Cancer patients get 'raw deal on travel insurance'Research reveals massive premiums

22 May 2007

Recovered cancer sufferers are being refused travel insurance or quoted massive premiums, according to new research.

While some are quoted double or even triple the cost of their holiday, others face being asked insensitive questions about their illness when inquiring about insurance, Macmillan Cancer Support found.

Almost 40 per cent have been quoted high travel insurance premiums, and 6 per cent have been refused insurance altogether.

Some 8 per cent have resorted to going on holiday without cover, the study found.

High quotes

George Ritchie, 52, from Peterborough, who has recovered from bowel cancer, told Macmillan about his experience of booking insurance for a two-week trip to Florida.

He said: 'I rang several companies and was quoted various amounts from £800 to £2,450. In the end I bought insurance for £60 but it seems ridiculous that some of the quotes were so high.'

Another respondent, whose husband has a rare form of cancer but is not terminally ill, was asked such questions as 'is your husband going to die?' and 'how long has he got?', Macmillan said.

The charity has launched the Recovered But Not Covered campaign to help people get a better deal on travel insurance.

Ayesha Owusu-Barnaby, head of campaigns and public affairs at Macmillan, said: 'Hundreds of people contact Macmillan about travel insurance every month. They tell us they're being refused travel insurance or quoted massive premiums and they just don't understand why. Some people also tell us that the insensitive attitudes of some travel insurance sales staff leave them deeply upset.

'Most people live long and active lives after cancer and that's why Macmillan is calling on the travel insurance industry to look again at the risk posed by people affected by cancer and improve the deal offered to them.'

Medical evidence

Nick Starling, director of general insurance and health at the Association of British Insurers, said: 'Travel insurers provide competitively priced cover to as many travellers as possible.

'Specialist insurers, using expert medical advice, are providing travel insurance to many travellers with a history of cancer.

'The cost of this cover needs to reflect the risk, which insurers assess using the best available medical evidence. Insurers will always take into account the most up-to-date, authoritative medical evidence.

'We are keen to discuss the concerns of the Macmillan Trust with them, to ensure that people with a history of cancer get the best deal from travel insurance.'

Holiday Which? Principal Researcher Neil Fazakerley said: 'Finding reasonably priced travel insurance can be a real headache for those who are ill, or even have been ill in the past. Insurers base their premiums on how likely they believe it is that a claim will be made - if they didn't then the cost of travel insurance for everyone would inevitably rise. But this does mean that premiums can be prohibitive for the very people who need insurance the most. And if risk assessment policies are not detailed enough, this can lead to some wildly expensive premiums for those who do not really pose a high insurance risk.

Shop around

'This new survey highlights the massive difference in premiums offered by different companies, so the most basic advice is to shop around. Look for companies which specialise in offering insurance to people in your situation. If you are unable to find a quote you can pay, rather than travel without any insurance at all, you may be able to find a policy which excludes your specific condition, so that you are covered for all other eventualities and accidents - although for conditions like heart problems which could cause acute problems during your trip, this is extremely risky and not to be recommended. Those who have recovered from an illness like cancer may see this as a viable option, but far better would be for insurers to make a more realistic assessment of the real risk associated with such situations and not impose such high premiums in the first place.

'The survey also brings to light the fact that insurers need better policies in place relating to how they deal with potential customers. There are far more sensitive ways to get information from people than to bluntly ask them about life-expectancy.'