Have you been refused travel insurance because of a medical condition you have? Or perhaps, following diagnosis with a condition, you have been quoted prices so much higher than you are used to paying that it has made you wonder whether you can still afford to travel abroad.
Sadly, these are not unique or one-off experiences. A lot of people have difficulties finding affordable travel insurance when they have a long-term medical condition. In the most notorious cases, people get quoted three and four-figure sums for a policy.
That’s likely to be more than the cost of a holiday.
However, while these kinds of unfortunate stories do happen to people, they are the exception rather than the rule. A major study undertaken by consumer publication Which? a few years ago, it found that some 64% of people who had bought travel insurance had done so with a pre-existing medical condition.
A quarter of those said it had resulted in them paying more than they expected. A fifth said they could only find affordable policies that excluded any kind of medical coverage related to their condition.
So not only is declaring a medical condition when you buy travel insurance very common, the majority of people don’t have any sort of issues. But if you are one of the unfortunate ones, it can obviously be a very distressing experience.
What can you do to avoid it? How can you make sure you always find the cover you need at a price you can afford? First, let’s explain why and how medical conditions can impact your ability to buy travel insurance. And then we’ll offer some tips on how to find the best deals.
Why can medical conditions make buying travel insurance more expensive?
Insurance is all about covering financial risk. When you travel on holiday somewhere, there are risks that your trip might have to be canceled at the last minute, or you miss your flight, or you lose your luggage. Travel insurance offers financial protection for all of these things.
But most significantly of all, it covers your medical costs if you fall ill or have an accident abroad. Because medical care can be very, very expensive for foreign visitors who are not entitled to state-subsidized healthcare.
There is a risk here for the insurer, too. If you get admitted to the hospital and are charged a five-figure sum (or more) for the care you receive, your insurance company is obliged to pay for it if you have a valid policy. Insurers are therefore wary of anything that increases the chances of you needing medical care. Such as a pre-existing medical condition.
That’s why some will charge so much more for policies that include cover for medical conditions. Or won’t cover you at all. But the risks vary depending on what your condition is, how old you are, your current state of health, etc.
So that explains why a lot of people see no real difference in buying travel insurance for a medical condition. If your condition falls in the ‘less serious’ category, is well controlled with medication, your general health is good and you haven’t had a major episode (such as a hospital admission) in some time, your insurance company may have no need to do any more than adding a modest amount to your premium.
How to find the best deal on medical travel insurance
There are two golden rules for finding affordable deals for medical travel insurance – shop around to compare quotations, and make sure you include medical travel insurance specialists in your search.
Depending on your condition, you may get remarkably different quotations from different insurers. This is because different providers classify medical conditions in different ways. One insurer may, for example, include asthma in its definitions. If you confirm that you are still on regular medication for your asthma, that may automatically trigger a considerable hike in the price you charge.
But a different provider may take a different approach. They may put asthma in the ‘less serious category of medical conditions, and only consider you an increased risk if you have had any recent major episodes or are not in great health at the present time. You might see a slight increase in the price this provider charges, but nothing serious.
It’s worth getting quotations from as many insurers as possible and doing some research about how they classify medical conditions. This will help you in the future as you will know the best options for your condition.
This is also why it is important to include medical travel insurance specialists in your search. They might not always show up on comparison sites. But these providers will be the most flexible in their assessments of risk and will base their pricing on a more thorough consideration of your current state of health (rather than just the fact you have a particular condition).
A word on how insurers assess risk. It’s always based on self-assessment via a medical questionnaire. Don’t be tempted to provide false information, i.e. leave out major health episodes, not declare you are on medication or suggest your current state of health is better than it is. If you fall ill while traveling and need to make a claim, your insurer will look into your medical background. If they find you have not been entirely upfront in your self-assessment, they will declare your policy void. Leaving you with a big bill to pick up.