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13 May 2019

Revealed: medical conditions you must declare when buying travel insurance

Most Brits unsure of which illnesses they should tell insurers about
deckchairs on the beach

Millions of Brits daydreaming of sunbathing on the beach could be left unprotected by their travel insurance, due to tricky rules around what you do - and don't - need to disclose.

Research by price comparison website Medical Travel Compared suggests as many as four out of five Brits were wrong about which pre-existing medical conditions they have to reveal to travel insurers.

This development comes after a recent Which? investigation found travel insurance customers faced punitive premiums when they suffered ailments. But failing to disclose could leave you without protection if you fall ill again.

Which? looks at which part of your medical history you should declare when buying insurance for your break away.

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Do you understand your travel insurance?

You may already know that you need to disclose some illnesses and injuries before taking out an insurance policy. But do you really understand the ins and outs?

Medical Travel Compared asked one thousand people aged between 44 and 65 about the impact of pre-existing medical conditions when buying travel insurance, and the results showed how complicated the rules can be.

Many people believe you only need to disclose illnesses if you're currently taking medication for them. Only one in five of the people surveyed understood the need to disclose any illness or disease diagnosed or treated within the past two years, even relatively minor ailments.

And seven in ten didn't realise they needed to disclose any diagnosis of depression, however long in the past. Around the same number didn't know they had to disclose any diagnosis of cancer they'd ever suffered.

And 68% incorrectly said they wouldn't disclose a mild heart attack if it was over 15 years ago.

Medical conditions you must disclose

Given the confusion surrounding travel insurance, what illnesses do you need to disclose, and what can you keep to yourself?

If you're currently being treated or taking medication for a condition, you'll always need to disclose it.

A number of pre-existing medical conditions must also be revealed if they occurred within a certain time frame, normally two years.

Some serious conditions such as heart, respiratory illnesses and cancer must be disclosed to insurers regardless of how long ago you stopped receiving treatment.

As a general rule, these medical conditions must be disclosed before purchase, according to Medical Travel Compared:

  • Type 2 Diabetes - if you received treatment or diagnosis within two years
  • Diagnosed current pregnancy complications - relevant if you are pregnant and are suffering complications
  • Epilepsy - if a seizure resulted in a visit to medical practitioner or treatment within the last two years
  • Asthma - if you have eversuffered from any diagnosed respiratory condition
  • Parkinson's Disease - if you have been diagnosed or treated for early onset Parkinson's within two years
  • Arthritis- if you have received diagnosis or treatment within two years for any diagnosed medical condition
  • High blood pressure- if you haveeversuffered from any diagnosed circulatory condition
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression - if you have eversuffered from diagnosed psychiatric or psychological conditions
  • Irritable Bowel Disease- if you have received diagnosis or treatment within two years for any diagnosed medical condition
  • Cancer- if you haveever suffered from any diagnosed cancerous conditions

Keep in mind that this may vary from provider to provider. Always check your terms and conditions thoroughly before taking out a policy, especially if you've been diagnosed with any of the above.

Find out more: Travel insurance explained

Medical conditions inflate premiums

If you have ever been seriously ill or suffer from chronic conditions, then getting insured for holidays or finding an affordable deal can be extremely challenging.

The Medical Travel Compared survey revealed that a third of people with a pre-existing condition said it was difficult to obtain travel insurance, while the same portion also found the costs too high after declaring previous illness or disease.

One in five decided not to travel because of the difficulty in getting travel insurance.

These findings mirror a major investigation by Which? Money that exposed the challenges people with medical conditions face when trying to get insured for their holiday.

After a survey of 10,495 members with a medical condition in November last year, we found a quarter had faced inflated premiums, and a fifth could only find policies that excluded all claims related to their illness.

Find out more: The travel insurance lottery: is your pre-existing medical condition covered?

How to find the best travel insurance

If you're having difficulty finding travel insurance with a high street insurer, you may find specialist providers will offer you a better deal.

Usingprice comparison websites can help you shop around for quotes. However, avoid choosing a policy solely based on price, and be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure you get the right level of cover.

Once you agree to the terms of a policy, making a travel insurance claim will be impossible in relation to health conditions that are excluded.

Which? looked at the prices offered by specialist providers to identify some of the best value cover.

The table below shows the prices offered on single-trip policies which all include at least £2m for Europe, or £5m worldwide, of medical cover and a minimum of £1m of personal liability cover. Keep in mind that prices may vary depending on your circumstances and health condition.

Provider/policy nameHigh blood pressureDiabetesBreast cancerHeart disease
Blue Bear Travel (gold)£19£19£19£67
Boots (silver)£41£41n/an/a
Covered2Go (gold)£18£18£28£50
Explorer Travel (platinum)£41£41n/an/a

You can find out more in our medical conditions travel insurance review, including information on annual policies.

Find out more: travel insurance companies reviewed

How travel insurance is screened

When shopping around for travel insurance, you'll find yourself answering the same questions again and again.

This is because most insurers use medical screening software from a company called Verisk (formerly Healix) to generate a 'medical risk score'. What insurers then do with that score and charge is down to them.

A Which? investigation, that quizzed 58 companies on their screening software, found Verisk can work very well, particularly if your last treatment was several years ago and there is no further treatment planned.

But alternative screening systems may be more suitable in other cases.

You can read more about health screening options in our guide to travel insurance for cancer patients.