For those people with health challenges and conditions, a relaxing get-away can be just what the doctor ordered. However, an unexpected change in your condition while you’re on holiday can result in some very expensive bills, especially if you have to be medically evacuated and/or returned to your home country under medical care. Regardless of whether you have a pre-existing medical condition, it’s never advisable to take a trip without travel insurance. As many private and government health plans provide very limited or no coverage when you are out of your country, it pays to research insurance options before leaving.
Travel insurance normally only provides coverage for treatment of unanticipated illnesses and injuries that happen while you are on your trip. Nevertheless, if you have a pre-existing medical condition and want or need to travel, you may still be eligible for travel medical insurance. Contract language varies from company to company, but generally a pre-existing condition is defined as a medical condition (an illness, injury, or disease) that has been diagnosed and treated before your intended date of medical travel insurance coverage. This applies to both physical and mental illnesses.
If your condition is stable, you will probably be eligible for coverage through some, but not all, insurance companies, although your premiums will be higher than if you did not have the condition. The length of time your health needs to have been stable may vary depending on your age and illness. Many policies require a longer period of stability for older travelers, or those with diabetes, heart or lung conditions, while some will not provide any coverage for people with these conditions.
Generally speaking, your medical condition can be described as “stable” if you have not experienced new symptoms or an increase in frequency or severity of your existing symptoms; your medication or treatment plan has not changed; you have not been referred to a hospital or specialist, and your physician has not ordered any additional tests that you have not yet received the results of.
Insurance providers have policies that cover different types of medical conditions. You will be provided with a medical questionnaire to lead you through a screening process to help determine the best type of insurance policy for you. There are some plans that do not require answering a medical questionnaire if you are under the age of 74, and are only planning a short trip of 15 days or less. Your premium will vary depending upon your health, your age, how long you are travelling for, your deductible, your maximum claim limits, your type of policy, how comprehensive your plan is, and any optional add-ons.
While it might be tempting to not disclose your condition(s) and hope for the best, you must fully divulge any health issues to insurers in order to get proper coverage, and to not have a potential claim reduced or rejected for lack of disclosure. You should also be aware that any health condition that arises between when you buy your policy and when you take your trip will not be covered. If your health changes before you travel, notify your insurance company.
Planning a trip with a medical condition, or for someone with a medical condition, requires a little extra forethought. Long, ambitious journeys may be too tiring without proper rest stops. The elderly and those with health concerns may be more sensitive to high altitudes, which can make the heart work harder, and to extremes in temperature.
Long hours of inactivity in the dry, low oxygen atmosphere of a plane may predispose older people, pregnant women, people who’ve had recent surgery, or people with congestive heart failure or varicose veins to form blood clots. Plan ahead and wear compression stockings, avoid drinking alcohol, and reserve an aisle seat so you can get up and move around more easily.
Luggage should be light, and on wheels. Any needed medication and medical supplies should be packed in your carry-on. Never put all your medical supplies in one checked bag, in case it goes missing. You may want to ask your doctor for extra written prescriptions to take with you, in case you lose your medication.
If you’re an insulin-dependent diabetic, special arrangements must be made to travel with syringes and lancets. Remember that the typical insulin dosage is designed to work for about 24 hours, so if you change time zones when flying across the country or overseas, you might need to adjust your injection schedule.
In some cases, it may be wise to ensure you’re staying not far from a trusted medical facility. Remember that some of the larger cruise ships have very sophisticated infirmaries. Just make sure that your travel insurance includes medical care at sea. With or without a health concern, adequate travel insurance will help you relax and enjoy every minute of your well-deserved vacation.
Further Information: Make sure also to read about health care and cruise holidays, if you are elderly and love to travel by sea.
Written by Paul Symonds