Do you have pre-existing health problems? It is a question that is causing more and more problems for holidaymakers trying to take out travel insurance. A positive response risks either a sharp increase in premium (or even a complete denial of coverage) and could also mean the exclusion of coverage for any problem related to that condition.
A survey last year by Which? found that 36 percent of respondents reported difficulty purchasing coverage due to such circumstances, with the biggest problems being high premium costs. Now the issue is becoming increasingly problematic due to the NHS waiting list crisis. This is because travelers who have yet to be treated or assessed by a specialist are naturally assessed as riskier than those who have received the all-clear certificate.
Some decide to live with the risk and not take out insurance at all – with potentially extremely expensive consequences if they need medical treatment abroad. A simple air ambulance repatriation from Spain to Britain can cost £20,000.
A recent survey commissioned by a private healthcare company, Practice Plus Group, found that 20 percent of people on NHS waiting lists plan to go on holiday abroad without travel insurance this year. This compares with a more general survey by insurer Staysure, which found that 12 percent of British holidaymakers have traveled abroad without insurance in the past three years.
The numbers affected by the NHS crisis are staggering, with more than 6.4 million people currently waiting for consultant-led treatment and 1.6 million waiting for a diagnosis. And there is a significant domino effect. Peter Hayman of PJ Hayman travel insurers, which offers ‘Free Spirit’ travel insurance, says: “We have seen a surge in new referrals for waiting lists, which is a standard exclusion on most travel policies.” According to him, this is clearly exacerbated by the ever-increasing number of people on those lists.
The result of reporting serious or semi-serious health problems is often a much higher premium. Hayman gives an example: “For someone with melanoma who is undergoing treatment – but has nothing planned after the treatment – the premium for a trip to Europe can be around €130. However, if further treatment is planned this could amount to more than £400.” And he points out the vulnerability of older travelers in particular. Those taking long-haul trips (e.g. cruises) with multiple medical conditions will receive incentives in the hundreds of pounds. And he says tip coverage to the United States is now becoming unaffordable for many with pre-existing conditions.
In a study last year: Which? found that those who had taken out annual travel insurance in the past two years and declared a medical condition paid an average price of £150 – which was 56 per cent (£54) more than those with no conditions (£96). One customer in Which?’s research, who has diabetes, found they were paying four times what they would have to pay if they didn’t declare their condition, while one reader recently contacted Telegraph Travel after his wife’s diagnosed with gallstones cost £800 for annual worldwide insurance. (He eventually found cheaper cover through Co-Operative Bank Everyday’s current account, but still had to pay an additional premium of £187.)
But it’s not always as bad as you might fear. Tim Riley from True Traveler Insurance says a 50-year-old who traveled to Thailand for a month, suffered from high blood pressure, was on medication and had not had to go to the doctor recently could potentially pay an extra premium of just £ 21.83.
It is also an issue that disproportionately affects older travelers, who already face much higher basic premiums due to their age. Another recent Which? The report shows that even when they are in good health, people in the higher groups already pay much more for insurance. The average price paid by people aged 75 or over for an annual policy was £300. The equivalent amount for the 65-74 age group was £182, while those in the 55-64 age group paid less than half ( £142).
Whatever your age, here’s our guide to finding the best travel insurance if you have a medical condition.
Tips for insuring with existing conditions
1. Check specialists
If a regular insurer denies coverage or offers a very high premium, go to an insurer that specializes in coverage for pre-existing conditions. You can find directories of such companies at MoneyHelper and the British Insurance Brokers’ Association. It is always worth requesting more than one quote; Insurers’ estimates and cost calculations of risks can vary greatly. Find our guide to the best policies for older travelers in general here.
2. Indicate everything
All insurers will screen your claim for medical issues and it is crucial that you provide honest and thorough answers, not only for known conditions, but also for referrals awaiting a diagnosis. If you don’t do this and have to make a claim, you are much more likely to be denied and your (probably expensive) insurance will be worthless. If you have a complex medical history or a terminal illness, it’s worth calling the company to discuss the situation, rather than relying on the online Q&A sessions.
Don’t be surprised if you have to answer the exact same questions when requesting quotes from different companies. They often use the same third-party medical screening service to investigate applications and make a risk assessment. But different insurers are still likely to quote different premiums, even for the same level of risk.
3. Buy a single trip policy
If you are used to taking annual multi-trip insurance and develop a condition, you may have to compromise and opt for a single-trip policy. Some insurers offer single trip insurance to customers to whom they wouldn’t offer an annual policy, so it’s useful to look at prices for both types.
4. Buy a GHIC card
A GHIC card, the post-Brexit replacement for the EHIC card, entitles the holder to emergency or urgent state healthcare (also called ‘medically necessary healthcare’), including emergency department visits and ‘routine’ long-term treatments or pre-existing medical care. conditions during your visit to EU countries, Montenegro and Australia (British passport holders have similar rights in Norway and Switzerland). It doesn’t replace travel insurance, but it is free. Don’t forget to apply for your application in time before you travel. Full details of the cover and how to apply for it can be found here.