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Travel insurance for seniors with pre-existing medical conditions

Over 65 and have an existing condition? Here's what you need to know about getting travel insurance.

Travel insurance brands tend to charge more the older you get, and the same is true if you have a pre-existing condition. This means you might have to shop around a bit more for the right cover, and possibly jump through a few extra hoops when you find it. Getting cover will depend on your age, the type of travel insurance, and the nature and severity of your pre-existing medical condition.

Most insurers provide automatic cover for a range of minor conditions and some also provide cover for more serious conditions, as long as they're stable and you pass a medical assessment. However there are a range of medical conditions that no insurer will cover, so you’ll need to review the terms and conditions carefully to see which category your condition falls under.

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What is a pre-existing medical condition?

A pre-existing medical condition is normally defined for insurance purposes as:

  • A medical condition or symptom of a condition that you are aware of at the time of applying for insurance
  • A medical condition that you are having or have had treatment for in the past (often in the 90 days prior to applying for insurance)
  • A medical condition that is being treated with prescribed medication
  • A medical condition that you have previously had surgery for (often in the 12 months prior to applying for insurance)

Some insurers refine their definitions even further to include any medical or dental condition, illness, injury, defect or disease other than common colds or flu. Pregnancy is also considered to be a pre-existing medical condition.

A condition can still be classified as pre-existing even if you haven’t had it diagnosed by a doctor. As long as you are aware of it or are experiencing symptoms of an ailment that a doctor would have detected if you had seen one, you are considered to have a pre-existing medical condition.

At what age will I need to complete a medical questionnaire?

Brand Conditions Apply
1-cover-new1 If you are over 80 years of age, you must complete the pre-existing medical declaration form. Get quote
AIG If you are aged 85 years and over and wish to apply for consideration of cover you need to obtain a mature age assessment application from AIG.
AMEX Travel Insurance No mention of a specific age. Get quote
Budget Direct Travel Insurance No mention of a specific age. Get quote
Citibank Travel Insurance If you are over the age of 75, you will not be covered for any pre-existing medical conditions, including the medical conditions listed in the product disclosure statement (PDS).
Columbus Direct Travellers of all ages need to declare pre-existing conditions and to answer some basic questions about each condition. This can be done either online or over the phone. Get quote
CoverMore No mention of a specific age. Get quote
Fast Cover No mention of a specific age. Get quote
InsureandGo No mention of a specific age. Get quote
iTrek No mention of a specific age. Get quote
MultiTrip Travel Insurance No mention of a specific age.
Simply Travel Insurance Logo Travellers aged 80 years and above need to complete a pre-existing medical declaration form. Get quote
Skiinsurance.com.au No mention of a specific age. Get quote
STA Travel Insurance No mention of a specific age. Get quote
Tick Travel Insurance No mention of a specific age. Get quote
tid-logo-blue No mention of a specific age. Get quote
travel insurance saver logo If you're a resident of Australia over 70 years of age and you wish to purchase an international travel plan you must complete travellers medical appraisal form and submit it for appraisal before your policy will be issued. Get quote
Travel Insuranz No mention of a specific age. Get quote
Virgin Money No mention of a specific age. Get quote
worldcare travel insurance logo No mention of a specific age. Get quote
youGo No mention of a specific age. Get quote
Easy Travel Insurance If you're a resident of Australia over 70 years of age and you wish to purchase an international travel plan, you must complete a travellers medical appraisal form and submit it for review before your policy will be issued. Get quote

What will happen if I don’t disclose my condition?

Given that a pre-existing condition will probably cost you more as a senior and may even prevent you from getting travel insurance, you might be tempted to say nothing about it to your insurer and hope for the best. This is not a wise course of action. If you suffer an illness or injury on your trip that is in any way related to your undisclosed pre-existing condition, you will not be covered by your travel insurance.

If you are hospitalised for any length of time in a country like Japan or the USA, you could be faced with a horrendous medical bill that you will have to pay out of your own pocket. It’s far better to come clean with your insurer at the time of application and pay a little more (if necessary) for your condition to be covered.

What types of existing medical conditions are usually covered?

Most insurers provide automatic cover for a range of minor ailments. If your condition is listed among these, you do not need to declare it as it will be automatically covered free of charge.

Pre-existing medical conditions that are normally covered without the need for assessment include asthma, allergies, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, cataracts, diabetes, hernias, glaucoma, gastric reflux, goitre and macular degeneration.

However, some of these ailments also have age-related conditions attached to them, such as diabetes, where automatic cover is only provided if you are under 50 years of age, and asthma, where you must be under 60 to receive free cover. Some insurers also impose an age limit for travel insurance. Make sure you read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully to make sure you're covered.

What conditions need to be assessed by the insurer?

As well as conditions that insurers cover automatically, there are a range of ailments that may be covered, subject to further assessment, usually in the form of a medical questionnaire, doctor’s report or a full medical examination.

Typical conditions that may require further assessment include heart problems, stroke, epilepsy, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), lung disease, some types of diabetes, dementia, metastatic or secondary cancers, pancreatitis and any conditions you have had surgery for in the past two years.

Your insurer will decide whether to provide cover and to what extent based on several factors including the severity of your condition, how recent it is and the extent to which it is being controlled by medication or other means.

What conditions are excluded?

Unfortunately, there are some pre-existing medical conditions that no insurer will cover, regardless of whether you declare them and submit to medical assessment or not. These include terminal conditions, conditions awaiting surgery, conditions requiring oxygen therapy, chronic renal failure, AIDS, organ transplants, cardiovascular disease, some types of cancers, congestive heart failure, recurring pain and mental illness.

While you can’t obtain cover for these conditions, it does not mean that you can’t get travel insurance. It just means you will not be covered for anything related to these conditions in the event of a claim.

What will I be covered for if my condition is excluded?

If you take out normal travel insurance where your pre-existing medical condition is excluded, you will still have cover in all the main areas, including:

  • Overseas emergency medical assistance
  • Overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses
  • Additional accommodation and travel expenses
  • Cancellation fees and lost deposits
  • Disruption of journey
  • Loss or theft of luggage and personal effects

You’ll still be covered for medical and hospital and all the other benefits of travel insurance, as long as any claims you make do not relate to or result from your excluded medical condition.

How does travel insurance medical screening work?

When you declare a pre-existing condition, medical screening by the insurer can take several forms, depending on the nature of your condition. If it’s a relatively minor ailment, but not covered automatically, you may only need to answer a few simple questions online or over the phone.

If your condition is more serious, your insurer may require you to obtain a doctor’s report, undergo a medical examination or fill out a detailed medical assessment form. Critical information required in such a document can include:

  • Personal details such as height, weight, age and smoking status
  • General health questions such as how mobile you are and the amount of exercise you do
  • Medical information such as pre-existing conditions (including date of diagnosis and medications prescribed) and details of recent health treatment or hospitalisation, if any

Your insurer may also require you to have your doctor sign your assessment form before you submit it and to declare in writing whether you are considered to be fit to travel.

Tips for travelling if you have a medical condition

Whether you manage to obtain cover or not, if you’re a senior with a medical condition and you’re planning to travel, the following tips can help smooth your journey:

  • Before you go, obtain a letter from your doctor outlining your condition and treatment and who to contact in an emergency. It should also list your medications and declare that they are for your personal use only.
  • Don’t pack your medications in your check-in luggage in case it is misplaced. Keep your medications with you in your carry-on bag and in the original packaging. It's a good idea to keep the doctor's prescription handy too.
  • If you’re travelling to a destination where disease is an issue, consult your doctor about suitable vaccinations that won’t compromise your medical condition.
  • Wear compression socks on long-haul flights, exercise regularly and drink plenty of fluids to reduce the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
  • Consider travelling during off-peak times or on shorter flights to avoid queues and overcrowding, which could exacerbate your condition.
  • Be careful about what you eat and drink if you're travelling to a developing country. Only drink bottled water and avoid street food.
  • Register with the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website so you can receive consular assistance in an emergency.

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Richard Laycock

Richard is the Insurance Editor at finder, and has been wrangling insurance Product Disclosure Statements for the last 4 years. When he’s not helping Aussies make sense of the fine print, he can be found testing the quality of Aperol Spritzes in his new found home of New York. Richard studied Journalism at Macquarie University and The Missouri School of Journalism, and has a Tier 1 certification in General Advice for Life Insurance. He has also been published in CSO Australia and Dynamic Business.

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