Travellers with health problems sometimes inadvertently, or even deliberately, neglect to declare pre-existing medical conditions when purchasing travel insurance. For those who are new to travel insurance it is a very important matter and worth taking the time to research and understand.
When you purchase travel insurance, which is often done online these days, you will be asked to declare any pre-existing medical problems. Obviously, serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer have to be declared. However, it may or may not be obvious that pre-existing medical problems also include many more common ailments and conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as any recent investigations, diagnosis or hospital stay.
Younger people heading off on gap-year adventures or round the world trips may not think that this section applies to them because they are young and in good health. However, no matter what age the traveller the rules are the same. Declaring pre-existing medical conditions applies to everyone, no matter how healthy they may be at the time they book travel and purchase insurance. A good basic backpacker policy should also include cover for medical expenses, air ambulance and medical repatriation – but all pre-existing conditions must be declared.
The bottom line is that if you fail to declare a medical condition and then experience a medical problem related to that condition while overseas your insurance provider is very likely to refuse to cover your claim – and this could become very costly indeed. Some people may decide not to declare a condition when they purchase insurance because they fear it will make the premium too expensive, but this is false economy.
In some cases there may be an increase in the premium to purchase travel insurance to cover a pre-existing medical condition, but it is better to be honest and pay a bit more than face having to pay for hospital treatment abroad if the worst should happen. Paying a bit more for your policy and having the peace of mind of knowing you are covered is crucial, and could save you a bundle if you experience a problem. Wouldn’t it also be nice to know that with insurance you have a lifeline to call if disaster strikes, and a helpful voice to reassure and guide you.
It is vital that you declare all pre-existing conditions, and not just the ones that you think are more serious. Less serious medical conditions may not seem to be important but sometimes when they are present in combination with other conditions an insurer considers the risk greater and additional payment may be required.
If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and are travelling to another EU country you may falsely believe that travel insurance is not necessary, or that the embassy will pay your bills. While a valid EHIC should cover most of your hospital expenses, this can vary from country to country and the EHIC does not cover treatment for non-urgent or ongoing treatment, nor does it cover medical repatriation.
If you become seriously ill abroad, or go skiing and sustain an injury such as a broken leg, your return home may be delayed or you may require medical repatriation – perhaps with purchase of an additional seat on the plane and a medical escort. The EHIC does not cover expenses of this type, but a good travel insurance policy should. If your medical problem is found to be related to a previous illness or condition that you did not declare you run the risk of having claims on your insurance denied. Attempting to hide or ignore pre-existing medical conditions is simply not worth it.
Before you are tempted to purchase a very cheap travel insurance policy, or pick the first policy that comes up on a comparison site, or purchase any policy for that matter, always check that it provides adequate cover for medical expenses and includes air ambulance and medical repatriation.
Double-check the policy terms and conditions to ensure that all your planned activities are covered. If you are unsure or confused about any aspect of the insurance it is best to contact the company for clarification rather than leave things to chance.
Your travel destination should be taken into consideration, especially if you are travelling to an undeveloped country or remote area where medical facilities may be limited or inadequate. There is always the possibility that you may have to be transferred by air ambulance to a neighbouring country for treatment. This would obviously entail enormous expense and without travel insurance you or your family would be left alone to foot the bill.
If you are unsure whether you should declare any medical condition the best option is always to declare it – or ask for advice. Do not leave this important matter to chance or luck and risk ruining your trip. It could be a costly and unnecessary mistake.