Getting travel insurance

Travel insurance is very important for people who have or have had cancer. 

You have travel insurance to help you get compensation for anything that might go wrong with your travel. This usually means anything from having to cancel your trip, to losing your suitcases. But the most important part is the medical expenses cover.

Suppose you’re going to a country with high medical costs and you need to be flown back in an emergency. Without medical expense cover, the cost to you could be huge.

On this page we look at:

  • Why is it so hard to get travel insurance?
  • Travel insurance for people with cancer
  • Travel insurance if you have had cancer
  • Destinations and costs
  • Finding insurance
  • Healthcare abroad
  • Tips on what you need to know

Why is it so hard to get insurance?

Getting travel insurance when you have or have had cancer can be difficult.  

Insurance companies only make money from people who don't claim. Because you’ve been ill, they think you’re more likely to claim. For example, you might need to cancel your trip or have medical treatment abroad. This makes you a bigger risk to the company, and they can refuse to give you travel insurance.

But finding travel insurance is getting easier. Many insurance companies now look at individual cases rather than refusing everyone who has had cancer.

Travel insurance for people with cancer

Some high street travel insurance companies will give you medical cover if you have a doctor’s letter saying you’re fit enough to travel. But many others will insure you only for treatment that isn't to do with your cancer. 

So although you'll have travel insurance, it won't cover any treatment you might need because of your cancer. You'll have to pay for that yourself. 

Travel insurance that covers cancer related treatment

For emergency medical problems relating to your cancer while you’re travelling, you'll need an insurance policy that covers you for this. So you must tell the insurance company about the cancer when you apply for cover.

Whether you can get insurance, and how much it costs, will depend on your cancer type.

When you apply for travel insurance, be prepared for questions about:

  • your cancer type
  • how big your cancer is or was at diagnosis and whether it had spread (stage)
  • the grade of your cancer
  • the treatment you are having or have had
  • your outlook (prognosis)
  • follow up care you are having

It’s best if you have these details before you apply. If you’re unsure of anything, contact your doctor or specialist nurse who will be able to answer your questions.

There are some insurance companies that specialise in policies for people with pre existing medical problems, such as cancer. This includes insurance brokers and insurance companies so it is worth searching specifically for them. 

Travel insurance for people who have had cancer

Many high street travel insurance companies will give you medical cover if you have a doctor’s certificate saying you no longer have cancer and are fit enough to travel. 

Some companies won’t offer you insurance until you’ve been cancer free for some months or even years. Be prepared for the cost to be higher if you finished treatment recently. Prices generally go down the longer you’re cancer free. 

Travel insurance that covers cancer related treatment

You need to be able to claim for emergency medical care abroad, including treatment that is related to your previous cancer.

To be covered for this, you need a policy that says the insurance company will pay for emergency medical problems that are related to your cancer. Again, you must tell the insurance company your full medical history when you apply for cover. They must pay according to the policy if they agreed to cover you.

The policies of travel insurance companies vary a lot. Some offer more suitable cover than others. Be sure to shop around and check your policy carefully.

Destinations and costs

Whether you have had cancer or not, travel insurance costs vary depending on where you want to go.

The UK has mutual agreements with some countries that are not in the European Economic Area (EEA). So they may provide medical care at a lower cost or in some cases free. The NHS website has a list of these countries. It also explains briefly what:

  • is free
  • you’ll need to pay
  • documents you need

Medical costs in the USA are very high. So it’s hard to get cover if you’re planning a holiday there.

You may not be able to get insurance for the USA if you have incurable cancer, particularly cancer that has spread. So you may need to rethink your holiday plans.

Finding travel insurance

There are different ways to look for travel insurance including:

  • contacting an insurance broker
  • comparison websites
  • contact the money advice service

Insurance brokers
An insurance broker can try to arrange a policy for you. Or they can give you a list of insurance companies with special policies for people with cancer or other medical conditions. 

Brokers make a service charge. So it’s always best to make an informal approach to a few brokers before you make a decision. Satisfy yourself that they’re familiar with the concerns of people with cancer and know what’s available.

The British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) can suggest brokers who can look for travel insurance policies for people with cancer.

Comparison websites
Other ways to look for policies would be to use comparisons websites such as:

Money Advice Service

Another way is to contact the Money Advice Service. They can direct you to specialist travel insurance firms that cover serious medical conditions. 

Information the travel insurance companies and brokers might want to know

Being ready with answers to questions the companies might ask will help when you contact them. They will ask about your cancer and about your holiday. 

Questions about your cancer might include:

  • when you were diagnosed
  • what type of cancer it is
  • how advanced it is and whether it is terminal
  • what treatment you have had or having or if any is planned for you to have
  • any medicines you are taking
  • any appointments you have with your GP or specialist
  • symptoms you have

Questions about your holiday:

  • where you want to go
  • how long for
  • who will be travelling with you

Questions you might want to ask include:

  • How much the insurance covers you for
  • What the excess is, does it vary depending on what you are claiming for, for example a medical claim or lost luggage
  • Are you and whoever you are travelling with covered if you cancel?
  • Is there anything it doesn’t cover?
  • Depending on the situation some people might want to know if it would cover them if they died and their family wanted to get them home to bury them
  • How much is the travel insurance?

Healthcare in Europe

The UK ahas now left the European Union (EU). This means there are changes to the healthcare agreements between the UK and EU countries.

To be able to receive state provided healthcare when visiting an EU country. You should hold either a: 

  • UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
  • UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)

The EU countries are:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

These cards mean you can get necessary healthcare free or at a reduced cost in the EU country, you are visiting. This is healthcare that cannot wait until you get home. It means you’ll have the same care as a citizen of the country you’re visiting. Remember, the cards might not cover everything you'd get in the NHS. This is because each healthcare system is different.

Ask where you are being referred to. Sometimes people are sent to a private practice or hospital. If this happens, you may not be covered for the costs of care unless you have travel medical insurance. If you have insurance, check the terms and conditions of the policy before agreeing to any treatment.

If you still hold a valid EHIC card you can use this until it expires. You will then need to apply for a UK GHIC. The EHIC will still be around but will only apply to some UK residents. To see if you should apply for a UK issued EHIC find out more on the NHS website.

The guide below gives you information on the different healthcare arrangements and systems in countries abroad.

The EHIC and UK GHIC doesn't cover the cost of any medical treatment that you planned in advance, only for unexpected needs. But if you need continued treatment for an ongoing illness while you're abroad, such as regular injections, the EHIC or UK GHIC covers this.

The EHIC or UK GHIC doesn’t always cover the full cost of treatment. For instance, it won’t cover the cost of getting you home in an emergency. So it’s important to have the right travel insurance even when travelling in the EU.

You still need an EHIC or UK GHIC because your insurance company might not cover the cost of treatment that the card covers. If you try to claim in full, they might say you should have had the EHIC or UK GHIC. 

It does not cover you if you are on a cruise. And it doesn’t cover the cost of flying you home.

Visiting Ireland

If your a resident in the UK, you can get healthcare that cannot wait until you get home (necessary healthcare) from state healthcare services in Ireland during your visit. This includes medically necessary treatment for a pre-existing or chronic condition. Some treatments will need to be pre-arranged with the relevant healthcare provider in Ireland, for example chemotherapy. But you will still need travel insurance.

Europe beyond the EU:

Some countries within the European region do not accept EHIC or GHIC, these are:

  • the Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
  • the Isle of Man
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • the Vatican

The UK has an agreement with a number of non-EU countries so that people from the UK can receive urgent care. Usually, only immediate medical treatment is free of charge. This includes places such as:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Faroe Islands
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey

Cruises

Medical care on cruise ships is quite expensive. You should have travel insurance to cover any medical care costs. If you require additional medical care that cannot be provided on board the ship, you will be transferred to medical facilities on land. What you are covered for depends on the country the cruise ship drops you in. So, it is not a good idea to rely on the EHIC or GHIC. You need medical care cover for anywhere that the ship could stop in. This includes unscheduled stops.

It’s important that if you’re travelling to an EU country that you have the correct travel insurance even if you have an UK issued EHIC or UK GHIC.

Tips on what you need to know before you look for insurance

  • Many insurance companies have exclusions on their policies for people who have medical conditions such as cancer.
  • Even if you had cancer in the past, you still need to tell the insurance company about it. If you don’t give full information about existing or pre existing conditions, they can say you misinformed them and may not pay out.
  • Regular high street travel insurance companies will not cover you if you have a terminal illness or if you aren't fit to travel.
  • Get written confirmation from your doctor saying that you are fit to travel, even if you haven’t had any treatment for some time. It’s always best to get advice from your doctor before going abroad.
  • You’ll need to provide an updated doctor’s certificate every time you travel if you have an annual or multi trip policy.
  • Start by making informal enquiries. Some companies might ask if you’ve been turned down by another company. If you’ve only made informal enquiries, this won’t affect any applications you make.
  • As a condition of covering you, some insurance companies insist that you also get their travel insurance for everyone travelling with you.
  • Always check a policy carefully to make sure it covers everything you might need, such as getting you home if you become unwell whilst abroad.
  • The cost of insurance (premium) as well as the excess and whether there is a separate excess for everyone travelling.

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