While traveling is supposed to be fun and relaxing, the physical and emotional demands of travel can be challenging for people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, arthritis, or heart disease.
But your condition should not keep you from traveling. And neither should your insurance company! In fact, most insurers do cover your travels even if you have a medical condition.
However, there are a few things you must be aware of before departure. Travel insurance policies for pre-existing medical conditions differs from standard travel insurance. Depending on your situation, you may have to meet specific requirements and pay extra fees.
Here's everything you need to know before taking out your new travel insurance policy and ensuring you're fully covered!
Related article: Travel insurance for type 1 diabetes: What to know before leaving
Travel Insurances & Pre-existing Medical Conditions
To make sure you know what to look for when purchasing your new insurance policy, you first need to comprehend how travel insurance companies define a pre-existing condition. What should you declare? Which health conditions are covered, and which are not?
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What’s a pre-existing medical condition
A pre-existing medical condition can be any health condition, disease, illness, or injury you know you have before your trip departure or the start of your new policy.
Be aware that not all insurers have the same list of what they consider to be pre-existing medical conditions. For example, while chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and others generally enter that category, some insurers also include physical injuries or other health disorders.
It's important to understand that a condition does not necessarily need to be diagnosed to be qualified as "pre-existing." For example, Allianz Travel Insurance has a very broad definition of a pre-existing medical condition and includes any injury, illness, or disease that caused a person to seek medical attention, have symptoms, or require prescription medication within 120 days before the purchase date of the insurance plan.
If your condition is considered a pre-existing one by your travel insurance, an exclusion clause may invalidate the coverage of any incident directly or indirectly linked to your health.
Let’s take a few examples:
- Suppose you have severe asthma and an asthma attack occurs while in Mexico. You're taken to the emergency room. Asthma is considered a pre-existing medical condition. A regular travel insurance plan won't cover the costs of your hospitalization.
- Suppose you had booked a flight and a trekking tour to Nepal, but a sudden arthritic knee pain forces you to cancel your trip. Unfortunately, if you have not declared your arthritis problem before departure, your insurance policy won't reimburse your trip costs.
- While sightseeing in Amsterdam, you suffer a mild heart attack. If a doctor had diagnosed high blood pressure before your trip, it might be considered a pre-existing condition, and you may not be covered for your medical costs.
Insurers may have different definitions of what pre-existing conditions are precisely. Call your insurer before departure and ensure you understand your specific policy's terms.
Fortunately, most insurance companies offer specific plans to waive the exclusion clause and extend your coverage even with a health condition. However, to be covered, you must have declared your pre-existing condition and may be required to complete a medical assessment and pay extra fees.
Some medical conditions, like mental disorders or cancers, may not be covered at all.
Related article: Arthritis travel insurance: How to make sure you’re covered?
Pre-existing conditions that qualify for travel insurance coverage
Most travel insurance companies extend coverage to most pre-existing medical conditions, including:
- Diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
- Crohn’s disease
- Respiratory problems
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Kidney or liver disease
Some insurance companies release “official” lists of covered pre-existing medical conditions on their website. For example, the one from Insure and Go travel insurance is extensive and includes numerous health conditions like allergies, eczema, fibromyalgia, gallstones, Glaucoma, hernia, HIV, lupus, neuropathy, etc.
But to be covered, you must have declared your condition before purchasing your policy. In addition, specific requirements usually apply, such as medical assessment, extra fees, etc.
Related article: Does asthma affect travel insurance?
Pre-existing conditions not eligible for a waiver
Unfortunately, some chronic health conditions are generally not coverable by travel insurance, even if declared or stable. They include but do not limit to the following:
- Mental health disorders such as Alzheimer, dementia, anxiety, depression, addictions, etc.
- Terminal-stage illnesses
- Some cancers
Travel Insurance Requirements for Pre-existing Medical Conditions Coverage
Everyone has the right to travel, and having a pre-existing health condition does not mean you can't get travel insurance. However, we highly recommend you declare any known state of health to your insurer and ensure you meet all the requirements for coverage before departure. You may be asked to pay extra fees, which can seem unfair and frustrating. But ensuring your trip and safety can save you thousands of dollars if something happens while traveling.
Related article: 10 Useful tips for traveling with Crohn’s disease and IBD
Always declare your pre-existing medical condition
Whether it’s covered or not, always declare any pre-existing medical condition or injury to your travel insurer. Should you fail to disclose that kind of information, your policy may become invalid, and you won't be able to claim reimbursement for medical bills or trip cancelation.
Remember that insurance companies may have different requirements as to how you should declare your medical condition. For example, Boots travel insurance for UK residents offers pre-existing conditions coverage only after an agent has agreed in writing.
Keep in mind that a pre-existing medical condition does not need to be formally diagnosed. Not only should you declare any chronic health condition, but you must also let your insurer know about any prescribed medication, medical exams, treatment changes, investigation, past injuries, etc.
Be medically fit to travel
In order to waive the exclusion clause, travel insurers may ask you to prove you are medically fit to travel. For example, you may be required to fill out a medical form, undergo medical exams, provide a doctor's letter, etc.
Any recent change of treatment, hospitalization, condition flare-up, unusual symptoms, or other factors that may indicate your condition is not stable must be declared.
Related article: The ultimate checklist for traveling with diabetes
The look-back period for pre-existing medical conditions
Be aware of the look-back period when purchasing a new travel insurance policy. It’s the number of days the insurer can look back to determine if a claim can be related to a pre-existing medical condition you have not declared before your trip departure. Most of the time, the look-back period is between 60 and 180 days but can be extended to 3 years, depending on the company.
Suppose one had any symptoms, medical appointments, tests, diagnosis, treatments, aggravation, or flare-ups during the look-back period. In that case, the condition could potentially be requalified as a non-declared pre-existing medical condition. Insurance coverage may be excluded for any incident related to this condition.
Check the scope of coverage
Even if you're covered for your pre-existing medical condition, you must ensure you understand the scope of coverage in your travel insurance plan. It may vary depending on the company and the policy.
Understanding the scope of coverage, as well as the deductibles (the minimum amount of money you must pay for any incident), can help prevent unexpected out-of-pocket costs when the following occurs:
- Trip cancelation
- Baggage loss
- Medical care
- Hospitalization (private or shared rooms)
- Lost or stolen medications or medical devices
- Deteriorated medications (temperature-sensitive drugs like insulin)
- Missed flights
- Hotel reservations
- Tour bookings
Related article: How to keep insulin cold on a plane?
Purchase your policy long before departure
Some insurance companies require you to purchase your travel policy in a specific time frame. It generally varies from 30 days to 24 hours before departure. A good practice is to buy your policy as soon as you book your trip or plane tickets.
Make sure you've checked the coverage waiting period too. It's the time you must wait after you buy your policy until it goes into effect. While it's typically 24 hours, it can vary depending on the insurance company.
Check the age limit
Most travel insurance companies do not impose age restrictions on pre-existing medical conditions coverage but make sure you've checked that point before purchasing your policy.
Besides, some travel insurances offer specific plans to people over 50s or even 80s with medical conditions. The best is to directly get in touch with your insurer and ask if they have any age-specific plans or restrictions.
Related article: What to do if you run out of insulin while traveling?
Travel Insurance and Health Conditions: FAQs
Your chronic or acute health condition may seem like an obstacle to your travels, but it's not. Thousands of people travel with diabetes, arthritis, Crohn's disease, asthma, allergies, and even cancers. A great travel insurance plan is the first step to feeling safe and relaxed while traveling.
Here are a few more questions about travel insurance for pre-existing conditions our team answers for you. Don't hesitate to ask yours in the comment section below.
Related article: Safety tips for traveling with mild or severe asthma
Do travel insurances cover prescription drugs?
Scenarios where you may need to purchase prescription drugs or medical supplies while traveling are more common than you’d think:
- Your medication may get lost or stolen.
- Temperature-sensitive biological drugs like insulin, Ozempic, Trulicity, Humira, Enbrel, Aimovig, Dupixent, glaucoma eye drops, growth hormones, or others may deteriorate with heat or light and become inefficient.
Standard travel insurance policies won't cover prescription drugs. However, if you've arranged for specific coverage for a pre-existing medical health condition with your insurer provider, it may include reimbursing the costs of replacing prescription drugs or medical supplies at your travel destination.
Not all policies do, so make sure you ask your insurer before departure and understand what's covered and what's not.
Related article: Tips for traveling with medications internationally
What's the best travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions?
There's not one single best travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions. It all comes down to your specific situation, the extent of coverage you expect, your destination, your trip's duration, etc. Most insurance companies offer specific policies for people with chronic health conditions.
Related article: Is flying with Glaucoma safe?
Is there any cheap travel insurance for people with chronic diseases?
Travel insurance is an extra cost to consider before traveling. But your pre-existing health condition coverage does not have to be crazy expensive. First, some companies do not even ask for extra fees. Others may charge a few extra dollars only.
The price of waiving an exclusion clause for a medical condition ultimately depends on your specific condition and medical record, your travel destination, and the scope of the coverage, of course.
We’d recommend you first call your current insurance provider and ask if they have travel policies for people with health conditions. You usually have more room for maneuvering and negotiating the price than with a new company.
Related article: 10 travel tips for people with chronic migraine
How to be sure you're covered?
Insurance companies may be hard to deal with because they always look for a way to avoid paying. So, before purchasing your new plan, carefully read all the contractual clauses and coverage conditions. Then, if you have any doubts, call your insurance provider and ask them to confirm what’s covered and what’s not (as well as the deductibles).
Please share your experience with us! Are you satisfied with your travel insurance? Do you feel safe when traveling with your health condition?