Travel Health Insurance: Pre-Existing Conditions

by MaryF

Getting travel insurance if you have a pre-existing condition is not necessarily a lost cause. Read on for some useful information.

In General Travel Insurance won't cover you for health conditions that you already have. Sometimes it doesn't matter, for example I've had osteo-arthritis in my knees for years - there is no risk that tomorrow I'm going to wake up and not get out of bed - regardless of whether I go on vacation or not! On the other hand, when my partner had some heart-related issues, we wanted travel insurance to cover his health condition! 

Travel Insurance With Existing Health Conditions

The key is to understand what you are, and are not covered for. In general travel insurance will NOT cover pre-existing medical conditions. If in doubt assume you have no coverage. In some cases common or minor conditions such as controlled high-blood pressure, will be covered so long as you declare it when you buy the policy. 

At the end of the day you need to make an informed decision as to whether or not you have, or indeed need, insurance cover for a particular condition. 

My best advice is to shop around - when my partner was diagnosed with angina I got a whole range of answers to whether he'd be covered while travelling in Europe and Asia, from a "no" to "maybe". Maybe turned into "yes" after we provided a specialist's report saying that he was medically fit to travel. And that was with the credit card insurance - so the only additional cost was $100. 
I also researched and discovered that in an emergency he was actually covered by reciprocal health care arrangements in quite a number of countries including Australia, Eire, UK and Malta(!). This will vary depending on your passport, but don't just assume that you have no medical cover at all. 

Travel Insurance With Health Conditions - When To Arrange Health Insurance

If you do have less than perfect health - you should arrange your travel insurance as soon as possible. As it can take weeks to do if you need specialist reports, this may be even before you book the trip. Ideally as soon as you put deposits down, get your insurance. Then, if something happens before you start the trip, you are covered. 

When You Will NOT Be Covered? 

If you lie - even by omission. If you lie on your application, and then claim, you will be found out, and you won't have the cover you thought you had. Not mentioning something "relevant" is also a lie - so include everything - regardless of how irrelevant you think it is. 

You are often not covered if you are doing something illegal. Even if every other tourist is hiring a motorbike in Thailand without a bike license, this doesn't mean that if you hurt yourself you are covered for costs. Legally you require a motorbike license to ride in Thailand - so you will probably get declined. 

You are also not covered if you are doing something that is defined as "dangerous". What is "dangerous" varies by insurance company - double check if you intend to do anything like skiing, SCUBA diving, power boating, bunny jumping, or anything else. Just because its legal and common - doesn't mean you are covered. Be on the safe side and right to your company stating what you may do and get confirmation you are covered.

Sensible Precautions for Travellers

If you are planning an international trip, then you need to be aware of the vaccination requirements for many countries. And what cannot be vaccinated against e.g. malaria and dengue fever. If you do take medications then you need to know if any of these will interact with vaccinations or other common medicines. 

THE CDC "Yellow Book" - is the ultimate travel health guide - probably particularly useful for those travelling with particular health issues, allergies, and children. 

Travel Socks for Long Haul Flights/Buses/Trains

Travelsox Classic

Compression Socks.

Recommended for Long-Haul Flights and Car Trips

These can be a life saver. They are highly recommended for any long-haul (over 2 hours) flights. But more people probably get blood clocks from long car or bus journeys (trains are better as you can get up and walk around easily). Personally I stand and walk regularly on a flight, airlines don't encourage it, but if you have an aisle seat, particularly towards the back of the plane, its easy enough to do. The socks are good though if you take sleeping pills and sleep soundly on flights, or if you just don't like getting up and walking around, use them.

Dehydration Mixture

I never carry anti-biotics for stomach upsets, google "antibiotic resistance" if you wonder why. If you do get sick, its hardly ever more than a few hours of unpleasentness, it won't kill you! What you do need to be careful of is, not getting dehydrated, a medically sound hydration mixture is 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a 1 litre of water. These however taste a LOT better, which is important if you feel nauseous

Updated: 02/13/2012, MaryF
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