Over-70s forced to take the high road for travel cover

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Older holidaymakers who want to buy travel insurance are being refused cover or being charged hugely hiked premiums, a report from Holiday Which?, to be published today, will warn. It will say travel insurance for the over-70s has become so costly and hard to find that many older travellers are being forced to go abroad without sufficient cover.

"For travellers over 70, the price of travel insurance increases significantly and it becomes harder to find a company that will provide cover," said Lorna Cowan, editor of Holiday Which?. "With upper age limits and premiums for medical conditions, many older holidaymakers are relying on basic cover, such as the European Health Insurance Card, instead of travel insurance."

Research by Help the Aged reveals that nearly a third of travel insurers will not sell single-trip cover to people aged 65 or over, while half will not cover the over-75s. On annual policies, which represent better value for people travelling more than once or twice a year, two-thirds of insurers won't cover the over-75s.

Those insurers that do offer policies to older people charge much higher premiums than younger travellers would pay. Holiday Which? quotes the example of a 76-year-old woman offered a premium of £353 by Virgin Money for travel insurance for a week in the US.

The report also warns that insurers supposedly devoted to selling older people cover are not necessarily better value. Rias, a specialist insurer for older people, quoted a premium of £656 for annual cover for the same woman, compared to the £354 charged by Age Concern.

The magazine warns older travellers that they face a long search for travel insurance and that they have to be careful to declare pre-existing medical conditions, which most insurers are unlikely to cover.

Graeme Trudgill, of the British Insurance Brokers' Association, said: "The statistics show that older people are more likely to claim on travel insurance, particularly for medical reasons, where the costs to insurers can be drastic."

Trudgill advised older travellers to opt for specialist deals with brokers over travel agents and mainstream insurers. "The well-known insurers do not want to do this business - they don't understand it."

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