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16 Aug 2019

How to save on travel insurance with a pre-existing medical condition

Our five insider tips to find specialist cover that doesn't cost the earth

Cheap travel insurance is often the preserve of the young and healthy but it's still possible to slash the cost of your cover, even with an illness.

From skipping annual insurance to sharing a joint policy with a partner or friend, we've explored the five best ways to save money with a pre-existing medical condition.

1. Make it personal

General insurers might decline you depending on your medical condition, age, or if you have ongoing/upcoming treatment or a terminal diagnosis. This is something the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is trying to tackle by signposting people towards companies geared for those with specific needs. When you go online and enter your pre-existing medical condition (PEMC), your details are usually run through software developed by one of three companies; Verisk, Protectif or Tamisk. So some sites will ask for more detail and bring up different prices. For example, Treat U Fair (which uses Tamis) quoted £28.63 for a 44-year-old with Crohn's disease travelling to Greece for a week in August, compared to £24.72 with Free Spirit (which uses Verisk). Going into a lot of detail may seem intrusive, but it can save you money.

Looking for a policy for your next overseas trip? See the results of our best and worst travel insurers.

Video: How to save on travel insurance with a pre-existing medical condition

2. Don't be fooled by a cheap headline price

Of course we're drawn in by a headline price: but for any trip, Which? recommends a minimum level of travel insurance cover of £2m (Europe) or £5m (worldwide) for medical expenses. Anything less than this is usually a false economy if you're unfortunate enough to have to make a claim. There's no point in saving £50 if the policy doesn't have, for example, adequate repatriation coverage, when a private air ambulance from Turkey back to the UK can cost around £25,000. Our advice: check the levels of cover before you buy, especially if you're going somewhere like the US where medical costs are exorbitant. And remember the current European Health Insurance Card (Ehic), which allows users to receive free or reduced-cost medical treatment in EU and EEA countries, and Switzerland won't be valid in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

If you have - or have ever had - cancer, keeping premiums down can be a challenge. Read our guide on affordable travel insurance for cancer patients.

3. Consider skipping an annual policy

We all know travel insurance companies clobber you as you get older, but Which? research shows that is particularly true for annual policies once you reach your mid-70s. We found that someone in their 80s could, on average, buy coverage for four week-long trips for less than an annual policy. For example, Avanti Travel Insurance gave a quote for a couple both aged 81, with one partner in remission from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, who travel to France for a week each time. A Classic Cover annual policy for two people was £709, and a single trip £194. So in this case if they made three trips a year toto their holiday home in the Dordogne, they'd be better off with single-trip policies.

Don't jet off ill-prepared. Read our guide on holiday health to make sure your prescription meds, vaccinations and first aid kit are in order before you travel.

4. Change your destination and cover options

Some countries like the US, Caribbean, Canada, Cyprus, Turkey, Malta (and surprisingly Spain) are more expensive to get travel cover for, especially if you have a PEMC. So are you wedded to your destination or could you choose somewhere cheaper? Similarly, you can tailor some cover options (such as with Saga) to better suit your requirements. It's initial quote gives £10,000 worth of cancellation cover, a level you might not need (we recommend £5,000 minimum). By halving cancellation cover and increasing the excess from £70 to £150 we saved £13.

5. Share a policy with a friend

If you're travelling with your other half, you're likely to be on a joint travel policy. If one of you falls ill, the other will be covered if you both have to cancel. But if you're travelling with a friend and you have separate policies, you may not have the same protection. If two or more of you are travelling, it makes sense to all be under the same insurance umbrella.

How much could I save?

When we checked in March, a quote for a 70-year-old with Parkinson's disease travelling for a week in Spain in August was £347 with Fit2Travel. However, with these three steps we brought the price down to £235, a saving of almost 30%.