Ask Sindie: A traveller with a heart problem - the insurance odyssey
Can those with a medical condition be sure they can claim for treatment?
Sunday 23 October 2005
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot return documents, give personal replies or guarantee to answer letters. We accept no legal responsibility for advice given.
How couples can protect their financial interests when cohabiting
Money alert: Overdrafts at HSBC and First Direct
'Dismal' eurozone data sparks concerns
How to protect your assets if the stock markets begin to head south again
Child Maintenance Service to replace Child Support Agency - but is it better?
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 A third of employers never check job applicants' qualifications, survey finds
- 4 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
- 5 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
iJobs Money & Business
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...
£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...
£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony