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Travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions

Sorting out your travel insurance isn’t much fun at the best of times – after all, who wants to think of all the things that could go wrong while you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself?

But holiday cover is as essential as your passport, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Here’s what to consider and why a policy that meets your needs is exactly what the doctor ordered.

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What is a pre-existing medical condition?

Exact definitions vary by insurer, but in most cases, it’s considered to be something you’ve been diagnosed with and are having treatment or taking medication for before you travel. Crucially, depending on how much of your medical history your insurer needs to know, it can also include a condition that you’ve been previously treated for but is now cured or in remission.

Insurance providers set their own rules about exactly what conditions are classed as pre-existing, so it’s a good idea to double-check the terms within any policy. Examples include:

  • Asthma
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart conditions
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Doesn’t travel insurance already cover me for medical treatment?

Yes – it’s one of the key features of any standard policy.

But remember, insurance is all about risk. If you’ve got a pre-existing health condition and become ill, your care could be more complicated than the average person’s. For example, you may need a specific prescription or treatment that won’t interfere with any current medication. With that in mind, standard travel insurance might not give you the level of cover you need.

So – where does that leave you? Generally, there are two options:

  • Ask for a higher level of medical cover – and pay a bit more for it.
  • Go to a specialist insurance provider that covers pre-existing medical conditions.

Of course, you have no legal obligation to buy travel insurance at all, or to take out a policy that fully covers your condition, but such approaches could carry significant risks. Not having appropriate insurance could mean you’d have to pay for any treatment yourself – and the cost of this could run to hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

What details will I need to disclose?

When applying for cover, you’ll be asked about your pre-existing condition as well as your overall physical health and emotional wellbeing. Typically, this is done through a series of multiple choice questions on a medical screening form. The questions are likely to be detailed and ask you to disclose personal or very specific information, so it’s a good idea to put any feelings of embarrassment aside and be open and honest about the facts.

Ultimately, your insurer needs to know as much about you as possible in order to ensure you have the right level of cover should the worst happen. Not disclosing facts (no matter how insignificant you may think they are) could end up limiting your access to essential care or invalidating your entire policy.

It’s also important to note that if you experience any changes in your health after you’ve bought your policy but before you travel, you’ll need to let your insurer know – they’ll need this information to either ensure your existing policy still meets your needs or to amend the plan so that it does. Again, failing to let them know could invalidate the whole policy.

So, how much medical cover do I need?

Policies for pre-existing conditions should cover you for at least £2 million of expenses if you’re travelling within Europe – even if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). An EHIC only entitles you to the same state-funded treatment as locals in the country you’re visiting, so if you were to need specialist care or a private hospital stay, it’s likely that you’d need to claim on your travel insurance. 

If you’re travelling outside Europe (and particularly if you’re heading to the US, with its sky-high care costs), it would be wise to look for a higher level of cover. There are policies offering up to £5 million or even £10 million worth of medical cover, if required.

What does travel insurance for a pre-existing condition cover?

Other than covering your specific condition and offering provision for an increased amount of medical care, policies for a pre-existing illnesses share the same features as standard policies – although they can vary slightly by provider, so it’s a good idea to look closely at the details. On the whole, a decent policy will also cover you for:

  • Repatriation
  • Delays and missed departure
  • Accidentally lost, damaged or stolen luggage
  • Cancellation or curtailment, which compensates you if you have to cancel or cut short your holiday (for specific reasons set out in your policy) 
  • Personal liability, which covers legal fees and compensation if you cause an accident and injure someone or damage their property

Where can I find travel insurance for a pre-existing medical condition?

If your condition is minor or well managed, it’s worth starting your search on a standard comparison site – you’ll be asked a series of standard questions about your condition which will bring up appropriate quotes.

If you can’t find suitable cover there, or if you have a more serious condition, you could try Medical Travel Compared, which is a comparison site that specialises in travel insurance for those with existing medical needs. They came second in the best travel insurance provider category at the 2019 British Travel Awards.

Alternatively, you might want to try Staysure, who took first place at the awards and who offer their own medical travel insurance. They have a five-star Defaqto rating (the highest you can get for the provision of financial products).

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