Most of us are aware by now that pre-existing conditions are problematic, but what you may not know is that they’re the number one cause of confusion and travel insurance claim denials.
That’s unfortunate because while travel insurance automatically excludes pre-existing conditions from coverage without a waiver, you can get coverage for pre-existing conditions with the right travel insurance plan.
The fact that pre-existing conditions are automatically excluded means that your travel medical care, trip cancellations, interruptions and delays that occur because of a pre-existing medical condition are not covered without a waiver.
The pre-existing conditions of family members is also excluded, but the pre-existing waiver covers those too as long as you pay close attention to the restrictions.
A pre-existing condition waiver is a way of overcoming the exclusion in your standard insurance coverage. Many travel insurance providers will automatically waive the exclusion on pre-existing conditions at no extra cost if you buy your travel insurance plan soon after your initial trip deposit date. Others require an upgrade to waive the limits on pre-existing conditions.
Either way, the critical bit to understand is that you can get coverage for pre-existing conditions with your travel insurance plan. You just have to go about it right.
If you are medically stable during the travel insurance plan’s look-back period (this applies to family members and traveling companions as well – anyone who might cause you to have to cancel or interrupt your trip or seek medical care while traveling) then you can qualify for a travel insurance plan or upgrade to cover pre-existing medical conditions. See What is the ‘look-back period’ and ‘medically stable’ to understand these terms.
It’s important to think about your health (and the health of family members) before you buy your travel insurance. Here’s how travel insurance providers define a pre-existing condition:
A pre-existing condition is any injury, illness, disease or other medical condition that occurs prior to the travel plan’s effective date and for which you had symptoms and sought diagnosis, medical treatment, and/or new prescription medications or a change in your current prescription.
If you (family members and traveling companions included) have a medical condition that you and your doctor are currently treating and/or your medication for a specific condition changes often, then that’s a pre-existing condition.
If you’re not sure if you have a pre-existing condition, ask yourself these questions:
If you don’t have confirmation yet, a quick call to your doctor’s office could speed things along, but also consider this situation:
My father had a sore throat for about a week. He went to the doctor who confirmed that it wasn’t strep or a cold. Just before his trip, however, he felt ill and again visited the doctor. After a round of tests they discovered throat cancer. His travel insurance claim was denied due to a pre-existing condition – even though we didn’t know about the cancer.
This traveler was unfortunately caught in a scenario that may not have been preventable. They thought he was healthy but it turned out not to be true.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.