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Travel insurance for dialysis

Can I get travel insurance if I am undergoing dialysis treatment?

If you’re receiving dialysis treatment (artificial filtering of the blood) for kidney disease, you can still apply for travel insurance, but it’s unlikely you’ll be covered for medical treatment related to your condition.

Unfortunately, most insurers explicitly state in the product disclosure statement (PDS) that they “will not cover you for any claims arising from or attributable to chronic renal failure which is treated by "haemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis”.

Am I still able to apply for travel insurance?

Yes. While you may not be covered for medical events arising from your condition, you can be insured for other losses, such as lost/stolen luggage or trip cancellation.

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You may be able to receive cover if you are travelling to a country that is part of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement.

The Reciprocal Health Care Agreement covers the cost of essential medical treatment for Australian residents overseas. Under the agreement, you may be eligible for subsidised health care in participating countries, including:

  • New Zealand
  • The United Kingdom
  • The Republic of Ireland
  • The Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Finland
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Slovenia
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What exactly is Dialysis?

Dialysis is needed when you develop end-stage kidney failure. Dialysis takes over the functions of the kidney by removing waste, salt and excess water from the body, which maintains a safe level of chemicals in your blood and helps your body control blood pressure.

There are two types of dialysis: haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. In haemodialysis, an artificial kidney is used to remove waste, extra chemicals and fluids from your blood. Each haemodialysis treatment takes around four hours and is performed three times a week.

In peritoneal dialysis, your blood is cleaned inside your body by filling the abdomen with dialysate via a catheter. Extra fluids and waste products are drawn out of your blood into the dialysate, which is then discarded (known as an exchange). Peritoneal dialysis can either be done manually or via a machine called a cycler, which can perform a number of exchanges throughout the night while you sleep.

Kidney disease is viewed as a pre-existing medical condition by insurers, regardless of which type of dialysis you are on. Cover is only provided by some insurers and under strict conditions.

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Finder survey: What features are most important to Australians when taking out travel insurance?

Medical cover86.04%
Cancellation cover65.91%
Luggage cover48.05%
COVID-19 cover18.83%
Rental car excess cover16.56%
Pre-existing conditions cover15.58%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1112 Australians, December 2023

Do I need to declare my condition?

Yes. Most insurers clearly state in the PDS that:

“No cover is provided for medical expenses, cancellation costs or additional expenses if you have Chronic Renal Failure treated by haemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis.”

Even if you don’t find this exclusion in your PDS, you still need to declare your kidney disease to your insurer. If you don’t, your insurer may reject all claims that you make, even if they’re unrelated to your kidney disease.

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If my condition is excluded from cover, what won’t my travel insurance cover me for?

If your insurer is not willing to cover your condition, you will not be covered for any medical expenses whatsoever, regardless of whether or not it is related to the excluded condition. This may include:

  • Overseas emergency medical assistance
  • Overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses
  • Emergency companion cover
  • Daily hospital cash allowance benefit
  • Cancellation fees and lost deposits
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Dialysis is usually temporary measure in cases of chronic renal failure. The ultimate goal is a kidney transplant. However, waiting lists for kidney donors are long, and people often wait years for one to become available. When a donor becomes available, the operation for the transplant becomes a high priority.

It is for this reason many insurers will not cover you for chronic renal failure, as the chances of cancelling your holiday last minute after getting the call from the hospital are considered to be high. Insurers will also not cover you if you have had a kidney transplant, unless the operation was at least six months ago and no complications have ensued since.

Tell your insurer of your situation if you’re on a waiting list or you’ve recently had a kidney transplant. Whether you are granted cover or not will depend on your general health at the time of the application, and where you are on the waiting list or how recently you’ve had a kidney transplant.

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Why is travel insurance still worth getting if you’re not covered for medical expenses?

Even if you’re not eligible to receive travel medical cover due to your pre-existing condition, travel insurance can still cover you for other losses, including:

  • Additional travel expenses if your travelling companion or relative dies unexpectedly or is injured
  • Travel home and the option to resume your journey if a relative unexpectedly passes away or is hospitalised
  • Permanent disability
  • Lost, stolen or damaged luggage and other personal effects
  • Credit card fraud and replacement
  • Lost or stolen documents and traveller’s cheques
  • Expenses incurred if your transport carrier is delayed

Looking for travel insurance without medical cover? Compare Non-Medical options and save

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Tips for travelling with dialysis

While travelling overseas is now possible for dialysis patients, it pays to keep a few things in mind:

  • If you’re on a transplant waiting list, make sure your health-care team can reach you if a donor becomes available.
  • Blood tests are usually required if you undergo dialysis overseas, and getting those results may take some time.
  • If you are travelling to a country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia, you should still purchase travel insurance. While dialysis might be free, getting into a clinic can be difficult due to demand.
  • Keep an up-to-date treatment letter from your doctor with you at all times in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure any medication you may need are legal and readily available in the country you are visiting.
  • Never put your medication in your checked-in luggage. If your bags go missing, it will take time to replace your prescriptions.
  • Make sure you have a universal power connecter for your cycler.
  • Be careful about what you eat overseas. Drink only bottled water and avoid food from street vendors.
  • Register with the Australian government’s Smartraveller website to receive up-to-date travel advice and consular assistance in an emergency.

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