Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions

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Yarr be needing travel insurance on this boat...

Whilst we’re in Ireland, we’ve taken out travel insurance to cover for any problems whilst we’re out there. Whilst it’s not required to travel, it’s a very good idea to have a policy in place, just in case things go wrong. In particular, cover will be very useful should you need to receive medical treatment for any reason – especially if it’s serious and would require you to be repatriated for treatment.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you’re a UK national travelling to EU member states then some help is available in the form of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It’s free for Brits to order one, although some dodgy third-party sites will charge you. Possessing this card means that you can get treatment at the same cost as a resident of that country would – so if the treatment is free, you don’t pay anything. But it won’t cover you if that treatment is also chargeable to its citizens – like some emergency dental work is in the UK, or prescriptions. And the cards are only valid for five years, so before you travel make sure it’s still valid. I realised that mine had expired – thankfully a replacement came within a week, but it can take up to two weeks to arrive.

So, travel insurance is a necessity for those instances where the EHIC doesn’t cover the treatment, or if you’re travelling outside the EU. The problem is that many policies do not, as standard, cover pre-existing medical conditions. As an asthmatic, this is an issue for me – an asthma attack is probably the main reason why I would need medical treatment. So I need a policy to cover it.

Finding a quote

The first two online quotes I got would not cover me – although I had to read the full policy documents to find this out. One asked me to call them up and discuss my conditions with an advisor. The other stated that I’d need to contact another company – again by phone – to get a policy. Both these firms (one of whom currently provides our home insurance) therefore didn’t get my business. In the end, I went with More Than. They covered us for our honeymoon in Paris last year, as their web site was geared up for asking for details about my medical condition, and coming up with a revised price that included asthma cover. However, as we haven’t yet had to claim on it, I don’t want to necessarily recommend More Than other over insurers since our experience with them is limited.

As it was, the extended cover ended up being about 75% more expensive than their basic travel insurance policy, despite the fact that only I needed extra cover – Christine is fine. And, the chances are that I’ll never need to claim on it – my asthma is under control and it’s been over six years since my last hospitalisation for it. But not taking out travel insurance is a gamble – you may be fine and thus save money, but if things go wrong then it could cost you a lot more.

Price comparison web sites

Many people buy insurance through price comparison web sites these days. The two that I checked when writing this – confused.com and moneysupermarket.com – did have sections for finding travel insurance policies that would cover pre-existing medical conditions, but only after scrolling down and not by clicking on the big ‘get quote’ buttons. So if you are going to use such sites, be careful and make sure that you declare your medical conditions during the comparison process. Alternatively, AllClear Travel is a comparison site for travel insurance which caters for those with medical conditions. However, the policies were about the same price as the More Than policy that we took out, and at least I’ve heard of More Than. I worry about taking out a policy with a company that I’ve never heard of – at least the bigger insurance companies have a reputation to uphold.

Travel insurance packaged with your bank account

Some paid-for current accounts with banks include travel insurance. Again, these may not necessarily cover medical conditions, although if you speak to your bank you may be able to vary the policy. That being said, if you signed up for a packaged bank account and were not made aware that your medical conditions would not be covered when you travel, you may have been mis-sold and can reclaim the costs of the account. That page gives you some template letters to send to your bank – don’t pay a third party company to contact your bank on your behalf as they will take a considerable cut of any payout that you get.

Scandal, or perhaps just bad business

Asthma alone affects 1 in 11 people in the UK, and I’m sure that many more people have other medical conditions that standard travel insurance policies won’t cover. So I’m surprised that insurance companies are not more willing to cover people like me. For taking a slightly bigger risk, the insurer we went with is getting quite a lot of extra money out of us, whilst the others lost a customer.

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