Pre-existing medical conditions and travel insurance: do you know what you’re covered for?

Despite the fact that as more Aussies of all ages head overseas and more are also paying closer attention to their travel insurance, over a third of Aussie travellers with a pre-existing medical condition are still unsure just what they’re covered for, according to data from new travel insurer, TravelCard.

According to TravelCard Medical Underwriter and In-House Nurse, Joyce Kambo, cardiac conditions, cancers and respiratory conditions such as asthma are the most common pre-existing conditions for its policyholders.

“Cardiac conditions in combination with high blood pressure and cholesterol are among some of the most common medical conditions, but surprisingly, we have noticed an uptake of customers who are travelling with medical conditions like autoimmune diseases, terminal and metastatic cancers,” Kambo said.

“Everyone’s situation is different and understanding your cover can be tricky, which is why we encourage our customers, current and future, to give us a call so we can understand your medical circumstances in detail and explain what they are covered for.”

RELATED: Mozo guide: Travelling with pre-existing medical conditions

Mozo’s database shows that while asthma is covered in 91.7% of policies, cardiovascular disease and cancer are among some of the conditions that are most frequently not covered under most travel insurance policies.

Out of 277 travel insurance policies in the Mozo database, only 17 policies automatically cover cancer, and not a single policy automatically covers cardiovascular disease, although it is an optional extra on 50 policies.

However, as Mozo Director Kirsty Lamont pointed out, “When we say there’s optional cover, it’s important to keep in mind that this usually comes with an extra premium, a medical check or both and it’s not guaranteed - the insurer has to agree to cover you.”

Usually covered as a pre-existing condition
  • Asthma (covered by 91.7% of policies, optional cover under 6.5%)
  • High cholesterol (covered by 86.6% of policies, optional cover under 6.5%)
  • High blood pressure (covered by 86.6% of policies, optional cover under 6.5%)
  • Diabetes (covered by 84.8% of policies, optional cover under 6.5%)
  • Epilepsy (covered by 70% of policies, optional cover under 6.5%)

Usually not covered as a pre-existing condition

  • Blood thinning medication (covered by 4% of policies, optional cover under 8.7%)
  • Cancer (covered by 6.1% of policies, optional cover under 11.6%)
  • Cardiovascular disease (covered by no policies, optional cover under 18.1%)

TravelCard doesn't automatically exclude any pre-existing conditions, as long as travellers have a Fit to Fly certificate from their doctor. However, for some conditions, a specialist report or over the phone medical assessment may be necessary and some restrictions do apply, such as a limit on medical claims and a maximum period of insurance.

RELATED: Top 2019 travel destinations: How much travel insurance do you need?

With Australia’s aging population, knowing the rules regarding travel insurance cover for pre-existing medical conditions and being able to find appropriate cover for your situation is an increasingly important consideration for Aussie jetsetters.

In fact, baby boomers make up over a quarter of Australia’s population, and they’re travelling more than ever before, many of them on cruises. A TravelCard survey revealed that cruise cover is a popular travel insurance add-on for 41% of baby boomers. But for a demographic that could easily be travelling with a pre-existing condition, comprehensive travel insurance is a must.

“When it comes to cruising, medicare doesn’t cover any on-board medical assistance, so you need a robust travel insurance policy that not only covers emergency medical treatment, but will cover the costs of getting you back to Australia for medical care if need be,” Lamont said.

“If that means paying a little extra to cover your pre-existing condition, or even shopping around for a different insurer with better coverage options, it’s well worth your time and effort.”

Find a travel insurance policy to suit your needs with our travel insurance comparison search tool. Just plug in your trip details and hit “get quotes”, then narrow your results by selecting the pre-existing conditions you need cover for.