If you’re going abroad, it’s vital to have adequate travel insurance. Policies can help cover costs if the unexpected happens while you’re away, for example if you become ill or you need to come home because of an emergency. But if you’ve been ill and suffer certain medical conditions, travel insurance isn’t always as simple as buying an off-the-shelf policy. Here, we explore what to bear in mind if you’re going on holiday and have a pre-existing medical condition.
What is a pre-existing medical condition?
A pre-existing medical condition is an illness you’ve received medication or treatment for. Most insurers will want to know about any conditions within a certain time frame – usually within the last five years.
Examples of pre-existing medical conditions insurers will expect you to mention include, but are not limited to:
- Any heart conditions
- Joint inflammation including arthritis and rheumatism
- High blood pressure you’re taking medication for
Will I need a medical exam for travel insurance with a pre-existing condition?
If you’ve got a pre-existing condition, you’ll be asked a series of questions. Be mindful that while some of these questions will feel intrusive, insurers need to get a clear understanding of your health and gauge what the chances are of you becoming ill on holiday.
Based on the answers you give you might then be asked to take a medical. If it’s necessary your insurer will let you know what to do.
What are the chances of getting travel insurance with a pre-existing condition?
So long as your doctor has cleared you for travel, you can still get travel insurance even if you have a pre-existing medical condition. However, you might not be able to buy a standard policy and if you can, your choice may be limited.
Alternatively, there are a number of specialist insurers who should be able to tailor a policy to your needs. Insurers work to their own terms and conditions and specialist providers in particular will do their utmost to accommodate your medical needs. Once an insurer has all the information they need and they’ve got the result of your medical (if needed), they’ll be able to make a decision about whether or not to offer you cover. Either way, you'll probably pay a higher premium as the cost of pre-existing medical travel insurance is higher than the cost of regular travel insurance.
Typically, there are four scenarios you could face:
Insurance on standard terms
The insurer will offer you travel insurance in line with their standard terms and conditions. This would mainly apply to minor conditions or those under control or in remission.
Insurance excluding your condition
The insurer will offer you travel insurance but exclude or limit cover for your condition. This means you won’t be able to make a claim if you become ill because of your condition while you’re away. If you are entitled to claim, your insurer may have set a limit as to how much financial help you’ll receive.
Insurance with specific terms and a higher premium or excess
Insurers may set out very specific terms and conditions related to the activities you can and can’t do while you’re away.
In most cases, you can expect insurers to increase premiums to reflect the greater risk and if you need to claim, you could find your excess is higher than average too.
Insurers can refuse to insure you if they feel the risk of a claim is too great. You might find that refusal is limited to mainstream providers that only offer standard cover. If that’s the case, try not to worry too much, a specialist provider should be able to provide you with suitable travel insurance.
How much travel insurance do I need?
Insurers are responsible for setting their own limits which is why it’s so important to compare policies. Standard risks like cancellation, curtailment and lost luggage will be limited to a few hundred or a couple of thousand pounds. Whereas other standard risks such as public liability (which compensates other people for injuries you cause) could extend to around £2 million.
When it comes to the medical aspect of your travel insurance, cover will vary depending on where you go. For example, if you’re travelling to the USA, a good policy should cover you for at least £2 million, which takes into account the very high cost of healthcare. In fact, according to figures from GOV.UK, being treated for a tummy bug in the USA could set you back £100,000 (including flights back home).
When you search for policies, always make sure the country you’re going to is covered under the terms of the policy. If it isn’t, you won’t be able to make a claim.
You may also want to read our article on what to look for in a good travel insurance policy.
Why do I need to disclose my medical conditions?
If you don’t tell your insurer about a medical condition or a change in your condition, you risk invalidating your policy. This is because the policy and premium won’t be an accurate reflection of your needs. If you then need to make a claim, your insurer is within their rights to refuse you compensation.
So, while a pre-existing medical condition can increase your premium it’s absolutely essential to tell your insurer about anything you’ve recently suffered from. If not, you could face covering huge medical bills yourself.
I’ve got a GHIC, do I still need travel insurance?
Yes, a GHIC (global health insurance card) is not a replacement for travel insurance. It only entitles you to state healthcare in Europe (either at a reduce cost or for free, depending on the country).
If you still have an EHIC (European health insurance card) you can still use this until it expires. After that, you’ll need to apply for a GHIC instead. You can do this for free at NHS.UK.