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Travel insurance: are common ailments pre-existing medical conditions?

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Written by: Paloma Kubiak
21/08/2019
If you suffer from a mild illness, have a repeat prescription or experienced a one-off ailment, you may not consider it a pre-existing medical condition when buying travel insurance. But here’s what you need to know.

Holidaymakers are constantly reminded of the importance of taking out travel insurance as soon as they’ve booked their trip. From covering cancellations, theft as well as accidents, travel insurance can provide welcome assistance when you need it most.

Of the £399m paid out on all travel insurance claims last year, £209m covered medical treatment abroad. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), members dealt with 153,000 medical claims in the past year, representing 52% of their workloads.

These figures show just how important it is to buy travel insurance, particularly when it comes to covering emergency medical bills abroad.

But if you suffer with say mild asthma where you only occasionally use an inhaler, you have a skin condition such as acne, or have the all clear from a previous diagnosis of kidney stones for example, should these be declared as pre-existing medical conditions when buying travel insurance?

No single definition

The answer isn’t clear cut. The ABI confirms there’s no single definition of what is and isn’t considered a pre-existing medical condition and so this is down to individual insurers, the questions they pose and the policy wording when you take out cover.

But generally, the most common pre-existing medical conditions include Alzheimer’s, diabetes, stroke, heart conditions, cancer, and mental health issues.

Brian Brown, head of insight at business information site Defaqto, says: “Policies tend to explain what a pre-existing condition is in the policy definitions. Typically this will be anything which you had in the past 12-24 months, and anything for which you are currently taking medication, or have had recent hospital tests for, or are awaiting the results of tests, or are awaiting surgery or a medical procedure.” However, some insurers may require you to declare your medical history going back up to five years.

If you want to include specific medical complaints, Jonathan Upton, founder of That’s Insurance, says you must read insurers’ requirements carefully.

“You may not need to declare a condition with one insurer. Some insurers require you to disclose all conditions and decline all claims if they are not disclosed. Other companies will only exclude claims relating to that specific condition. It’s a grey area, open to interpretation and fraught with danger,” he says.

He adds that most insurers will charge an additional premium to cover pre-existing conditions but those which cover minor ailments as standard won’t charge an additional premium. Some insurers will disclose the premium before underwriting any medical problems while others will carry out all the underwriting before revealing the cost.

Always disclose medical conditions

Keith Richards, CEO of the Personal Finance Society, part of the Chartered Insurance Institute, says customers should always let their insurer know about any medical conditions or subsequent change in medical circumstances, including new or existing regular prescriptions “to ensure you’re fully covered in the event that you need to make a claim”.

He adds: “While some may offer cover except for pre-existing conditions, where insurers cannot cover you, they will usually signpost you to specialist insurers that can offer cover. For example, those who have recovered from cancer used to find insurance hard to come by, but now there are specialist insurers that will provide cover as long as a medical practitioner does not advise against travel.”

All the insurance experts agree that if you’re in any doubt, always speak to an insurer and disclose your medical ailment to ensure you’re protected.

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