Coronavirus and cancer

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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.

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. We have a list of some insurance brokers and insurance companies on our website. 

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.

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 at a reduced cost or in some cases free in these countries if you need medical care. 

The EHIC 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. 

There are a couple of countries in the European Economic Area that do not accept EHIC, these are:

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

It also does not cover you if you are on a cruise.

Brexit and EHIC

You can use the EHIC up until the UK leaves the European Union (EU). Currently Spain is the only country that will continue the mutual agreement. We won’t know of any other countries until after the day we leave the EU.

After Brexit you might not be able to use your EHIC. This will depend on how the UK leaves the EU and what mutual agreements have been set out with these countries.

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

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.

Information and help