Travel insurance provides financial protection against common unexpected problems that may occur on a trip. However, coverage for pre-existing conditions is not guaranteed. While some insurers offer pre-existing condition waivers, you must meet certain criteria to qualify.
If you recently sought or received treatment for a medical condition and are considering purchasing travel insurance, there are a few things you need to be aware of. Read on to find out more about travel insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions.
What are pre-existing conditions?
A pre-existing condition refers to an illness, injury or condition you showed symptoms of or for which you were tested or received treatment or medication 60 to 180 days before purchasing travel insurance.
While the exact definition of a pre-existing condition may vary by plan, any illness, injury or ongoing medical concern you experienced before your policy's commencement date may be classified as a pre-existing condition if any of the following apply:
- You received an exam from a medical professional
- You received medical treatment
- It resulted in a change in the prescription medications you take
- A medical professional recommended you get tested (even if you don't have the tests done)
Again, insurers may have their own definition of what constitutes a pre-existing condition. However, if you have an ongoing health concern but have been managing it without new medical treatments or exams for at least several months, there's a good chance it won't be classified as a pre-existing condition.
How is travel insurance coverage affected by pre-existing conditions?
Having a pre-existing condition should have no bearing on missed connections, lost baggage or trip cancellation coverage.
That said, you'll need a waiver for your pre-existing condition should you take out a medical travel insurance policy. If you don't have a waiver, the insurance company may deny claims related to the pre-existing condition.
Pre-existing condition waivers and how they work
Pre-existing conditions shouldn't prevent you from purchasing medical travel insurance. In fact, many travel insurance plans include waivers for pre-existing conditions at no cost to the policyholder.
If you qualify for this waiver, the travel insurance company can no longer look at your recent medical history when evaluating a claim related to a pre-existing medical problem.
Let's go over some of the eligibility requirements to qualify for pre-existing conditions coverage.
It bears repeating that while eligibility requirements for pre-existing condition travel insurance vary across providers and plans, you have a good chance of qualifying if you meet the following criteria.
Purchase coverage early
One of the first requirements to qualify for a waiver of pre-existing conditions is to purchase your travel insurance policy immediately or soon after making your initial trip deposit. Deadlines vary by company.
When you purchase travel insurance early, you also typically have access to more plan options. For example, cancel-for-any-reason travel insurance is often only available to those who purchase the plan within 2-3 weeks of paying for their trip.
Be medically fit to travel
You must be fit to travel to qualify for travel medical insurance with pre-existing conditions. That means your medical issue must be considered stable, and the travel insurance company will determine whether that's the case.
Some insurers are more lenient than others, but if a doctor says you can travel with the medical issue you're experiencing, you should satisfy the requirement.
Fully insure your trip
The amount of travel insurance you take out must generally cover the total cost of your trip, or at least equal your pre-paid travel costs.
For example, if you plan to pay for 50% of your trip ahead of time and cover the rest after you arrive, your coverage amount must equal only that pre-paid 50%.
Pre-existing condition waivers cover many medical situations, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. However, some illnesses, injuries and conditions may not qualify for a waiver.
Mental or psychological disorders
Travel insurance policies may not cover medically imposed travel restrictions resulting from the inpatient hospitalization of an insured traveler due to a mental or psychological disorder. With that in mind, it could be worth asking your travel insurance company whether this exclusion applies to its pre-existing conditions waiver.
Pregnancy and childbirth
If you're purchasing travel insurance while pregnant, you may be out of luck. Most travel medical insurance plans exclude coverage for pregnancy, childbirth or complications related to pregnancy.
During a pandemic, you may be able to find dedicated travel insurance specifically meant to provide medical coverage if you contract an infectious disease. However, you likely won't qualify for a pre-existing condition waiver if you attempt to travel soon after recovering from a pandemic-related illness.
Alcohol or drug abuse
Finally, medical travel insurance waivers rarely apply to issues with alcohol and drug abuse or their treatment. Even if you can find a company that offers a waiver for existing substance abuse problems, it may have considerable restrictions and limitations.
Buying travel insurance when you have a pre-existing condition
Many of the best travel insurance companies offer coverage for pre-existing conditions. However, the exact nature of that coverage can vary by provider, so it's wise to consider all of your options. Here are some steps you can follow to ensure you find the right plan for your needs.
1. Compile a list of options
The first thing you should do is research the top providers of the kind of travel insurance you want. If you're looking for a travel medical insurance policy with a waiver of pre-existing conditions, you may consider any of the following companies:
- Allianz Travel Insurance
- Travel Guard (AIG)
- Generali Global Assistance
- Seven Corners
2. Review policies and pre-existing condition waivers
Once you have a list of potential providers, narrow it down by researching how each company deals with your pre-existing condition. Some may have more stringent eligibility requirements than others.
For example, there be differences in how soon after booking your trip you must purchase the policy to qualify for the pre-existing condition waiver, which can have a bearing in your decision.
3. Compare costs
After you have a small list of companies offering the coverage you want, you should be ready to start comparing prices.
The U.S. Traveler Insurance Association says travel insurance should cost between 4% and 8% of your total trip price. If you spend $5,000 on your next trip, your premium will likely be between $200 and $400.
That said, certain types of non-medical coverage, such as cancel-for-any-reason travel insurance, may cost more than 8%.
4. Make your decision and purchase your plan
Now all that's left to do is purchase the plan offering the best rates for the coverage you need. It's a good idea to take one last look at the fine print to ensure you qualify for the company's pre-existing condition waiver before paying.
Navigating the claims process when you have a pre-existing health condition
Documentation is everything when making a claim based on a pre-existing health condition. The more of it you have, the easier it should be to prove your claim is valid.
Start by proving that you received medical care for a covered issue while traveling. You can do this with copies of medical records or bills. It may also be necessary to get a note from an attending physician if they've recommended a course of action, such as canceling the rest of your trip and returning home.
In addition to proving that you sought treatment for a covered medical condition, you must prove that you actually went on the trip. This is easily done through receipts for plane tickets, hotel rooms, restaurants or other shops at your destination.
Finally, you will also need to fill out the proper claim form. Most travel insurance companies have different forms for trip cancellations, emergency medical care and other types of claims. Filling out the correct form will allow the provider to process your claim quickly.
Travel insurance for pre-existing conditions FAQ
Do pre-existing conditions affect the cost of travel insurance?
No, pre-existing conditions typically don't affect the cost of travel insurance. You can find travel insurance that covers pre-existing conditions at no additional cost as long as you meet the company's eligibility requirements for a waiver.
What is a look-back period?
The look-back period is the span of time during which the insurance company can "look back" on your medical history to determine if you have been diagnosed with or received treatment for a medical condition. Standard look-back periods range from 60 to 180 days.
One thing to note about look-back periods is that they're only relevant if you can't qualify for a pre-existing condition waiver. If you get a waiver, the insurance company can no longer consider your previous treatment history while deciding whether to pay a claim for medical expenses.
Is high blood pressure a pre-existing medical condition for travel insurance?
It's possible insurance companies will consider high blood pressure a pre-existing condition, depending on when it was diagnosed and when your doctor last changed your treatment plan (including changes in medication and dosage). If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure just before your trip, for example, it will likely be considered a pre-existing condition.
If you have been managing your high blood pressure for at least six months and there have been no changes in your care plan during that time, the insurance company may not regard it as a pre-existing condition. Nevertheless, insurers define pre-existing conditions differently, so always check with your provider.
Summary of Money's pre-existing conditions and travel insurance
Travel medical insurance can reimburse you for the cost of emergency medical treatment you require during an insured trip. However, if you have recently undergone a medical examination, received treatment or started a new medication for a medical condition, insurance providers may consider it pre-existing. That means your insurer may deny any claims related to treating said condition.
But having a pre-existing condition doesn't mean you have to pay extra for travel medical insurance. And you may still be covered for claims related to a pre-existing condition if you obtain a pre-existing condition waiver. To obtain this waiver, you must meet certain requirements, including being medically fit to travel, insuring a specified percentage of your trip and purchasing travel insurance within a certain period after making your initial trip deposit.