I am a firm believer that if you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Maybe it is my constant fear that everything I do will either kill me or result in my being seriously maimed but I find that having travel insurance gives me some peace of mind. I am lucky in that I have no pre-existing medical conditions, this means that I can take advantage of some of the most reasonable rates on the market. However, for people who are not so lucky, travel insurance can become a nightmare. Having suffered a spinal injury in his early twenties, Tim, unfortunately, falls into this category. Planning for our most recent trip got me thinking, if I ever ended up needing specific insurance for a medical condition, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start. With this in mind, I decided to find out from Tim exactly what you need to consider when choosing specialist travel cover.
Be budget aware
It is a sad fact of life that if you have a pre-existing medical condition, your insurance will be more expensive than someone with a clean bill of health. When Tim and I went on our first backpacking trip around South East Asia, his insurance quotes varied from £320- £4200! This is a lesson in always doing your research and not settling for the first policy you see. While Tim did end up spending nearly 10x what I did on insurance (which was to be expected) he managed to get a decent policy for a fraction of the most expensive quotes. Parting with this kind of money for insurance can be a bit of a wrench but providing that you do your research early on and budget accordingly, it won’t come as too much of a large blow to your finances.
Check out the market
When it comes to purchasing travel insurance with a pre-existing medical condition, you need to be aware that your pool of potential insurers massively shrinks. Unfortunately, some conditions will make finding travel cover very difficult and some companies will outright refuse to insure you. Check out the market by starting your research with a price comparison site that specialises in travel with a medical condition. Tim recommends Medical Travel Compared. If you find that none of the big names are happy to offer you cover, look for specific companies that will tailor to your needs. If you are struggling to find any specialist companies, reach out to charities and support groups as they may be able to recommend some.
We’ve all heard of that old saying, ‘one man’s pleasure is another man’s poison’ but it is worth listening to what other people have to say when it comes to choosing an insurance provider. Reading through the reviews that other people have left regarding their experience goes a long way in helping you narrow down your prospective list of insurers. Look out for efficiency in communication, price and reaction in terms of payout.
When it comes to travel insurance, it is worth remembering that you will only be covered for what you declare. Be as specific as possible about your medical condition and answer any additional questions honestly. Whilst you might get a slightly cheaper rate if you keep quiet about that surgery you had last year, withholding of information is likely to stop any potential payout. Always be upfront about any medication you are taking and be truthful if asked how your condition impacts your life.
Choose a specialist insurance provider
Depending on your situation, you may find it beneficial to choose an insurance provider that specialises in a particular type of medical condition. In some instances, if you have a disability and take out specialist cover, your policy may cover the replacement of mobility aids in the event of loss or theft. The benefit of going with a specialist insurance provider is that they have detailed knowledge of your condition and also possess useful contacts. When Tim and I were in Thailand he ran out of compact catheters and we had no idea where we were going to be able to restock. We reached out to our insurance provider who used their Thai contacts to send us a direct translation of what we were looking for and shortlist us a number of pharmacies from which to obtain them. In this instance, our insurers Staysure were invaluable and worth every penny.
Consider your activities
When buying travel insurance (with or without a pre-existing condition), you need to be aware that more often than not, you will have to declare what kind of activities that you will be participating in. Skiing, cruising and motorbiking are all examples of certain activities that may not be included as standard in your policy. Always make sure to arrange the appropriate add-ons so that you are covered regardless of what you are doing.
Make sure that you are ‘fit to travel’
Many insurance providers stipulate that you need to be ‘fit to travel’ in the conditions. I personally feel like this is a fairly obvious statement (why would you be trying to travel if you weren’t physically able to?) but it is worth noting that this definition changes with different providers. Reach out to specific insurers to check that your condition does not fall outside of the ‘fit to travel’ category as this will void your policy.
Keep your insurance details safe
Assuming that you have checked through exactly what your policy offers and you are covered for everything you need to be, it is important to make a copy of your documents. I recommend keeping a hard version and also saving a digital copy to your email account. Neglecting this is a common travel mistake that catches a lot of travellers out! Furthermore, make sure you have made a note of the insurer’s contact details just in case you need them. In non-emergencies save yourself the trouble of expensive phone charges and opt for an online method of contact.
Remember to enjoy your trip!
Despite not having a pre-existing medical condition, I know how easy it is to lose your mind with worry. Naturally, there is more to consider when travelling without a clean bill of health but it is important to remember that it is still possible and should be enjoyed to the fullest. When you get the correct insurance, you can breathe easy knowing your back is covered, whatever you decide to do.
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