we have gathered over the years that may result in cheaper premiums for your travel insurance.
Packaged Bank Accounts
Many banks offer current accounts that include a package of extra benefits in return for a monthly cost.
Typically, these benefits include items such as Car Breakdown Cover, Mobile Phone Insurance, Identity Theft Protection and also Travel Insurance.
Generally, we are not huge fans of packaged accounts as you may be paying for cover that is not needed or duplicated elsewhere however sometimes their Travel Insurance policies offer a surprising benefit, cover for certain existing medical conditions at no extra cost.
Example: First Direct offer a Packaged Account called First Directory. The cost of the account is £15pm but it includes Mobile Phone Insurance, Breakdown Cover and Worldwide Travel Insurance.
The Travel Insurance automatically covers an extensive list of pre-existing medical conditions with no extra cost or the need to declare the condition. These conditions include Diabetes (with no complications for example retinal, kidney or nerve damage), Asthma, IBS, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol.
If we run a quick quote for a family travel insurance through Medical Travel Compared for an equivalent policy where one of the adults smokes and has high blood pressure and raised cholesterol the cost for the year is over £230 which makes the £15pm from First Direct look like great value considering the additional benefits of Breakdown Cover and Mobile Phone Insurance.
As ever you need to check the policy carefully and make sure it is suitable for your needs and that you look for any specific clauses relating to medical conditions. Look out for general ‘Catch All’ clauses such as “Are you aware of any reason that may result in your holiday being cancelled” and make sure if you are in any doubt you ring the insurer for clarification.
If you already have existing Travel Insurance you must tell them as soon as you develop a new medical condition. Many people assume that their existing insurer will be very expensive and immediately try and source their cover elsewhere.
We have known many instances when an existing insurer has actually covered a new condition for a very reasonable cost, so make sure you give them the opportunity to quote for your business. The worst scenario is that they provide a high quote but at least it then gives you a benchmark of the premium you need to beat.
EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) Top Up Schemes
Most people have heard of the EHIC, formerly known as the E111, is a free card that entitles travellers to state-provided healthcare or emergency treatment within the European Economic Area (EEA) country they are visiting. So basically, if you fall ill you are treated by that countries NHS equivalent as if you were a resident of that country. You can apply for a free card here.
This is good, but it is not a substitute for Travel Insurance as it does not cover you for items such as holiday cancellation, lost luggage, rescue and repatriation. For example, if you need to be air lifted from a mountain, or are unable to board a commercial flight and need a private flight back to the UK, travel insurance would be necessary to avoid an enormous bill.
You can however increase the scope of your EHIC cover with a private Top Up policy. This will add the ‘Travel Insurance’ benefits but keeps the cost very low as the Insurer does not cover most of the medical side as this is covered by the EHIC.
This option may cease to be valid after the UK leaves the EU.
Where can I buy it from?
The choices for where to buy travel insurance are huge.
In years gone by if you had a pre-existing medical condition it was very difficult to obtain comparison quotes and ensure that you had competitive cover. Now, with the introduction of technology it couldn’t be much easier. With many travel insurance websites you simply enter the details of your medical conditions online and they will automatically provide you with a quote and some will even provide comparisons from numerous companies.
As a general rule we would suggesting trying the options in this order and keep working through Steps One to Five until you have the quote and cover you are happy with:
Check to see if you already have Travel Insurance Cover.
Don’t forget to check to see if you have Travel Insurance through your bank account or house insurance (if you are paying a monthly fee for your account it could well be included).
If you have cover, check your documents (or ring your provider) and ask if your pre existing conditions are already automatically covered (this will be unlikely unless your condition is very mild).
IF THIS DOESN’T PROVIDE SATISFACTORY COVER CLICK ON STEP TWO
If you do have an existing Travel Insurance policy but it doesn’t automatically cover your pre existing medical conditions then you will need to ring their medical screening line.
The number for this will either be in your policy documents or on their website.
When you ring the Screening Line tell them you wish to declare a medical condition and they will ask you some medical screening questions and then advise if they can offer cover and how much it will be. At the very least this will provide you with a benchmark to compare other premiums.
IF THIS DOESN’T PROVIDE SATISFACTORY COVER CLICK ON STEP THREE
Next try online comparison sites that cater for Pre-Existing Conditions.
There are now many of these sites and a lot of them use the same Insurance Providers, ones which we have experience with who have a good reputation are:
- Cover a wide range of conditions including some terminal conditions.
- Telephone quote-line also available on 0800 458 9614.
- Provide quotes from over 40 companies.
- Provide quotes based on a medication assessment.
- Telephone quote-line also available.
- For more serious conditions.
- No upper age limit
- Telephone quote-line also available.
- For more serious conditions.
- Clear2Go is offers cover for more serious conditions including secondary cancers and some terminal conditions. If your pre existing condition is in the serious category we would recommend ringing Clear2Go rather than using their online quote system.
- Telephone quote-line also available on 0800 999 3333 quoting PREMED
IF THIS DOESN’T PROVIDE SATISFACTORY COVER CLICK ON STEP FOUR
If after following Steps 1-3 you still haven’t found suitable affordable cover then consider Steps 4 and 5 but BEWARE these steps will not give you comprehensive cover.
This step is only valid if you are travelling within the European Economic Area (EEA)
Consider an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) Top Up Policy. This will add the ‘travel insurance’ benefits to your EHIC card such as cancellation, luggage cover, repatriation etc.
For more information on these policies and their limitation please see our Tricks of the Trade section above.
- Provides cover for certain named, mild, pre existing conditions (click to view)
- Any unnamed conditions are excluded
- If your condition is not named please consider Europe Plus Cover
- Medical screening required for pre existing conditions (click to view)
This obviously only works if you have a valid EHIC card so make sure you have one and it hasn’t expired. You can apply for a free new card here.
NOTE: This option may cease to be valid after the UK leaves the EU.
IF THIS DOESN’T PROVIDE SATISFACTORY COVER CLICK ON STEP FIVE
You can opt to have travel cover but exclude your medical condition. This obviously has potentially huge financial risks but it is an option for your consideration.
Many Insurance policies do not allow this scenario, you either accept their costs to cover the pre-existing condition or they won’t offer you insurance. Citybond however will happily provide you with a price for cover with the condition and allow you to exclude it if the cost is prohibitive.
See the section Can I exclude cover for my illness? above.