Ask Sindie: A traveller with a heart problem - the insurance odyssey

Can those with a medical condition be sure they can claim for treatment?


Q: I have a heart condition called atrial fibrillation (AF). This is not serious but has not been brought under control. While it does mean I have an increased risk of stroke, this risk is mitigated by medication.

When I last bought travel insurance, I told the sales assistant about the condition and she took down the details. But when I asked her how this would affect the claim, she wasn't able to tell me.

I have plans to travel to Greece next year, but I'm now wondering whether, if I'm taken ill while I'm there, I should refuse private treatment on the grounds that my insurance may not cover me.

I'm confused as to when an illness might be traced back to a pre-existing condition, and I hate the idea that I could be wheeled down a hospital corridor, not being able to answer whether I'm properly insured.

CB, by email

A: Pre-existing medical conditions, ranging from diabetes or asthma to a heart attack or cancer, cause frequent problems with travel insurers. Some automatically refuse cover if you have one of these conditions, while those that do offer cover often levy a higher premium or an increased excess charge on a claim.

That said, you must tell insurers about any medical problem before you travel. Those prepared to give you cover will usually ask questions about your condition. This will allow them to establish the risk being undertaken - and to tailor the premium accordingly.

"We, like many other providers, will ask you to disclose any existing medical conditions," says Hugh Stacey, head of travel services at the Post Office. "This is very important to avoid exactly the situation you describe - where you are unsure if you are covered for treatment."

He says that as AF is a recognised heart condition, you would need to go through a medical screening with the Post Office. "This allows the provider to judge the severity of your condition and advise the best type of policy for you." He adds that depending on the outcome, some customers may have to pay an extra premium. "We will provide written confirmation of the cover supplied."

Insurer Churchill assesses people on a case-by- case basis. "When a customer declares they suffer from AF, we carry out a medical screening," says spokeswoman Emilie Lien. "Whether we can cover it depends on factors such as other cardio-vascular conditions and whether the customer is a smoker."

If these are not an issue, Churchill will provide full cover for all emergency treatment overseas, for no additional premium.

Vicky Emmott at Halifax Travel Insurance says people with pre-existing conditions are assessed via a tailored medical screening - the result of which is used to determine the level of cover offered. This, she adds, will fall into one of three categories.

The insurer will either take on the risk in full - including claims relating to that condition; accept the risk but exclude cancellation cover if the customer falls ill and can't travel; or accept the risk but exclude claims relating to the declared condition.

Another problem area is buying over the internet. "If you apply for travel insurance online, and say 'yes' when you are asked if you have any pre-existing conditions, then often you won't be given a quote," says Stuart Glendinning at the price-comparison website insuresupermarket.com.

If you are met with refusals, you could enlist a broker, who will scour the whole market for you. Or you could turn to one of a number of firms that specialise in cover for those with pre-existing medical conditions, like Free Spirit ( www.free-spirit.com) or AllClear ( www.allcleartravel.co.uk).

If you need help from our consumer champion, write to Sindie at The Independent on Sunday, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or email sindie@independent.co.uk. We cannot return documents, give personal replies or guarantee to answer letters. We accept no legal responsibility for advice given.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

    Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

    The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

    £43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there