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Tips on buying travel insurance for medical conditions

Having just been through the process of trying to buy travel insurance for someone who suffered a heart attack a couple of months ago, I’d like to add a few tips for others that we have gleaned through our experience.

We thought that it would make sense to buy annual, multi-trip insurance as a couple so we only had to think about it once. In some ways that was a good idea as we would only have to go through the pain once a year, in other ways it may have made the process more difficult.

Here’s what we’ve learned.

1. Travel insurance is important if you’re travelling abroad as it will cover at least some of the cost of hospital care and repatriation if necessary. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) cover (which replaced the old E111 in 2006) in Europe will only get you so far. Package holiday providers will generally only let you travel if you have insurance

2. Trying to buy insurance through the travel agent’ standard supplier for someone with medical conditions such as a recent heart attack will probably result in a dead end and wasted time.

3. There are specialists around who will provide insurance for both those with medical conditions and those over the age that many companies set as their limit, which can be as low as 60. Take a look at www.over50choices.co.uk for example.

4. Some of the condition-focused web sites will have lists too. Certainly the British Heart Foundation has a list of providers, but doesn’t make recommendations, so it’s a matter of visiting each supplier separately.

5. We didn’t find a site that would make the comparisons for us. We had to visit each provider separately and work our way through their standard questions and medical screening. It takes a long time. You can call rather than use the web-based quote systems. That takes even longer as first they have to be willing to pick up!

6. Most providers start with the same basic medical questions, but some go into much more depth. All wanted to know about high blood pressure and cholesterol but some wanted details of every single condition of each member of the travelling party. Forget to mention anything and it could invalidate the insurance.

7. Providers suggest it’s easy to insure all members of the party at once, whatever their ages and whether or not they have medical conditions. We actually found that it was cheaper to insure separately with different companies.

8. Quotes vary widely. When we were looking for multi-trip insurance for two people, we were getting quotes between £250 and £700.

9. Asking for worldwide cover makes getting insurance more difficult and more expensive. The USA and Canada appeared to be out of the question, at least for our insured parties for now, and the Caribbean was a question mark too.

10. Because of no. 9 above and the difficulty of getting insurance, I would recommend getting all the insurance sorted out before booking the holiday. Again, package holiday providers will often want to know details of your own insurance if you choose not to buy theirs before you finalise the booking.

11. I would definitely recommend reading our expert article on choosing travel insurance.

Once all that’s done, picking a holiday is the easy part!

Do you have any other tips to share with fellow travellers? Or have you had a different experience to ours? Do let us know in the comments below.

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