If you’ve been ill or have any chronic conditions, getting travel insurance can be tricky. Here we explain how to find cover and rate specialist providers.
Can I get travel insurance if I have a medical condition?
If you have a medical condition – such as cancer or a heart condition – it can be tough to track down affordable travel insurance.
You’ll usually be asked some questions about your medical history. If you declare a medical condition, the insurer could increase your premium, add an exclusion to the policy (meaning they won’t cover the condition), or decide they can’t accept you as a customer.
Fortunately, you do have options.
Our guide assembles the key information on travel insurance policies and illness, and how to make specialist providers part of your search. We’ve also rated the cover offered by some of these insurers.
But here are some quick tips for getting cover if you have a medical condition.
Medical conditions don’t always make a difference
Declaring a medical condition doesn’t automatically mean you’ll struggle to get insurance. Many are fairly straightforward to cover.
When applying for insurance, you’re obliged to answer all questions accurately and honestly – which means that if the insurer asks about your medical conditions, you need to be forthcoming.
If, when you come to claim, you’re found to have withheld information that was requested, the insurer could consider the policy to be invalid.
Some insurers will allow you to not declare conditions on the understanding that these conditions are automatically excluded. This may reduce the premium, but could leave you with far less cover than you need.
In some cases, information received via a handful of questions online isn’t enough for an insurer to make a rounded decision about how much of a risk your condition poses.
If you have a complex condition, it’s worth calling the insurer up so they can make a more detailed evaluation of your circumstances.
Consider all insurers
We think you should check as many insurers as possible when searching for the right one. Depending on the complexity of your medical condition, non-specialist insurers may be able to provide a price that rivals a specialist’s. Fortunately, price comparison websites can allow you get a quick impression of what’s on offer from mainstream firms.
- Find out more: our analysis of hundreds of policies.
Consider single-trip cover
Some insurers will offer single-trip insurance to customers that they wouldn’t offer annual policies to – so it’s useful to look at prices for both types of cover.
Who offers cheap travel insurance for medical conditions?
‘Specialist’ providers focus on trying to provide affordable cover for customers that struggle to find it elsewhere.
How much you’ll pay depends on the complexity or severity of your medical condition, which means we can’t say which will provide the cheapest cover.
However, specialists may be more able to cover you if you’ve been refused insurance elsewhere because of medical conditions, or have only been offered high premiums.
What is medical screening?
When searching for quotes with different insurers you may have found yourself answering exactly the same questions over and over. The reason for this is a handful of companies perform the task of ‘medical screening’ on behalf of most insurance providers.
Simply put, medical screening means collecting information from customers about their medical history and turning it into a ‘risk score’.
The insurer uses the score to help them decide whether they will cover the customer and how much they’ll charge. Importantly, two insurers may make different decisions based on the same screening process and score.
As our table shows, much of the industry – including leading price comparison sites – uses a firm called Verisk to medically screen customers.
How can I find specialist insurers?
Almost all travel insurers will cover some medical conditions – which means you shouldn’t rule out the more mainstream providers.
However, the Financial Conduct Authority has created a directory of insurance companies that have a proven specialism in covering people with medical conditions. Some of these firms specialise in a specific condition (such as cancer), while others specialise in various conditions.
Firms listed in the directory may be able to help if:
- You’ve been refused insurance from other providers because of a medical condition
- You’ve found that insurers will cover you but not some of your medical conditions
- Your medical conditions add significantly to the cost of your insurance
Using a broker
If you’re having trouble tracking down insurers online, an alternative is using brokers to search the market for you.
The British Insurance Broker’s Association (BIBA) hosts a ‘find insurance’ service, which will put you in touch with brokers that specialise in cover for medical conditions.
- Find out more – BIBA’s Find Insurance service.
What if my health changes after buying travel insurance?
You could be forgiven for thinking that once you’ve taken out your insurance – having declared any pre-existing medical conditions – subsequent changes in your health will be covered by your policy.
Unfortunately, you can’t bank on this being the case. Many policies come with a clause – often referred to as an ‘ongoing duty of disclosure’ – which means you need to contact the insurer if your health does change.
Your insurer will reassess the terms of your cover in light of this new information. It may decide not to change anything about your cover and premiums. However, it may also change the terms by which you’re covered (including hiking the premium), or decide it can’t cover you.
In the last instance, you should be refunded for any premiums paid, and should also be able to make a cancellation claim if you have to rearrange or cancel your holiday because of the cancelled cover.
If you’ve failed to report a change in your health at the earliest point, the insurer might decline to pay any claim resulting from it.
What counts as a ‘change in health’?
Technically speaking, a wide range of events could conceivably be described as a change in health – from catching a cold to being diagnosed with diabetes.
Insurers have different requirements on what needs to be reported to them – and this can sometimes also vary depending on the type of policy you buy.
Some insurers don’t require you to update them about your health unless you’ve been advised by your doctor not to travel.
Others require that you let them know if your symptoms have led to tests or a medical investigation – and others expect you to get in touch if you’ve received any medical advice at all. If you have any concerns about this, you should check your policy wording or contact the insurer.
What happens if a travel companion or relative falls ill?
Most travel insurers will provide some cover for losses if certain uninsured parties – such as a relative, close friend, travel companion, business partner or person with whom you’ve arranged to stay falls ill – and you have to change your plans as a result.
There are subtle differences, though, in the criteria set by insurers for when this cover applies, so it’s well worth checking the T&Cs if this is of concern to you.
Who counts as ‘close family’?
Insurers typically list in their policy documents which relatives count as ‘close’ and are therefore within the scope of the policy. These include spouses, siblings and parents.
However, not all insurers cover nieces/nephews or uncles/aunts within their definition. Similarly, while many cover unmarried partners and in-laws, the close family of unmarried partners won’t always be included.
The insurer is unlikely to pay out claims arising from the ill health of a close friend or relative if it’s considered to have been caused by a pre-existing condition.
But how ‘pre-existing’ is defined will depend on the insurer.
With some insurers, a condition (such as a heart condition) is thought of as ‘pre-existing’ if it predated the purchase of the policy – regardless of whether or not the policyholder was aware of it.
Other insurers use a more lenient definition – where the policyholder has to have been aware of the condition when buying the insurance for it to count as ‘pre-existing’.
How do I complain about my travel insurer?
If you feel like you’ve been caught out by an unexpected clause in your insurance when it comes to claiming, don’t be afraid to make a complaint.
Do so in writing (or email) if you can, using the insurer’s complaints process.
If the insurer isn’t proving helpful, take the matter up with the Financial Ombudsman Service by calling 0300 123 9123 or visiting their website.
- Find out more: your rights when travel goes wrong