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

    Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links