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Everyone loves the excitement of going on holiday. Travelling allows you to leave your worries at home, forget about everything, and mostly just enjoy the experience – unless you have a pre-existing condition.

Travelling with a pre-existing medical condition makes getting travel insurance that little bit more important. Although it might make your cover more complicated or expensive, it ensures that you are covered for any incidents related to your condition, so it doesn’t affect your holiday or travel more than it needs to.

What is considered a pre-existing medical condition?

A pre-existing medical condition is – as the name would suggest – a condition that existed prior to your insurance purchase, which:

  • has been investigated and treated;
  • is something you have recently received professional medical advice and prescribed medicine for;
  • is something you have been operated on in the past (12 or 24 months limit depending on insurers); or
  • affects you with any ongoing issues or chronic illnesses which have been diagnosed.

Who should consider travel insurance with pre-existing medical extra cover?

If you have a known pre-existing medical condition or you believe you might have a condition that could affect your trip, taking out travel insurance that covers pre-existing medical conditions is recommended. It is also best to get a medical check-up before your trip, so you can disclose any important information to your travel insurer.

Travellers with a pre-existing condition are more common than you may think. According to our research in the Australian Travel Insurance market, approximately 30% of all travellers seek cover for their pre-existing medical condition.

Of the 1,000 travellers that participated in a survey of Australia’s Travel Insurance behaviour, it was found that 27% of travellers had a pre-existing condition or had been referred for hospital treatment in the last 12 months. However, roughly the same number of travellers (28%) did not check their travel insurance policy, and 39% had checked their policy but weren’t sure of their coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Around two thirds of travellers (67%) may be unknowingly underinsured or not insured for their pre-existing condition, which makes it all the more important to understand what you are covered for by your travel insurance, and to add pre-existing medical cover if it applies to you.

What does travel insurance for pre-existing conditions usually cover?

General travel insurance coverage can differ between providers and different levels of cover (basic, standard, or comprehensive cover). Depending on your level of coverage, travel insurance will usually include a range of things you are covered for, however there may be conditions or limits with all levels of cover (usually lower limits with basic, and higher limits with comprehensive).

With travel insurance, you will have limited and conditional cover for:

  • Overseas hospital and medical fees,
  • Cancellations,
  • Deposits,
  • Curtailment (cover for accommodation and booked services if you need to cut your trip short for various reason)
  • Luggage and property (stolen, lost, and damaged),
  • Travel delays.

By adding cover for a pre-existing medical condition as part of your travel insurance policy, you will generally receive cover for expenses of overseas emergency medical and hospital services that may be a result of your pre-existing medical condition.

It is always best to advise your insurer of your condition and be advised of the extent of the cover.

Some travel insurance policies are built around coverage that considers all pre-existing medical conditions, while some only provide automatic cover for a limited number of pre-existing medical conditions.

These are accepted on the terms that the condition has been stable and hasn’t needed medical attention or hospital treatment for the last 12 months (or 24 months with some providers), and there is no planned surgery or treatment for it in the near future.

Some extreme pre-existing medical conditions may induce higher travel insurance premiums, more insurance conditions, and may need a medical assessment before cover is granted. These include:

  • heart problems (coronary angiography, using pacemaker);
  • stroke;
  • epilepsy;
  • deep vein thrombosis;
  • lung disease;
  • certain types of diabetes; or
  • conditions where you’ve had surgery in the past 12 months or 24 months, depending on the insurer.

FAQ about getting travel insurance with pre-existing conditions

Am I covered by travel insurance if I’m pregnant?

Pregnancy is generally covered through travel insurance, but it will increase your premium, and conditions may depend on the provider or policy. It is imperative you provide this information to your insurance provider as soon as possible before taking cover.

Although you are generally covered for pregnancy costs from unexpected medical complications, policies will come with specific terms and conditions which only cover up to a certain number of weeks (usually around 24 weeks) for a single uncomplicated pregnancy or multiple pregnancies.

If you are claiming within the allowed period, you should generally be covered for:

  • changing your travel plans which may include flight and accommodation cancellation costs or additional travel (if your doctor advises that you aren’t able to fly), and
  • Expenses from overseas medical and hospital treatment (if you have an unexpected illness or injury related to pregnancy, or if you have resulting pregnancy complications from an unrelated injury while travelling).

You should check your policy or provider, but unfortunately you usually won’t be covered (or will void your cover) if:

  • You conceived through an assisted reproductive programme.
  • You need to claim for expenses related to childbirth, regular antenatal care, routine check-ups, or the healthcare of a newborn (or care after 24th week).
  • Your doctor advised you not to travel, or you travel against medical advice.
  • You’re claiming medical expenses within Australia.
  • You’re planning to travel after your ‘maximum weeks of pregnancy permitted’ (typically during the third trimester, but this will vary by insurer).
  • You’ve experienced complications with your pregnancy or previous pregnancies (including prior miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, or premature labour).
Which pre-existing medical conditions aren't usually covered by travel insurance?

Not all travel insurance providers are the same, however most travel insurance providers won’t generally provide cover for certain chronic conditions or medical situations. People with these conditions or in these situations may still take out travel insurance, however any claims arising from or connected to these medical issues may be invalid. These conditions include:

  • terminal illness;
  • requiring oxygen;
  • awaiting surgery;
  • chronic lung disease;
  • cardiovascular disease;
  • types of cancer;
  • congestive heart failure;
  • recurring pain; or
  • mental illness (including dementia).
Can I purchase travel insurance when I'm overseas?

Sometimes travellers get the feeling that they’ve forgotten something at home, other times travellers actually forget to get travel insurance or don’t think they need it at all.

Normally you cannot apply for travel insurance cover for a medical condition from overseas or once you have departed the country. However, if you have already disembarked for overseas before you’ve realised to take out travel insurance, there are certain insurance providers that may be able to help you out – although this might be at a higher price.

General travel insurance can usually be bought at the last minute before your flight, but it will generally take between 24-48 working hours to initiate.

It is highly recommended you take out travel insurance in the early planning stages of your trip, to make sure you have covered all the bases – especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition which may affect your travel insurance policy.

Having travel insurance will help make your holiday relatively stress-free, and will allow you to enjoy your adventure without worrying about what might happen if something goes wrong.

Purchasing travel insurance is highly recommended for anyone traveling, especially those with pre-existing conditions, as you will not be able to claim insurance cover if your conditions cause you to require emergency medical services or induce hospital expenses.

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