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Getting travel insurance

Travel insurance is very important for people who have or have had cancer. It’s important to know how to get travel insurance and what’s involved.

Why it's important

Travel insurance is designed to give you 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.

Why it's 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 are now looking at cases individually, rather than refusing everyone who has had cancer.

Travel insurance for people with cancer

Some high street travel insurance companies will give you medical insurance 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

To be covered for emergency medical problems related to your cancer while you’re travelling, you need a policy that says the insurance company will cover you for this.

You must tell the insurance company about the cancer when you apply for cover.

Applying for travel insurance

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

So when you apply for travel insurance, be prepared for questions about your cancer diagnosis, the treatment and your outlook (prognosis). The insurance company will also ask about the follow up care you’re having.

Most companies will also ask what stage and grade your cancer was when doctors diagnosed it. So if you don't know, ask your consultant before you buy the policy. Otherwise you may find it difficult to claim later on.

Some insurance companies specialise in policies for people with pre existing medical problems, such as cancer. You might want to look into this.

Travel insurance for people who have had cancer

Many high street travel insurance companies will give you medical insurance 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 3 months. But some say 12 months, and others say 10 years.

Be prepared for the rate to be higher if you finished treatment recently. Prices generally go down the longer you’re cancer free. But this may be 3 to 5 years or even longer.

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.

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. You may need to rethink your holiday plans.

A general guide to costs

  • Insurance for Europe is cheapest, especially within the European Union.
  • Next is the rest of the world, excluding North America.
  • The most expensive insurance is for North America.

Important things to remember

  • 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.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you’re going to a country within the European Economic Area (the European Union, Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland) or Switzerland.

The EHIC means you can get healthcare free or at a reduced cost in these countries if you need medical care. Take the card with you.

You might 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 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 covers this.

The EHIC 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 sensible to have travel insurance even when travelling in the EU.

But you'll still need an EHIC 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 card. 

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.