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The myths

  • Normal travel insurance covers you.
  • Policies are worldwide or for specific areas so cover must apply.
  • Insurances with non-UK cover will pay for overseas treatment.
  • If I tell them it is a holiday I will be covered.

The reality

  • There are now several medical travel insurance policies available.
  • Normal travel insurance will offer no or restricted cover.
  • Worldwide extensions are for emergencies only.
  • Travel policies are designed to cover emergency medical treatment, not planned treatment.
  • Saying it is a holiday when it is a medical trip is lying which can invalidate the policy or if you persist with the lie when claiming, a criminal penalty.

The detail

Very few travel agents, intermediaries, medical travel agents, and sometimes even insurers themselves, understand what is or what is not covered. As travel policies obviously do not have an exclusion for travelling overseas, many feel that medical cover applies anywhere. This is not correct.

A huge problem with travel insurance is people not telling, not being asked about, or being falsely advised “It does not matter why you are travelling”, that the purposes of a trip are for medical/dental /surgical treatment.

Another problem with travel insurance is people not telling, not being asked about, or being falsely advised “It does not matter”, who are travelling with a pre-existing medical condition.

Agencies and medical providers often recommend patients take out travel insurance. Some even offer to arrange cover. Whether what they offer is worthless or not, is debatable.

Most travel policies now have a policy exclusion on going abroad for any kind of treatment. A policy exclusion applies to all sections of the policy.

Some travel policies have exclusions only on the medical expenses and cancellation sections; which exclude any pre-booked trip with planned or pre-planned medical treatment.

Whether a travel policy that just covers baggage and money, for the full price of normal cover, is worth the premium, is doubtful.

Travel insurance is not aimed at medical travellers. Restrictions and exclusions effectively mean that there is no or little cover under the policy. Few insurance, travel or medical agents point this out.

The exclusion which normally applies even if not specifically excluded by the policy is pre-existing conditions. This can be interpreted in many ways to include anything you knew or suspected or have had treatment for - even if you have recovered.

Policies have specific exclusions such as:

  • cosmetic procedures
  • non-emergency dental treatment
  • pre-existing medical conditions
  • attendance at any hospital in last 12 months
  • anticipation of any treatment or investigations or treatment in the future
  • being on the waiting list for in-patient or day-patient treatment
  • travelling against medical advice

Any form of medical treatment carries an inherent risk but also a risk of complication or adverse effects on pre-existing conditions. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to medically underwrite such a policy and insurers have taken the simplest and clearest option available to them which is to exclude any medical costs related to such pre-arranged treatment or non-emergency treatment.

Many misguided people say that if you are travelling overseas for treatment, then just forget to tell the travel insurer or agent and everything will be fine. Failure to disclose the true reason for the trip can invalidate the policy for the person seeking treatment and anyone accompanying them, i.e. make the policy worthless. Failure to disclose the real reason, when claiming such as for loss of baggage, is fraud. Insurers now take a tough line on fraud, prosecuting offenders in criminal courts.

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