Travel Insurance For Pre-Existing Conditions
How to find affordable cover
Travel restrictions have begun to ease, and if you're thinking of taking a trip over the coming months, getting travel insurance as soon as you've booked is vital. Yet if you've had a serious medical condition, or are having treatment for one, you're likely to be quoted ludicrously high prices for travel cover. However, there are still ways to cut costs – this guide explains how...
Warning! Know the risks if you book a trip, as restrictions can change at any time
Before you book a trip, be aware that with most travel insurers:
- You won't be covered for cancellation if entry restrictions in your destination, or local or national lockdowns in the UK, mean you can't go on your trip.
- You won't be covered for ANYTHING if you travel to a country or region against the advice of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
There's a lot of uncertainty for future bookings right now as rules can change with little warning. So book flexibly where you can, and understand what is and isn't covered by your travel insurance so you know what financial risk you're taking on. For more info, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.
Can I still get travel insurance if I have a pre-existing condition?
Yes, you can. The aim of travel insurance is to cover the cost of the unforeseen, such as illness and injury or theft of your personal possessions while you're on holiday. It's also designed to cover you if you have to cancel your trip before you go, or if you need to return early due to an emergency.
For people with pre-existing medical conditions, the cover works exactly the same way as insurance for typical travellers. The only difference 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 - though this is likely to make the cost of cover more expensive.
However, travel insurance isn't designed to (and won't) cover every eventuality or every loss or inconvenience that you experience while on holiday. Read this guide carefully so you know what is (and isn't) covered.
What does travel insurance cover?
A good travel insurance policy should cover you for:
These usually include being made redundant, having to do jury service, falling seriously ill (including with Covid-19) or suffering a bereavement.
Home emergencies eg fire, flood or break-in are also usually covered.
As it says on the tin. This covers the cost of receiving treatment overseas. You're also covered for repatriation – the cost of flying you back to the UK if the insurer decides you are medically able to be moved and it wants you treated in the UK.
However, a word of caution here. If you have a pre-existing medical condition you did not tell the insurer about when you arranged cover, you won't be covered for any medical treatment you need while on holiday that's related to that condition. ALWAYS tell your insurer about any medical conditions (see our Pre-existing Conditions Travel Insurance guide).
This is where you go on the trip, but need to cut your holiday short due to an emergency. As with cancellation, there's usually a list of (similar) accepted reasons you can claim for, so check the policy wording carefully.
If your stuff is lost, stolen or damaged while you're away, you should be able to claim, as almost everything you take with you is included – think phone, camera, wallet, expensive clothing, etc. Yet be aware policies can vary greatly both in the amount covered (including the maximum amount they'll pay out for a single item) and in the excess – the amount you have to pay towards the claim yourself.
You may already be covered for this under your home contents policy, as these often cover belongings outside the home, so check.
Some policies will reimburse you if you can't make use of your booking. However, some stipulate you can only claim for these costs if the reason you missed out is that the provider of the activity went bust.
Again, watch out for the excess – a high one could mean it's only worth claiming for pricier outings.
This protects others and their property from accidents you may cause while on holiday. For example, the personal liability element of your insurance would cover you if, while staying at a plush hotel, you spill some hot coffee and stain an expensive upholstered chair.
While you can expect an insurer to pay out for most of the above, the exact level of cover will vary by policy – so check the terms carefully before you buy.
You also won't be covered for any of the above if you're travelling to a country the Foreign Office is warning against travel to, whether that's because of its coronavirus levels or for other reasons eg war or terrorism. If you do need to travel to one of these countries, you'll need specialist cover.
Most policies won't cover cancellations for Covid-related travel bans but will cover you if you catch Covid and can't go
The pandemic is a major concern for any prospective travel, especially if you have a pre-existing condition that puts you at higher risk. However, it doesn't change what travel insurers will cover for Covid-related cancellations - the table summarises the cover available.
|Scenario||Are you covered?|
|You or a family member can't travel as you've got Covid-19.||
Most policies DO cover this, as long as you're not travelling against Government advice.
|You or a family member can't travel as you've been told to self-isolate by NHS test & trace.||
SOME policies cover this – check insurer's site and the policy wording carefully.
|You can't go because of government restrictions at home or abroad.||
NOT covered by most policies, so you won't be able to claim for this.
|Can't travel as you don't feel safe going.||
NOT covered – this is known as 'disinclination to travel' which travel insurance never covers.
In short, you're generally covered if you catch coronavirus before your trip or while on it. We've also focused our top-pick policies on those which cover you if you've been told to self-isolate and can't go on the trip, though this is by no means standard.
However, travel insurance to cover cancellations due to national or local lockdowns - whether in the UK or in your destination - as well as changing Foreign Office advice doesn't really exist. So, you need to accept that risk.
It's best to always book flexible, easily-cancellable flights and hotels so you can cancel or rearrange your trip if you're caught by restrictions. Our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide has more information about your rights to cancel/move your trip, or get refunds from your provider.
Nine travel insurance need-to-knows if you've a pre-existing condition
As we highlighted above, travel insurance still covers a large range of unforeseen events, even if you won't be able to completely cover yourself for coronavirus-related events. It's still vital to get before you go away - and here are a few things you need to know before you choose a policy...
1. Buy travel insurance as soon as you've booked to cover non-coronavirus cancellation and pre-trip illness
It's never a good idea to wait until the last minute when buying travel insurance – and thinking you don't need to arrange cover yet as your holiday's not for another six months is a big mistake.
This is even more important if you have pre-existing conditions (and with the current coronavirus situation), because it may take longer to get it sorted. There's also the risk that your condition gets worse – if this is the case and you've already got insurance, you'll be covered.
It's also important not to wait as because travel insurance doesn't just cover you while you're away – it also covers you for cancellation, events such as redundancy or an injury or death in the family, or anything else that might go wrong BEFORE you make your trip. You're also covered if you catch coronavirus shortly before your trip and can't go.
So, always buying your travel insurance ASAB (As Soon As you've Booked a holiday).
The same rule applies for a UK holiday, and have a guide to help with arranging UK travel insurance.
... and see if it is cheaper getting a combined or individual policy.
If travelling with your partner or family, you have two options – you can cover everyone under one policy, or each person takes their own. It's often cheaper to get a combined policy, however, there are times when separate policies will be a better option (so always check, to be safe), including:
- If one of the travellers is over 65, as the group price you'll pay is based on the oldest traveller, or the person deemed to be the highest risk, so the insurer will usually hike the price for all (see our Over-65s' Travel Insurance guide for ways to cut costs).
- If one of the travellers has a medical condition, as it will increase the price for all.
- If just one of the travellers is going outside Europe, in particular to the US, or on a skiing trip (or even both), it could be better to have separate policies, rather than the whole family buying extended cover when it's not needed.
A pre-existing condition is about physical and mental health conditions you've seen a doctor about or had ongoing medical treatment for. How far back you must go varies with each insurer. It's important to give a full and frank rundown of all your past health issues, so you don't find any claim being rejected at a later date. This is especially important in the current coronavirus pandemic, especially where your condition may make you more susceptible to complications from it.
If you have, or have had, what insurers consider as a less serious condition, such as mild asthma or high blood pressure which you're not receiving ongoing treatment for, you may still be able to get traditional cover at the standard price – just let the insurer know, even if you don't deem it particularly important.
Each insurer will have its own list of conditions it deems as more serious, which means you might have to pay an additional premium or even get specialist cover.
If your insurer doesn't know about your medical history, any pre-existing conditions – however minor – will likely be excluded and you could face a massive bill if you become unwell. Insurers also need to know about medication, conditions or illnesses that can be linked to your pre-existing condition.
For example, an asthmatic who develops a chest infection (connected to being asthmatic) while on holiday will only be insured if they've told the provider about their asthma upfront.
3. Check you're covered for the countries you're travelling to, and remember you're not covered for cancellation if the Foreign Office warns against travel
Insurers will classify your trip as 'European' or 'worldwide'. Worldwide is often further broken down to include or exclude the US, Canada, the Caribbean or Mexico. Selecting the option to include these countries increases the premium due to the high cost of medical treatment – particularly in the US – and possible repatriation.
European annual travel cover isn't just for Europe
If you're travelling just outside Europe, you don't always have to select worldwide cover. Many insurers actually allow you to use their European cover in a handful of non-European countries too.
If you're visiting Egypt, Morocco, Turkey or Tunisia, it's worth getting a quotation for European cover first and then checking the policy's geographical area definition to see if the country you're going to is included. The following insurers – Allianz*, Insure and Go and Coverwise* – all class Egypt, Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia as Europe.
It's also worth noting that not all insurers automatically include Spain (and the Balearic/Canary Islands) in their European cover – you may have to pay extra to include Spain if you plan to travel there.
Check if the Foreign Office is advising against travel to your destination
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has a list of countries which it feels are unsafe for travel. Usually, this covers areas where there's war, terrorism or other reasons not to travel eg natural disasters. Currently, the list is rather longer than usual due to the pandemic.
If you take a holiday to a country the FCDO's advising against all travel to (or all but essential travel to) at the time of your then your insurer won't cover you, even if travel was allowed when you booked your trip.
So, when you're booking, and in the weeks leading up to your trip, check the Foreign Office website for the latest on whether you'll be able to travel as things can change quickly. You should also if the country you're planning to travel to has restricted entry – you can usually do this via its UK embassy website.
If one or the other means you can no longer take your trip, see if you can rearrange it, or if the provider will give you a refund. For more on what to do if this happens, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.
If you have pre-existing conditions, buying an annual policy may be prohibitively expensive. Get quotes for single-trip and annual cover and work out what will be most cost-effective.
Annual cover will insure you for an unlimited number of trips over a 12-month period. However, the number of days you can be on holiday for per trip may be restricted – it's often 31 days, but can sometimes be as low as 17 or as high as 90.
5. Family or group policies are based on the traveller deemed the highest risk, so consider separate cover
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 premiums.
A separate policy for you may be the best option to avoid everyone paying over the odds but always check both options.
There are times when separate policies will be a better option (so always check, to be safe), including:
- If one of the travellers has a medical condition.
- If one of the travellers is over 65 (see our Over-65s' Travel Insurance guide for ways to cut the cost).
- If just one of the travellers is going outside Europe, in particular to the US, or on a skiing trip (or even both), it could be better to have separate policies rather than the whole family buying extended cover.
The free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and the replacement Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which has been sent to new applicants from the 1 January 2021, entitles you to treatment in state-run hospitals in the EU at the same cost as a local would pay. So if they pay nowt, you pay nowt.
The main difference since 1 January 2021 is that you'll NO LONGER be able to use your EHIC or GHIC in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, as they're not part of the EU.
An EHIC/GHIC should be seen as an extra to travel insurance, not a replacement. Travel insurance covers a far greater range of scenarios, as well as gives cover for cancellation, possessions, delays, repatriation, personal liability, and more. Plus, even using an EHIC/GHIC you may need to pay, and travel insurance will cover that (and often using the EHIC/GHIC means you don't pay the excess).
How do I get a GHIC?
The card is free so if a copycat site pretending to be the real thing advertises a fee (often about £35), run a mile. For full info and how to get it for free from the legitimate NHS site, read our Free EHIC/GHIC guide.
7. Check if you're already covered via your bank account – but make sure you tell 'em about your medical conditions
You may already have travel insurance without knowing it with a packaged bank account. Many bank accounts that charge a monthly fee have extra benefits such as travel insurance. If you think you get insurance as a sweetener with yours, check the terms to see if it's appropriate for your trip.
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 FlexPlus 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.
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 guide for more on this.
For accounts that may offer travel insurance (and other perks), see our Top Packaged Bank Accounts guide.
While cruises aren't taking place during the coronavirus crisis, it's still an option to add cruise cover if you're booking a trip for later in 2021.
On a cruise, most regular travel policies will cover you for loss or theft of goods and medical costs on a cruise, you may not be for other eventualities unless you upgrade your policy. These include:
- Missed departure
- Unused cruise excursions, eg, a day trip to a city port
- Cruise itinerary change
- Cabin confinement, eg, onboard virus
To get cover for these, you can usually select an add-on to get the right protection – which won't break the bank. If you want to buy one, a quick way to get a quote is to use a comparison site such as MoneySupermarket*, Confused.com*, Gocompare or Compare The Market.
It's also worth comparing seeing if any of the top-pick policies below let you add cruise cover.
Winter sports can be dangerous, so as soon as you've splashed out on your break, make sure you're 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.
Travellers with a history of medical problems will not be excluded from taking out winter sports cover and shouldn't have any issues buying it. However, if you are an older traveller you are likely to pay more. In addition, some providers may have limits on their coverage.
Many holidaymakers wrongly assume they're automatically covered for winter sports as part of their travel insurance. While some providers offer winter sports as standard under certain policies, other travel insurers only cover you if you extend your insurance and this will typically cost extra.
All winter sports policies will cover you for skiing and snowboarding and many will also cover other activities, such as husky dog sleigh riding and sledging, as standard. If you are doing something a bit more unusual, such as ski jumping or snowmobiling, check the terms and conditions of your policy first. If you are planning to take part in something even more wild – such as luging or stunt skiing – specialist providers such as BMC and Snowcard may be able to offer you cover.
If you opt for a specialist travel policy, check your details closely to make sure you know the limits of your cover.
Don't forget to pick your specialist provider like any other travel provider. Make sure you tell your insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions and remember to pack your EHIC if you are going somewhere in Europe.
The cost of medical bills if you get injured on the slopes can be extortionate so it is essential to have the right cover.
The Association of British Insurers has said one Brit required £90,000 of treatment for a fractured rib and punctured lung. Even a smaller injury, such as damage to a knee ligament, can cost as much as £3,800 to treat.
Add being airlifted from the mountain to hospital (which can cost £2,500), repatriation if you need to be flown home injured from the US or Canada (a massive £40,000) and this would significantly increase the claim.
As well as covering yourself, winter sports insurance will also cover your ski pack – a term used to describe the package of lessons you've paid for, lift passes and equipment hire – and cancellation of your holiday.
In most cases, you'll be allowed to ski off-piste but with certain restrictions. You'll have to be within the boundary of the resort or supervised by a qualified instructor.
Lucky you. It may be cheaper to take out an annual policy with a winter sports add-on. But check the price against the cost of covering single trips to ensure you're getting a bargain.
Most winter sports policies will cover you for accidental damage, theft or loss of equipment. The onus will be on you to keep your gear safe, so don't leave it at the mercy of crooks.
Your equipment will usually be covered but different providers offer different limits. The sum insured is usually in addition to your standard baggage cover. For example, Axa will cover up to £1,500 worth of equipment, Admiral will cover from £500 up to £1,000 (depending on the policy), while Aviva and Direct Line give cover up to £500. Think about the value of your stuff and pick your policy accordingly.
If you've hired ski equipment, it may be covered by your insurer if it's lost, stolen or damaged. Some providers insure any rented kit as part of your baggage up to the limit of the coverage. Other insurers only pay up to 50% of the sum insured for hired equipment. Some ski equipment providers may also cover their gear for you so it's worth checking with the resort before you buy your cover.
In most cases, your ski pack – including ski school fees, a lift pass and hired ski equipment – is covered. The amount can range from £150 to £500, but can be as high as £5,000. As always, check your policy for any potential exclusions.
If your piste closes (usually due to lack of snow or an avalanche) and you're unable to hit the slopes, your insurer may give you back a set amount per day. This can range from £10 to £50 – up to a limit of £200 to £500.
Many people aren't aware that if you have an alcoholic drink on holiday, and you lose something or have an accident, your insurance may not cover you – even if you were only a bit tipsy.
Some insurers are known to have gone as far as testing blood samples of your alcohol level (although we wonder how this works in practice) but this does vary from policy to policy.
Having a claim refused could hit hard, possibly excluding you from medical or possessions cover. The same goes for skiing despite weather warnings and – with some providers – skiing without a helmet. So scrutinise your policy before buying.
Looking for a new travel insurance policy?
Our step-by-step process will help you find the best policy with cover for your medical condition . But, remember, most travel insurance policies WON'T cover you for cancellation if a government restriction at home or abroad means you can’t travel.
They also won't cover you for ANYTHING if you decide to take a trip if the Foreign Office is advising against travel to your destination. If your trip is essential and you do need to travel against Foreign Office advice, you'll need a specialist policy.
For some with conditions deemed less serious by the insurers, eg, mild asthma, you may find you can get a standard policy, or only have the price marginally increased. If that's the case, you may not need to go any further. See our main travel insurance guide for our top-pick single trip policies, and top pick annual policies.
However, each insurer will have its own list of conditions it deems as more serious, which means you might have to pay a premium or get specialist cover. If that's the case, or you know you have a severe condition, it may be best to skip to step 2.
If our top picks don't suit you, you can also try comparison sites to find other 'standard' policies. Try MoneySupermarket*, Compare The Market, Confused.com* and Gocompare - they all allow you to adjust your quote to suit your needs, eg, single trip or annual, or in case you want to add travel disruption cover, scheduled airline failure, cruise cover etc.
To cover more serious conditions, such as heart conditions, certain joint conditions or cancer, you'll likely need to try specialist medical insurers' sites (often you won't see these on normal comparison sites).
A good starting point – to benchmark a price – would be to get a quote from Medical Travel Compared. It's a comparison site, and has a wide range of insurers on its panel, though you'll need to check the level of of coronavirus cover provided with each insurer.
If you decide to travel to a country that has a Foreign Office warning against travel (though note we're not encouraging you to do so) and are looking for travel insurance to cover it, we've found some insurers that give some level of cover. Here's how it works...
- You WILL be covered for normal medical issues while overseas.
- You WILL have cover for the normal scenarios that travel insurance covers, such as loss of belongings, theft etc.
- You MAY NOT have cover if you catch coronavirus overseas, so check the policy.
Here are some insurers to consider:
|Battleface*||Standard||Yes – with repatriation cover||No|
|Insurefor.com*||Standard (but only for single-trip travel to Europe)||Yes – with repatriation cover||Yes, but ONLY if insured or family member diagnosed with coronavirus|
|Leisure Guard*||Standard (but only for single-trip travel to Europe)||Yes – with repatriation cover||Yes, but ONLY if insured or family member diagnosed with coronavirus|
|Staysure*||Optional - add "European Foreign Office travel advice extension"||Yes - if you’ve had the recommended COVID-19 vaccinations||Yes, but ONLY if insured or family member diagnosed with coronavirus|
Specialist brokers can help you find insurers that cover non-standard medical conditions, or non-standard trips. To find one, see the British Insurance Brokers' Association website.
Always double-check the level of cover offered before taking out a policy as well as providers' websites for any info about coronavirus.
How to claim on your travel insurance
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.
- Get your insurer to accept a medical claim before you get treatment. If you need to make a medical claim – and it's not an emergency – get your insurer to accept the claim over the phone first. For example, if you sprained your ankle, call your insurer – if it accepts the claim then, you're less likely to be faced with a rejected claim later down the line. For obvious reasons, don't delay treatment if it's an emergency.
- Notify the police if it's a theft or loss. 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 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. This independent adjudicator 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, or see our section below.
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 small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but, if not, then…
Travel insurance for pre-existing conditions FAQ
If you currently have a policy but later develop a medical condition, you need to tell your insurer immediately. Insurers need to know about any condition you currently have, or may have had in the past, so they can accurately price your cover. If you have a condition they do not know about it will not be included as part of your policy, and if you fall ill because of it, you would have to foot the medical bill yourself as they will reject your claim.
Pregnancy is not classed as a pre-existing condition and does not need to be declared to your insurer. You should be covered by most insurers if you have a pregnancy-related emergency abroad providing you have not had any complications.
We have seen that cover can be limited from week 29 and other policies that limit the cover up to week 32 (or 24 weeks for multiple pregnancies) – so always check as it does vary with different insurers.
It's also recommended you get a letter from your doctor and take this with you, stating how many weeks pregnant you are, along with your travel insurance documents. As pregnancy is not an unforeseen condition it will not be covered by most travel insurers in its later phases.
In January 2015, British couple Lee Johnston and Katie Amos were left facing a medical bill of more than £100,000 after Katie gave birth 11 weeks early. In this instance, their insurer paid out. However, as always, to make sure you are covered, check the terms and conditions of your policy carefully.
You will not need any special sign-off from a doctor before you travel if you have pre-existing conditions but your insurer may have to refer back to your doctor for more information when you apply for cover. However, if you are under doctor's orders not to travel but decide to venture overseas anyway, your travel insurance will be invalid.
If you are looking to find cover but are awaiting diagnosis, surgery, treatment or tests, or you have an illness that you have not discussed with a doctor, you will struggle to get cover. In this instance you may have to put your travel plans on hold – especially if the condition is potentially serious.
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