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Compare Travel Insurance Travel Insurance Tips Pre-existing medical conditions

Pre-existing medical conditions

21 January, 2020 By Crystal Moran

Having pre-existing medical conditions doesn't mean you can't get travel insurance. It simply means that you need to dig a little deeper to find the best trip cover for your pre-existing health condition and your budget. Adding cover for your pre-existing condition means you can still be eligible for emergency medical and hospital services which arise as a result of your current health issues.

What is a pre-existing condition? | Should I declare my medical conditions? | Do I have to pay extra? | How do I declare my conditions? | Which insurers cover pre-existing conditions? | Conditions which aren't covered | What if I can't find cover? | Medical FAQs

What is a pre-existing condition?

As the name suggests, a pre-existing medical condition is a condition that exists at the time, or before you purchase your travel insurance.

Whether or not you need to declare a broken arm from two years ago, or that you're living with diabetes will depend on your chosen insurer.  Each insurer has different rules for what is considered an existing medical condition, so it's important to pay attention to any probing questions around medical conditions to determine what you need to declare.

Typically, a pre-existing condition includes any diagnosed medical, physical or mental condition, defect, disease or illness that you are aware of and have sought treatment for in the last one to five years. Insurers' definitions also include common chronic issues like asthma, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, or asthma, as well as any lifetime occurrence of more serious issues like heart attacks, strokes, or cancers. Check your insurers' policy wording to be sure!

should I declare My Medical conditions?

Some insurers do automatically cover some common, low-risk conditions without you having to declare them. This is dependent on you meeting their criteria for automatically-covered conditions - so check the policy wording carefully.

If a condition isn't auto covered, absolutely declare it. It may be tempting to not disclose medical conditions to your insurer to save time or reduce the cost of taking out travel insurance. However, if you put in a medical claim which the doctors say is related to your pre-existing condition, and you aren't covered for that condition, your claim may be void and you could be left with eyewatering medical bills!

declare conditions holiday

Do I have to pay extra to cover my medical conditions?

Good news - many travel insurance brands automatically cover a range of minor medical conditions free of charge. Often common illnesses like asthma, diabetes and high cholesterol are often covered without an additional fee. Whether or not you need to declare them will depend on the insurer, when you were diagnosed, whether your condition is stable, and if you have any other related conditions - check the policy wording to be sure.

Other medical conditions such as autoimmune, brain, cardiovascular, heart or respiratory and lung conditions will require a medical assessment in order to obtain cover. Where cover can be offered you will often have the option to pay an additional premium or have the condition(s) excluded.

How do I declare my medical conditions?

If your condition isn't automatically covered by your insurer, you will be required to fill out a medical assessment form. Many brands have introduced online medical screenings where you can answer a couple of questions about your condition and find out immediately whether you can get cover and at what price. This typically occurs on the second or third page of the quote process.

The vast majority of insurers use the same medical screening software by a company called Verisk (formerly Healix) which will generate a ‘medical risk score’. Some use hybrid versions of this and a few may use a different specialist platform.

The insurer determines which level of risk they want to consider covering. They will decide whether they will cover your condition, whether they will cover you but exclude your condition, and if there is an additional premium.

medical coverage travel cover

Which insurers offer pre-existing medical assessments?


General Advice Warning: The contents of this article were accurate at the time of writing. Insurers change their policies from time to time, so some information may have changed. You should always read the Product Disclosure Statement of your chosen insurer to understand what is covered and what isn't. The information provided is of a general nature only and does not take into account any personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a decision you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your personal circumstances.

Conditions which may not be covered

There are some conditions that insurers will not cover. This does not mean that you cannot take out travel insurance. It simply means that any claim arising from, or related to that condition will not be covered. 

Conditions such as terminal illness, requiring oxygen, awaiting surgery, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, congestive heart failure and recurring pain are typically not covered.

pre-existing medical conditions

What if I can't find cover for my medical condition?

Most insurers steer clear of serious conditions and terminal illnesses but there are specialists out there.  If you're struggling to find cover for your condition, you may have luck with a specialist medical travel insurer such as AllClear. They promote that any medical condition is considered and can offer cover for any age.

Remember you can still buy travel insurance with pre-existing conditions - it just means you may not be covered for any claims related to, exacerbated by, or arising from that pre-existing medical condition without prior approval.

Pre-existing medical conditions FAQs

What is a pre-existing medical condition?

Not all insurers are the same, but a pre-existing medical condition can be defined as any illness, disease, injury or other condition for which you experienced symptoms or sought treatment for prior to purchasing a policy. The relevant time period varies between insurers but usually refers to the last couple of years. Common medical conditions that need to be declared to obtain cover include cardiac or heart conditions, circulatory conditions, deep vein thrombosis, respiratory and lung conditions and most types of cancer. It also includes any conditions requiring surgery in the last two years or for which you are awaiting surgery. Every insurer has variants to their definition of an existing medical condition, so be sure to check their Product Disclosure Statement before you buy.

Is pregnancy considered a medical condition?

Generally speaking, most insurers do not consider pregnancy itself to be a pre-existing condition and automatically cover pregnant people up to a certain gestation. The maximum gestation usually ranges between 19 to 32 week depending on the brand. If you have pregnancy-related complications, such as pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes, these will need to be declared or your policy may be invalid. Learn more about pregnancy travel insurance.

What medical conditions are not covered by travel insurance?

Travel insurance covers a wide range of medical conditions but there are certain scenarios not covered. Not all travel insurance policies are the same, but the following chronic conditions and medical scenarios are often excluded from cover:

- If you require oxygen therapy or home oxygen for your trip.
- If you have had or are having an organ transplant in the future.
- If you are suffering from a drug or alcohol-induced condition.
- If you booked or undertook travel after a terminal illness or palliative prognosis with a shortened life expectancy was diagnosed.
- If you have an undiagnosed condition.

Does travel insurance cover mental illness?

Yes. Mental health conditions and illnesses are treated in the same way as physical conditions. If the condition is pre-existing, you will need to declare it via a medical screening process. Learn more about mental illness and travel insurance.

Does travel insurance cover diabetes?

Yes, many travel cover brands cover diabetes. Depending on the nature of your diabetes, it may be covered automatically without medical screening. Learn more about the rules around travel insurance for diabetes.

Does travel insurance cover elective, cosmetic or dental surgery overseas?

No, this would not be considered a pre-existing condition that you could get coverage for, as most brands have general exclusions if you are awaiting or seeking surgery. If you experienced complications due to elective, cosmetic or dental surgery overseas, it is unlikely you would have any provision to claim.

Does travel insurance cover heart conditions like heart attacks or stents?

Yes, many brands cover for a range of heart conditions, typically depending on factors such as how long ago your condition started, how many medications you are on, and if you've ever required surgery. Learn more about travel insurance for heart conditions and which insurers offer it here.

Does travel insurance cover cancer?

Yes, a small number of travel insurers offer coverage for cancer, depending on the nature of your condition. Our guide on travel insurance when you have cancer lists a few insurers which can provide cover following a medical screening. Otherwise, you can try a specialist medical travel insurer, AllClear Travel Insurance.

Which insurers let you declare your medical conditions online?

Many insurers have online medical screening forms, so you can declare your condition and find out if they'll cover you straight away. You see which travel insurers offer this in our table above.

Contributor Crystal Moran

Crystal Moran

With a research and journalism background, and certified in Tier 2 General Insurance General Advice, Crystal is passionate about investigating customers’ tricky travel questions and helping them find the answers they’re looking for. A writer and filmmaker whose favourite trips have been to film festivals in Cuba and South Korea, and campervanning around the USA, she loves getting to know new people and seeing a glimpse of the world through their eyes.

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