Travel insurance | Cancer Research UK
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Why it is important to have insurance

Travel insurance is designed to provide you with compensation for anything that could go wrong while you are away. Usually, this means anything from having to cancel your trip to losing your suitcases. But the most important element is the medical expenses cover. If you don’t have cover and you are travelling to a country with high medical costs, or if you needed to be flown back in an emergency, the potential cost to you could be huge.


Why cancer can make it harder to get insurance

Insurance is a business dealing with risk. Some people think they have a right to insurance cover and cannot understand why companies are allowed to refuse them. But insurance companies only make money from people who don't claim. If they think the likelihood of you having to make a claim is too great, they are entitled to turn you down and are likely to do so.

Getting travel insurance when you have had cancer can be difficult. From the company's point of view, you are a bigger risk. As they see it, having been ill, you are more likely to need medical treatment while you are abroad. Or they may think that illness could make you cancel your trip at the last minute. But finding travel insurance is getting easier. Fortunately, many insurance companies are now looking at cases individually rather than refusing to insure everyone who has had cancer.


If you have cancer

Some high street travel insurance companies will give you medical insurance as long as you have a certificate from your doctor saying you are fit enough to travel. But many others will only insure you for treatment or emergencies unrelated to your cancer. So you can get travel insurance, but if you need treatment as a result of the cancer, you will have to pay for it yourself.

There are some insurance companies specialised in policies for people with pre existing medical problems. You can read about these further down the page. To be sure that you are covered for any emergency medical problems while travelling, even if those problems are because of your cancer, you will need a policy that says in advance they will cover you for this. As long as you have told the insurance company about the cancer when you apply for the cover, and they have knowingly taken the risk, they must pay according to the policy.

Whether you can get insurance, and the cost,will depend on the type of cancer that you have had. When you apply for travel insurance, be prepared for questions about your cancer diagnosis, the treatment and your outlook (prognosis). Most companies will also ask what the stage and grade of your cancer was when you were diagnosed.  So if you don't know, be sure to ask your consultant before you buy the policy, or you may have difficulty making a claim later on. You will also be asked about any follow up care you are having.


If you had cancer in the past

Many high street travel insurance companies will give you medical insurance as long as you have a certificate from your doctor confirming that you no longer have cancer and you are fit enough to travel. 

Insurance companies differ on how long you must be free of cancer before they will issue you a policy. Some companies will not offer you insurance until you have been without cancer for 3 months, some 12 months, and some will not cover you unless you have been cancer free for 10 years. If you have finished treatment quite recently, be prepared that rates will be higher. Prices generally go down the longer you are cancer free. But this may be 3 to 5 years or even longer.

You want to be able to claim for emergency medical care abroad, even if that treatment is necessary because of your cancer. Again, this depends on you telling the insurance company about your full medical history when applying for the cover. If they have knowingly taken the risk, they must pay according to the policy.

The policies of travel insurance companies can be many and varied and some offer more appropriate cover than others. Be sure to shop around and check your policy carefully.


Your destination and their health services

Whether you have had cancer or not, travel insurance costs vary depending on where you want to go. Medical costs in the USA are very high, for example, and so it is hardest to get cover if you are planning a holiday there. If you have an incurable cancer, particularly one that has spread, you may not get insurance for the USA and may have to rethink your holiday plans. A general guide is that insurance for Europe is cheapest, especially within the European Community. Next comes the rest of the world, excluding North America. And finally the most expensive is North America.


Making sure you have enough insurance cover

You may not be able to get the type of support or security you want from regular high street travel insurance companies. Many have exclusions on their policies for people who've had medical conditions such as cancer. An exclusion means that they will cover you for everything but what is listed as excluded. So if you have medical cover excluding your cancer, they would pay for any medical treatment that you needed, as long as it wasn't because of your cancer.

Cover for medical needs related to your cancer may be possible, if certain conditions are met. If you can provide a doctor's certificate to say you are fit for travel or have not had any related treatment for 12 months or more, they may cover you.

You may also want to check how the rest of the policy might be affected. For example, whether you would be covered if you had to come home early because of your cancer, and if the company will pay for the specialist medical attention you may need because of taking ill while abroad. For example, if you needed oxygen while traveling on an aeroplane. 

If you have problems getting adequate cover, there are specialist insurance companies who provide policies designed for people with serious illness, terminal illness or disability. You can read about these further down the page.The policies on offer are many and varied and some are more exclusive than others. So you will need to shop around. It is best to start by making make informal inquiries about your travel insurance. Some insurance companies may ask if you have been turned down for insurance by someone else already. If you have only made informal enquiries, you won't prejudice any future applications you make.

As a condition of covering you, some insurance companies insist that you must also get their travel insurance for everyone who is travelling with you.


What you need to tell insurance companies

All travel insurance policies require you to disclose fully any information about existing or pre existing conditions. Even if you have had cancer in the distant past, you still need to tell the insurance company about it. If you don’t provide all the facts, the insurance company can rightly claim it was misinformed and may not pay out if you make a claim.

If you have a terminal illness or have not been passed fit for travel, then regular high street travel insurance firms will not cover you.


Your fitness to travel

As we’ve said, you need to get written confirmation of fitness from your doctor, even if you have not had any treatment for some time. It is always best to get advice from your doctor anyway before going abroad, even if it is only for a few days.

If you have an annual or multi trip policy then you will need to provide an updated confirmation certificate from your doctor every time you travel.


The European Health Insurance Card

If you are travelling to a country within the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EEA includes all EU countries plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. The EHIC replaces the old E111 form, which is no longer valid. The EHIC entitles you to free, or reduced cost, medical care in the country you are visiting. The countries included in this agreement are listed in the leaflet that comes with the card.

You need to take the health insurance card with you if you want to benefit from reciprocal health service agreements. But you may have to pay for some things at the time and then claim the money back later. The card doesn't cover the costs of any medical treatment that you have planned in advance. It will only cover you for unforeseen medical needs. But if you need continued treatment for an ongoing illness while you are abroad, such as regular injections, this will be covered by the EHIC.

You can apply for a card online through the NHS Choices website. You can also apply for a card by phone on 0300 330 1350.

Remember - reciprocal health service agreements do not always cover the full cost of treatment. They do not cover the cost of getting you home in an emergency, for instance. So it is sensible to have travel insurance even when travelling in the EU. But you'll still need a European Health Insurance Card because your insurance company may not cover the cost of treatment that the card covers. If you try to claim in full, they may say you should have had a card. So it is important to check the small print! 


If you want to arrange treatment abroad

If you want to go to an EEA country or Switzerland specially for medical treatment there are 2 options for NHS funding which you can read about below

  • An S2 form
  • The EU Directive on cross border healthcare (Article 56)

You might want to do this perhaps if you are waiting too long for an operation (or other treatment) in the UK, and you could have it done sooner abroad. It will be your responsibility to arrange the treatment. However, you will need to talk through your plans with your doctor first. They can give you details of your primary care trust (PCT) who can explain the different options for funding and which would be most suitable for you.

S2 form

This replaces the old E112 form. It allows you to have state funded treatment in the EEA under the same conditions of care and payment as the residents of that country. Your primary care trust (PCT) has to agree to funding this treatment. You will need to provide a letter from your NHS consultant confirming that you need the treatment and stating why you should receive it in the other country. You must be entitled to have this treatment on the NHS. In some EEA countries you may need to make a contribution towards the cost. But you may be able to claim the money back afterwards.

The EU Directive (Article 56)

This may allow you to claim back some or all the costs of planned medical treatment in the EEA. You will usually need to pay the treatment costs upfront. There is no guarantee that you will get funding, so you must be sure to check this with your primary care trust (PCT) before you make any plans. The treatment must be available on the NHS. Unlike the S2 form, you may be able to claim towards private or state funded treatment. However you can only claim back the amount the treatment would have cost on the NHS. Your PCT can work out the maximum amount that you could claim and advise you further.

There is more information about the S2 form and the EU Directive on the NHS Choices website.


Specialist policies and insurance companies

If you are having trouble getting cover, you may find it easier to get a specialised policy. An insurance broker can try to arrange a policy for you. Or can give you a list of insurance companies with special policies for people with cancer or terminal illness.

The British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) can find you brokers who will advise cancer patients and can arrange travel insurance.

British Insurance Brokers Association

8th Floor John Stow House
18 Bevis Marks
Phone: 0870 950 1790 (open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday)


Brokers make a service charge so it is always best to make an informal approach to a number of brokers before making a decision. Satisfy yourself that they are familiar with the concerns of cancer patients and are aware what is available for people who have or have had cancer. Some possible brokers and insurance companies are listed below, but you must always make your own enquiries and find an insurer and policy you are happy with.


A list of specialist insurance companies

The best advice is to shop around and start well in advance of your planned holiday. It is worth getting quotes from well known or general travel insurance companies, particularly if you are no longer having treatment and your cancer is in remission. Insurance companies do change their position on insurance cover frequently, so it is almost impossible for us to give you an accurate list of companies that will give you insurance. We provide this information in the hope that it will be helpful to those who are having problems finding insurance.

The companies we list below may be useful for people with cancer, particularly those who are on treatment or have symptoms. Brokers may be able to offer better deals than individual insurance companies because they work with a large pool of insurance companies to try and find you the best deal. The first list below are insurance brokers, and the second are individual insurance agencies.

Please note: we are passing on this information in good faith. We have heard of most of these companies through recommendations from visitors to our website. We are not recommending them, or saying that they will definitely insure you.

Insurance brokers

JD Travel Insurance Consultants

JD travel insurance is a specialist broker providing cover for people with pre existing medical conditions for both annual and single trip policies. Cover can be obtained for travellers currently undergoing treatment. They cannot offer cover for anyone taking part in a clinical trial. They are also unable to offer cover for people who are expected to live less than 6 months after the holiday return date.

JD Travel Insurance Consultants
29 London Road
Bromley, Kent
Phone: 0844 2474749

Orbis Insurance Services
Provides cover with no upper age limit for people with pre-existing medical conditions for single and annual policies. They may ask if you are on a clinical trial. Cover is available for anyone who is undergoing treatment or waiting for treatment, but cannot cover people who are less than 6 months ill.

Orbis Insurance Services
49-51 St. Leonards Road
East Sussex
TN40 1JA
Phone: 01424 215 315

Insurance Choice
Insurance Choice are an insurance brokers who offer travel insurance to any UK or EU residents with pre existing medical conditions. There is no upper age limit. They cannot offer cover for people who have been told that they have less than 6 months to live from the date of return from a trip.

Insurance Choice
2nd Floor St Albans House
Portland Street
Royal Leamington Spa
CV32 5EZ
Phone: 0844 55 77 600

Insurance agencies

Freedom Travel Insurance 
Freedom Travel Insurance is experienced in offering specialist travel insurance for people with cancer. They may not be able to offer cover if the cancer has spread from its original area in the body. They are also unable to offer cover to anyone who is waiting to have surgery or inpatient treatment. Their cover is underwritten by a very large insurance company called AXA. 

Freedom Insurance Services Ltd
Richmond House
16 - 20 Regent Street
Tel: 01223 446 914 (8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm Saturday)
Online enquiry form

InsureCancer (Medi Travelcover Ltd) 
InsureCancer will cover people with cancer for all destinations, including the USA. They will consider cover for people who are in treatment, waiting for treatment, and people with advanced cancer or a terminal prognosis.  Their main requirement is that your consultant gives approval for you to make your trip, and will need to submit a form saying this.

76 Crooksbury Road,
GU10 1QD
Phone: 01252 780190  or 0845 64 90 190 (9am to 5pm Monday to Friday)

It's So Easy Travel Insurance
Provides travel insurance for people with pre existing medical conditions, including cancer. 

It's So Easy Travel Insurance
27 Old Gloucester Street
Phone: 0330 6061422

AllClear Insurance
Specialises in providing travel insurance for people with pre existing medical conditions. They cannot offer cover for anyone who has been told that they have less than 6 months from the date of return.

AllClear Insurance Services Limited 
AllClear House
1 Redwing Court
Ashton Road
Phone: 01708 339295 (9am to 7pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Sat, 10am to 4pm Sun)

Free Spirit
Free Spirit is a specialist travel insurance policy for people with pre existing medical conditions, including cancer. You may be able to get a quote online, but if they need more information about your current health status they might ask you to ring them instead. If your cancer is advanced, and you're no longer having active treatment, phone for a quote rather than trying online. They are unable to cover people over 80 years of age if they have been given a terminal prognosis. They will consider all types of cancer. They are unable to offer cover for the USA , Canada, China, Hong Kong or the Caribbean to people who have been told they have terminal cancer.

Free Spirit
Stansted House
Rowlands Castle
Phone: 0845 230 5000 (8am to 6pm Monday to Friday)

World First 
World First provides insurance for people in the UK with medical conditions. They cannot offer cover for people who are waiting for treatment. For an individual quote they provide a medical screening phone line.

World First
Tourism House
Woodwater Park
Pynes Hill
Phone:  0845 90 80 161  (Monday to Friday 9am to 5.30pm, Saturdays 9am to 4pm)

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Updated: 21 July 2015