How to get travel insurance if you have a pre-existing condition

Airplane taking offTravellers with pre-existing medical conditions can find it tricky to get travel insurance from mainstream providers at normal prices.

One of the key rules of travel insurance is that customers must declare all major past and ongoing health conditions. However, doing so can often mean the price of insurance is hiked up or that cover is refused altogether.

In general, pre-existing conditions you need to declare include any respiratory, circulatory, heart or back condition, and any condition or disease, psychiatric disorder or mental illness for which you have ever been diagnosed or received treatment. That means that even if you are now free of a disease - cancer, for example - you'll still have to declare it to your insurance company.

Other declarable conditions include HIV, asthma, high blood pressure, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

People with serious medical conditions generally find it difficult to find travel insurance as medical claims and emergencies abroad are one of the biggest costs to insurance companies. So people with a greater risk of claiming will face higher premiums, with some insurers refusing to cover people with certain conditions altogether.

Customers must also declare any pre-existing medical conditions of close relatives if a change in their health would mean you cancelling or cutting short the holiday, for example, if one of your parents was seriously ill.

Telling the truth

When it comes to insurance, lying or omitting the truth is known as "non-disclosure". Non-disclosure is a big issue when buying life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection insurance, but it applies to travel insurance too.

If your insurer finds out about non-disclosure, it may turn down a claim later on or invalidate your whole policy.

If you declare a pre-existing condition when applying for travel insurance the insurer will be able to confirm whether or not any claims relating to it can be covered. Some conditions may be covered as standard at no extra charge while some will require payment of an additional premium.

Others, including serious conditions such as cancer, stroke and heart attacks, won't be covered at all by some insurers.

Specialist insurers

If you have a pre-existing medical condition it's a good idea to contact certain specialist insurers or brokers directly for a quote. Then compare premiums, and other sections of the policy (such as baggage cover and cancellation) in order to find the best deal.

All Clear is a comparison site for travellers with pre-existing medical conditions. It's been selling travel insurance for about 18 months and compares quotes from 13 different providers. Consumers can input their medical details, obtain quotes and buy their insurance on the site.

Freedom Insurance has been going since 2002 and was one of the first companies in the UK to develop specialist travel insurance covering pre-existing medical conditions.

Avanti Insurance has an in-house medical screening process allowing it to assess your health on an individual basis and offer the most appropriate travel insurance for your circumstances.

World First Insurance covers thousands of medical conditions. The family run company was the first insurer in the UK to create a policy that covered travellers with HIV and it now insures thousands of other medical conditions, including cancer, heart disease and epilepsy.

Free Spirit covers pre-existing conditions with no upper age limit on its single trip and annual multi-trip policies. Policies also include "financial failure" which covers travellers if their airline or accommodation provider goes bust.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

As well as comprehensive travel insurance it is a good idea to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you are travelling in Europe.

The EHIC (which replaced the E111 form) entitles the holder to free or reduced cost state medical treatment in all EU countries. It's basically a reciprocal agreement between the UK and other European countries so you'll get the same treatment that the country offers its residents for free.

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