Can I get travel insurance if I have a medical condition?
It can be tough to track down affordable travel insurance if you've been ill or have a pre-existing medical condition.
Likewise, if you develop a new medical condition – or your health changes – it's not always clear whether your policy will cover you.
Fortunately, our guide assembles the key information you'll need on travel insurance policies and illness.
Who offers cheap travel insurance for medical conditions?
Having a 'medical condition' can mean many things. And when it comes to covering conditions on an insurance policy, numerous factors will be considered. These include what kind of condition, how severe it is, whether it still affects you, and how well it's managed.
Many of us declaring medical conditions when searching for insurance won't have difficulty finding an affordable policy. However, significant numbers of customers with more complex or severe conditions find themselves shut out by mainstream insurers.
The good news is not all insurance firms look at medical risk in the same way - and there are various providers around that specialise in covering people with medical conditions.
The bad news is that these insurance providers can often lie off the beaten path - not featuring on comparison sites - making them difficult to find.
Finding medical specialists
To help customers track down companies that may be able to help, 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?
Notifying your insurer
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 choose to:
- increase your premium
- add an exclusion into your cover (for claims related to the new condition)
- cancel your cover
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.
Most importantly, 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.
Finding your insurer's terms on medical conditions
Insurers set out their specific terms around disclosure in a section of the policy document called 'health declaration' or something similar.
Check this before purchase – but also see our table below to compare different insurers' requirements on reporting changes in health.
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 a heart condition.
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.
Others require you let them know if your symptoms have led to tests or a medical investigation. Several expect you to get in touch is if you've received any medical advice at all.
Use our medical conditions checklist
Scroll through the table to find out what information travel insurers require if you've fallen ill or had a change in health after buying insurance.
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 most cover unmarried partners and in-laws, few include the close family of unmarried partners.
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.