Anyone who has suffered from a serious or chronic illness knows how expensive it can be to get travel insurance. Most insurers demand that you reveal any type of medical condition, however minor, and every year there are horror stories about people being refused a payout after a traffic accident because they’d been to see a doctor about hayfever. Many travellers who have medical conditions end up being charged huge sums for travel insurance, or have to take the risk that their medical condition is excluded and just hope that nothing goes wrong while they are overseas.
Never take the first price you are quoted for insurance, especially when you are trying to get cover for a complex or chronic medical condition. It’s usually best to approach a specialist broker who has extensive experience in dealing with people in similar situations as they will be able to speak to specialist underwriters. Alternatively, approach any charities or action groups who campaign on the medical condition concerned, as they will have come across this problem many times before and will be able to give impartial advice.
EHIC and European cover
Many travellers automatically assume that EHIC – the European Health Insurance Card – works in the same way as an insurance policy and will therefore not cover their asthma, heart disease, previous cancer diagnosis or long history of allergic reactions. This is not the case, and anyone with medical conditions should apply online for their EHIC card before leaving the UK. EHIC is unlike travel insurance in that it covers all medical conditions, whether pre-exisiting or not. As long as card holders go to the state funded health centre or hospital rather than a private one, they will be treated under EHIC rules. Treatment is not always free, but will be much less than having to foot the entire bill at a private hospital. Travellers who suffer from medical conditions are recommended to do their homework before leaving the UK to see what they are covered for in the country they are planning to visit, and to find the nearest health centre or hospital is to their accommodation. Remember to take plenty of medication with you, and copies of your prescriptions in case you need to see a GP and get more. Lots of European doctors will speak English, but getting words connected with your illness or condition translated into the local language could make things a lot easier in an emergency.
Travelling with an illness
Patients who need regular attention from a doctor or have to go to hospital for kidney dialysis or oxygen treatment can also arrange their treatment in advance if they are planning to go overseas. Anyone with ongoing medical problems should always speak to their doctor or hospital consultant about their individual circumstances before deciding to leave the country. There is lots of information on the NHS website about the different health provision overseas; you will normally have to make arrangements before leaving home. Your NHS consultant will be able to assist with this.