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Travel Insurance For Those With Pre-Existing Conditions

Affordable cover for people with pre-existing medical conditions

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Tony and Rebecca | Edited by Johanna

Updated June 2018

If you've had a serious medical condition in the past or disabilities, you're likely to be quoted ludicrously high prices for travel insurance by most insurers.

This guide explains how you can find affordable travel cover if you have health problems, and how to make a claim.

Medical conditions travel insurance: Your 11 need-to-knows

Travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions works exactly the same way as insurance for typical travellers and is designed to cover you for the unforeseen such as cancellation or lost luggage.

The only exception is that it also covers the cost of care for any medical condition you may have had in the past or you suffer from currently.

This is not included in typical travel insurance as standard, meaning that specialist cover is vital for holidaymakers with a history of illness, and you'll usually pay more, as insurers consider you to be more of a risk than those with a clean bill of health.

Before you buy pre-existing medical conditions travel insurance, here are 11 things you need to know.

  • Insurance is about covering unpredictable events

    "Why should I get travel insurance, I might not even use it?" you may ask. But the whole point of travel insurance is to cover you for the unforeseen – ie, unpredictable events that may (or may not) occur either before or during your holiday.

    You need to accept that, and as it's impossible to predict the future, all you can do is to give it your best shot. To sum up...

    Insurance is about making unpredictable events predictable in case the unpredictable happens.

  • Always declare your medical conditions or you may not be covered

    A pre-existing condition is an illness or disease that you have had advice for, symptoms of or treatment for. Different insurers will have their own list of conditions they need to be informed about before you travel – the following are the most common...

    • Heart conditions (which usually includes high blood pressure)
    • Cancer
    • Breathing conditions (including asthma)
    • Joint and bone conditions
    • Diabetes
    • Gastrointestinal condition (problems with your stomach)

    Many insurers will also need to know about conditions or illnesses that can be linked to your pre-existing condition. For example, an asthmatic who develops a chest infection while on holiday will only be insured if the policy includes coverage for asthma.

    As you are statistically more likely to fall ill while abroad if you have medical conditions it's important you give a full and frank run down of all your health issues, or those you've had in the past, when you apply for a policy.

    If your insurer doesn't know about your medical history any pre-existing conditions will be excluded and you could face a massive bill if you become unwell.

    What if I have an annual policy and I develop a condition after i've taken it out?

    Does pregnancy count as a pre-existing condition?

    Do I need a fit note from my doctor to travel?

    What if I am waiting for a condition to be diagnosed?

  • Buy as soon as you've booked or risk not being covered for cancellation or pre-trip illness

    It is never a good idea to wait to the last minute when you are buying travel insurance but this is even more important if you have pre-existing conditions because it may take a bit longer to get it sorted. There's also the risk that your condition gets worse so if you've already got the insurance you'll be covered.

    Thinking you don't need to arrange cover yet as your holiday's not for another six months is a big mistake.

    In fact, it's even more of a reason to arrange travel insurance, as anything can happen before your trip. Why? It's because travel insurance won't just cover you while you're away, it'll also cover you for cancellation or anything else that might go wrong BEFORE you make your trip.

    So the sooner you buy cover, the sooner your holiday is protected.

  • Never assume all policies are the same

    While choosing a travel policy isn't rocket science, don't think you can buy cover without first giving it considerable thought.

    This is even more important when looking for policies if you've got pre-existing conditions because they vary greatly and each have their own inclusions and exclusions, limits and excesses.

    Before you decide what you are going to buy ask yourself the following questions: Will I be bringing expensive personal belongings? Will I be carrying a relatively large amount of foreign currency? Am I taking part in winter sports? This will help you decide what cover's right for you.
  • What's typically covered under a travel insurance policy?

    What is typically left out of travel insurance cover?

    Does it matter which country I am going to?

    Am I covered for trips in the UK?

    What is an excess and how does it work?

    Does it matter what type of holiday I am going on?

    What should I check in my policy before I buy?

  • Single trip policies MAY be your most affordable option

    If you have pre-existing conditions buying an annual policy may be prohibitively expensive. Get quotes for both single trip and annual cover and work out what will be most cost effective.

  • If it is cheaper to buy an annual policy, and you know you will be making a number of trips, opt for that instead. Of course, this varies depending on where you're travelling to and for how long but if you also have extra trips during the life of the policy, you already have the cover in force.

    How many days can I travel for on my annual policy?

  • Groups policies are based on the oldest traveller so separate cover could be cheaper

    Group insurance premiums are based on the oldest traveller or the person deemed to be the highest risk, such as someone with pre-existing medical conditions. Insurers become more selective under these circumstances, and hike up premiums.

    A separate policy for you may be the best option to avoid everyone paying over the odds but always check both.

    Here's an example:

    A family of four – A 45-year-old with diabetes and on medication for high blood pressure, 40-year-old with a clean bill of health and two children under 18 – want a worldwide annual travel insurance policy. They have two options:

    Option 1: Take out an annual group policy – the cheapest we could find was £132.16

    Option 2: Take out one policy for the 40-year-old and the two kids at a cost of £41.08, and a separate policy for the traveller with pre-existing conditions for £68.14. The total cost for both policies would be £109.22 – £22.94 cheaper than the group policy.

    However, one thing to be aware of is if, for example, the traveller with pre-existing conditions fell ill and couldn't fly back at the end of the holiday, the 40-year-old and the kids would not get a payout towards the cost of staying on as they have a separate policy. If they were all on the same policy they would all be covered.

  • Going to Europe? Don't forget your EHIC (it's FREE)

    One of the most common areas of travel cover confusion is the role of the free European Health Insurance Card.

    An EHIC entitles you to treatment in state-run hospitals in EU countries and Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. You'll be treated for the same cost as a local person in the same hospital. So if they pay nowt, you pay nowt.

    You can only use hospitals and doctors signed up to the EHIC scheme. If you are in any doubt, check with EHIC before starting treatment. The card should not be used instead of insurance. This is because travel insurance covers far more, including the costs incurred if treatment isn't free, cancellations, delays, repatriation and baggage loss or theft.

  • The card is free so if a copycat site pretending to the the real thing advertises a fee (often about £25), run a mile. For full info and how to get it for free from the legitimate NHS site, read the Free EHIC guide or by calling 0300 330 1350.


    Some websites will try to make you pay up to £25 for an EHIC. These look like legitimate sites and rank prominently on Google. They get you to fill in the forms and charge you for 'administration', even though there's no administration needed. See our 60 Seconds on Copycat Sites guide for more.

    Do I need an EHIC if I have travel insurance?

    Can my EHIC be used anywhere?

  • Are you already covered?

  • You may already have travel insurance without knowing. Many bank accounts that charge a monthly fee are likely to have extra benefits such as travel insurance so if you pay for yours you may already be covered. If you think you got insurance as a sweetener with your bank account, check the terms to see if it is appropriate for you.

    If your conditions aren't severe, eg, you've got mild asthma, you will probably be covered without paying anything however, if your conditions are severe, you may have to pay an additional fee or you may be declined cover entirely, but always check as insurers have different rules. As Mari, aged 70, found...

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer and insurers said I couldn't get cover. I nearly fell off the chair when Nationwide, with the Flex Plus account, quoted £85 for myself and my husband despite my medical history – we've already been to California and are off to South America in November.

    If you develop a medical condition you must speak to your bank before you go on holiday. If you don't tell it the condition will not be covered and you may have to foot the bill for overseas treatment if you fall ill.

    Do NOT confuse this with a benefit offered with credit cards called travel accident insurance, which only covers accidents on a train, plane or in a hire car paid for on the card. Never think this means you're completely covered.

    This insurance should also not be confused with Section 75 legal protection – which covers you if you buy anything that costs between £100 and £30,000 using a credit card (not a debit card). See our Section 75 Protection guide for more on this.

  • Going on a cruise? You're likely to need an add-on to the policy

    Cruise ship holidays are growing in popularity but don't expect to be automatically covered for cruise specific issues. Carefully check your policy to make sure you are covered should you need to cancel a cruise holiday or require medical treatment once on board.

  • If you need extended cover, which usually includes cover against missed departure, unused cruise excursions, cruise itinerary change and cruise cabin confinement, you can usually select an add-on to get the right protection – which won't break the bank.

  • Going skiing? Make sure you have winter sports cover

    Winter sports can be dangerous, so as soon as you've splashed out on your break, make sure you are insured on the slopes. As well as covering you for the basics you'd get with a pre-existing travel policy, you'll also be insured for activity-related injury and your winter sports equipment.

    Will I struggle to get winter sports cover?

    Is winter sports cover automatically included?

    Is it worth getting a basic policy and hope for the best?

    Do I need extra cover if I want to go off-piste?

    I am skiing twice this year. Should I get a 12-month policy?

    Is my equipment covered? What if it is rented?

    Can I claim for piste closure?

    What happens if I have an accident while I am a little tipsy?

  • Don't overpay on your insurance. Costlier cover is rarely worth it

    As you're buying a travel insurance policy for someone with pre-existing conditions, you're going to be paying more than someone with a clean bill of health. However, remember to watch out for insurance providers as they go all out to scare us into upping cover levels.

  • Don't be duped into upgrading for no reason. Platinum policies with £10m medical cover, even if you have pre-existing medical conditions, are bunkum.

    "Why," you ask? Well, you're charged more but the chances of you making a claim that high are slim. According to the Association of British Insurers, the average cost of a medical travel insurance claim in 2013 was £930 – a far cry from £10m!

Cover for pre-existing conditions

Whether you're travelling in Europe or further afield, with your family or on your own, follow the steps below to find the right cover at the right price. These steps apply for single and annual policies and if you have severe medical conditions, a single policy may be the most affordable option.

  • Do you need pre-existing cover?

    Some conditions are more difficult to cover than others, so consider your needs carefully. If you have, or have had, mild asthma or high-blood pressure you may still be able to get cover via our main travel insurance guide.

    Remember that you must tell your insurer about your condition – even if you don't deem it particularly serious.

  • If you've got a serious condition, you'll need specialist cover

    More serious conditions, such as certain heart conditions or cancer, are likely to need specialist cover.

    A number of comparison sites will help you find quotes. Medical Travel Compared and All Clear Travel are all good starting points and will help you find specialist providers for your conditions.

    As an alternative, if you have a free EHIC card – which means you can use an EU state run hospital for the same price as a local – then EHIC plus* may be useful. It covers most pre-existing conditions, if you've used an EHIC card, and also gives you all the other usual things travel insurance covers such as delays, baggage and cancellation. Remember – it's not Government-backed, the underwriter is Mapfre Insurance.

  • Check the specialists comparisons miss

    There are a number of insurers which specialise in giving policies to those with pre-existing medical conditions which aren't listed on comparison sites – but there are no hard or fast rules so get quotes from as many as you can.

    Staysure* accepts an extensive range of medical conditions, and some at no extra cost. Others to add to the list are Insurancewith, Avanti*, MIA Online, Orbis, Good to Go Insurance and Global Travel Insurance*.

    Another provider to consider is World First who ask questions by leading on the medication prescribed. For those with breast cancer, check policy details and quotes from Insurepink.

  • Contact a broker

    If you're still unable to find cover, speak to a specialist broker who should be able to help you. Try the British Insurance Brokers' Association broker helpline.

  • What to do in the worst case scenario

    If cover is still unaffordable, the price may drop considerably if you ask insurers to exclude some, or all, of your pre-existing conditions. Overall, it is a judgement call on the risks of travelling with limited cover.

How to claim on your travel cover

Claiming on your travel insurance shouldn't be daunting and – if you understand the terms and excesses on your policy – you shouldn't be in for any nasty shocks. Follow the five steps below in the event you need to claim.

  • Submit your claim as soon as possible

    Contact your insurer as soon as you can. Some parts of your policy may have a short window to submit a claim and it may take a while to be processed.

  • If it's a medical claim get an insurer to accept it first

    If you need to make a medical claim – and it is not an emergency – get an insurer to accept the claim over the phone first. For example, thieves make off with medicine kept in a handbag that you need urgently. If the insurer accepts the claim over the phone, you're less likely to be faced with a rejected claim later down the line. For obvious reasons, don't delay treatment if it is an emergency.

  • If it's a theft or loss claim notify the police

    If something goes missing or is stolen when you are abroad you may need to get a crime reference number or the overseas equivalent to make a successful claim. Report the incident to the police as soon as you can – you often have to do it within 24 hours to be able to claim – to make sure your claim doesn't hit the skids.

  • Keep your receipts

    If you are claiming for lost luggage or delay, remember to keep receipts of essential items you have bought in the interim, such as food and drink. Many insurers allow you to add these expenses to a claim and may ask for receipts as proof.

  • Complain if you feel your claim was unfairly rejected

    If your insurance company rejects your claim, and you think it has done so wrongly, do not take it lying down. Complain to the free Financial Ombudsman. It's an independent adjudicator which will make the final decision on a claim if you are locked in a dispute with your insurer. For more on how to make a complaint, read our Financial Rights guide.

How to complain about your insurance provider

The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include claims either not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in the small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then…

Free tool if you're having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.

Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead just let us know by emailing as that's usually quicker.

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