While flying and travelling may carry a relatively low level of risk for most travellers, if you've got a long-term pre-existing condition, it's unfortunately bound to be more risky.
But what exactly is a pre-existing condition, and how does it affect your travel?
If you've been diagnosed with an illness or condition, it's crucial to choose a travel insurance plan which covers any medical expenses incurred should your health be affected during the duration of your trip because of it.
Most travel insurance companies require you to declare your condition before travelling or purchase a pre-existing condition waiver which may include an additional premium before you're entitled for coverage for that illness.
Each travel insurance policy has its own terms and conditions including which pre-existing conditions it covers. While one policy might include sleep apnea in its list of covered pre-existing conditions, another may not.
Because different conditions will have different levels of severity and recurrence patterns, every insurer will draw the line differently for which pre-existing conditions it covers, with the purchase of a pre-existing conditions waiver, and which it won't.
Based on the level of risk they are willing to take on, they may charge an additional premium for a pre-existing condition, or refuse to cover the illness or condition at all.
This is why it's crucial to choose a travel insurance policy which does have you covered.
What is a pre-existing condition?
A pre-existing condition or illness is a term to describe any long-term condition which a policyholder has suffered from, been diagnosed with, or been treated for prior to signing up for a travel insurance policy or healthcare plan. This could include conditions such as asthma, diabetes or cancer, for example.
Pre-existing conditions can be troublesome, and are the number one reason travel insurance claims are denied. In most cases, policyholders fail to declare their pre-existing condition upfront with insurers when purchasing a travel insurance policy.
In other cases, the condition the policyholder suffers from, whether it's diabetes or asthma, isn't included in the policy's list of covered conditions.
As a general rule of thumb, any illnesses which haven't been diagnosed by a medical professional prior to a trip will be classified as unforeseen and will be covered by the policy.
However, should an insurer look into your medical records and discover that you have already been diagnosed or treated for the condition prior to the trip, your travel insurance claim may be denied.
Here are two scenarios which help define pre-existing conditions:
1. Kevin suffers from high blood pressure. He has been taking medication on and off to manage symptoms, but with medication it has remained under control.
However, the dosage is unpredictable and is adjusted every few months or so depending on his symptoms. On his vacation, he suffers from a serious stroke due to a rise in his blood pressure.
Will Kevin be covered by his travel insurance policy?
If Kevin declares his condition to his travel insurer when purchasing his travel insurance policy, and if necessary, pays an additional premium - then, yes, he will be covered for his medical expenses by the insurer. If he does not declare his condition prior to his trip, he won't receive any medical coverage.
2. Two weeks before a trip, Anis sees her doctor to consult him about a few headaches she has been experiencing. He prescribes Anis medication for migraines and sends her on her way. On her vacation, Anis again experiences headaches and is diagnosed on vacation with a severe headache which causes her to faint.
Is Anis entitled to coverage from travel insurance?
If Anis declares her condition to her insurer and purchases a pre-existing condition waiver from her travel insurance policy before her trip, she will be entitled to coverage for her condition.
If she doesn't purchase the waiver, she will probably be denied coverage because she was treated for the same condition before her trip and therefore, it will be considered a pre-existing condition.
3. Shereen has been suffering from sleep apnea for the past two months. While she has never sought out treatment for her condition, she was recently admitted for a fainting spell due to sleep deprivation.
Going against advice from her friends and family, she decides to put off visiting a doctor until after her upcoming vacation, for fear that her travel insurance policy will be affected or she might have to pay more.
On her vacation, she suffers from a severe headache due to her condition which forces her to seek medical attention.
Will Shereen be entitled to travel insurance coverage?
Unfortunately, due to the fact that Shereen did not consult a medical professional and her medical history includes a visit to the hospital due to sleep deprivation, she may be denied coverage for any medical expenses. Had she visited a doctor beforehand and declared her condition to her insurer, she may have received coverage by purchasing a pre-existing condition waiver or paying an additional premium.
Can I be rejected for travel insurance if I have a pre-existing condition?
While you probably won't be rejected for a travel insurance application if you have a pre-existing illness, you may not be covered for that particular condition. Every travel insurance policy will have its own exclusions, which are important to take note of when purchasing one.
The last thing you want is for anything to happen on your trip as a result of your pre-existing condition, and not have the coverage you really need, especially in a foreign, unfamiliar country.
Pre-existing conditions are one of the major reasons for travel insurance claim denials and so it's important to understand how travel insurance works.
How to make sure travel insurance will cover your pre-existing condition
Declare your pre-existing condition
Some insurers have their own online medical screening during the application process where you can explain your medical history. Others will require you to obtain a doctor's certificate and have a doctor approve you for travel.
Either way, if you're aware of a pre-existing condition you have, it's best to be upfront while purchasing your travel insurance policy.
Every travel insurance policy will have its own look back period, meaning the amount of time an insurer looks back into your medical history when you file a claim.
If there have been no changes, for example, a change in a prescription or a visit to a hospital or doctor as a result of a condition, your travel insurance policy will cover your medical expenses during the trip without you purchasing a pre-existing condition waiver for that particular condition.
However, if they find that your health has been fluctuating during the look back period, with even one visit to the doctor as a result of that condition, it will be deemed pre-existing and you may be denied coverage for that condition.
If you already know you have a condition, visit a doctor within the look back period, which is generally between 60 - 180 days before your trip begins.
Check if your condition is covered
When reading through the terms and conditions of the travel insurance policy you're considering, be sure to ask your insurance to be super specific about what is covered.
For instance, if you have a condition such as sleep apnea, make sure to double check that "sleeping disorders" listed in the terms of the policy include sleep apnea specifically.
How to decide if you need pre-existing condition coverage
Here are some questions to consider when deciding if you need pre-existing condition coverage:
1. Have I visited a doctor within the last 60 - 180 days for any ailments?
If your doctor says you are in good health and fit for travel, you may not need to purchase a pre-existing condition waiver. However, if he says you aren't fit for travel as a result of a recurring condition, or a condition which may last up to your vacation period, you'll need to pay an additional premium for additional coverage for this condition.
2. Have I had any conditions in the past which were recurring?
If the answer is yes, it is up to you and your doctor to decide if the risk of this condition recurring during your trip is likely to happen. Once this has been determined, you'll know if you should purchase a pre-existing condition waiver, which is essentially an additional premium you pay to have your condition covered for the duration of your trip.
How to choose best travel insurance for pre-existing conditions
With travel insurance, it's important that you consider all your options carefully, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition.
It's essential that you go over the terms and conditions of a few policies before you decide on what's got you covered without risky loopholes.
To compare your options more effectively, and get the best deal for travel insurance possible, try GoBear, our online comparison platform for financial products. Better safe than sorry!
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