Whether you're recovering from your latest round of chemotherapy, need a bit of R&R or are celebrating an ‘all clear’ cancer prognosis, a holiday can be just the ticket.
However, finding travel insurance when you have cancer can be tricky!
Whilst most policies will usually cover pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma and osteoporosis; conditions like cancer, mental illness and heart conditions are more commonly not.
The general rule of thumb is that insurers do not cover conditions that already exist before your trip and many will require a medical evaluation before they are given the ok. Additionally most policies will not cover cancer due to the high risk that sufferers will fall ill or cancel or cut short their trip.
The good news
Up until recently, finding travel insurance that would cover cancer was an exercise in frustration. Happily, there are insurers that are now adding cancer to their list of covered conditions.
Insurers such as Australia Post, Covermore and Medibank Private (underwritten by Great Lakes) now cover a range of cancers including breast, prostate, kidney, bowel, colon and skin cancer. Additionally, Priceline Protects and Citibank (both underwritten by Chubb Insurance Australia) both provide cover for prostate cancer whilst AAMI (underwritten by Suncorp) will insure travellers with breast or prostate cancer.
Are you eligible?
Whilst you can now find insurance, it’s important to note that certain conditions apply to cancer cover. Although we've highlighted some important terms below, be sure to chat to your provider before you buy.
• Australia Post, Covermore and Medibank Private will cover you provided you were diagnosed over six months ago, the cancer has not spread and you have not undergone any chemotherapy or radiation in the last six months.
• Priceline, Citibank and AAMI will only cover prostate cancer if you have a Gleason Score P.S.A. of 3.0 or less.
• AAMI requires travellers with breast cancer and prostate cancer to have received their diagnosis and treatment over 12 months ago. Additionally, they will not cover any secondary cancers.
• Trip duration can also be a factor when you’re purchasing cancer cover. For instance, Covermore and Medibank will only cover cancer patients for a six-month trip period.
There is also a specialist medical travel insurer called AllClear travel insurance who cater for those travellers who have difficulty getting cover elsewhere. They say they will cover: Any Condition. Any Age. Anywhere - but you may pay for the privilege.
Other reasons to buy travel insurance
Although your health is top priority (especially now) there are other huge factors that make travel insurance a must for all travellers. Although most insurers won’t list cancer as a covered illness, they will still cover the following and more.
- Lost and stolen luggage and personal belongings: When you’re dealing with huge life transitions, the last thing you need is the extra financial stress of a lost suitcase or stolen wallet. Travel insurance will cover you for any lost, stolen or damaged items, provided you look after them.
- Cancellations and emergencies: Should your flight be delayed for more than 24 hours, your travel insurance provider will cover any costs you’ve accrued. You’ll also be covered should you miss a flight due to any type of motor vehicle accident or natural disaster.
- Rental car excess: Planning a bucket list road trip? Your travel insurance will usually cover rental car excess, so you can cruise on, worry free.
- Personal liability: Travel insurance will cover you in the event that you are responsible for another person’s injury. Most comprehensive policies will cover you for up to $2 million in personal liability fees.
Note: Even if your insurer will not cover cancer you may still take out insurance to cover other health and travel related issues. However, if you are currently receiving medical treatment or have a shortened life expectancy, things get a little complicated. Under these circumstances you will most likely not find health cover for anything cancer-related, including cancelled or delayed flights due to illness or treatment, and medical costs while overseas.
Tips for travelling with cancer
Travelling with a compromised immune system means taking greater care and minimising your risks whilst on-the-go. The following tips will help keep you in good nick whilst you’re away:
- Talk to your medical team: It’s a good idea to chat to your medical team and debrief them on all your travel plans before you book your trip. Get your doctor to write a comprehensive letter detailing your condition, treatment and medication and keep it with you at all times.
- Get organised: Take any necessary medical contact phone numbers and a list of all the medications you are currently taking. Pack your medications in your carry-on luggage as they are less likely to go missing than in your stowed luggage.
- Make provisions: Need extra leg room on your flight or handicap facilities in your hotel? Call ahead to ensure all your travel requirements are set. A bit of pre-planning will minimise all the usual travelling inconveniences.
- Be sun savvy: Chemotherapy and radiation can increase sensitivity to the sun so be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and protective gear along for your trip.
- Take it easy: Feeling unusually fatigued? Accept that you will have good and bad days and give yourself ample amounts of down time in between activities.
- Stay safe: Good hygiene practice is essential when your immunity is low. Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer whenever appropriate. Avoid uncooked food and drink bottled water only.
Having cancer shouldn’t deter you from taking that long awaited holiday. Once you’ve compared travel insurance policies, spoken to your insurance provider and taken all the necessary precautions there’s nothing left to do but focus on enjoying your trip. Have fun!
Are you a mature traveller?
If you’re over 50, finding travel insurance can be a daunting task. Need help? We’ve put together a clear and comprehensive guide to seniors travel insurance to clear up any grey areas.