Medical claims are one of the biggest expenses for insurance companies. Costs for medical emergencies can reach astronomical proportions in some parts of the world, which is why many companies will provide cover up to £10 million for anything from hospital treatment to emergency repatriation.

However, if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, then the rules for acquiring insurance are altered. In terms of statistics, any medical history could mean that you provide a greater risk for the insurance company, and they will need to do some detailed checks to find out if they can indeed provide cover for your trip.

Who is it for?

Pre-existing medical insurance cover is aimed specifically at anyone who has experience of a medical condition. This could be anything from a serious condition such as cancer, to a less serious condition that occurred many years ago. The condition could be something from your past, or it could be an unresolved issue at the time of acquiring a quote.

If you are unsure of whether you fall into this category, then it is always best to check. Even a minor condition may need to be declared, and it does not always mean that you will have to pay a higher premium. If the condition has been fully controlled with medication and has remained controlled without the need for further treatment throughout the time period it may not require extra cover. Be sure to check with your provider.

Each provider has a deadline for insurance purchase if you wish to have a pre-existing condition covered. You will have to insure all your prepaid trip arrangements, be covered for the entire length of your trip and buy the insurance before the provider's deadline. You must also be medically able to travel if you wish to be covered.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages of this type of cover are that people who have a pre-existing condition are still able to acquire insurance when travelling abroad, which will not be permitted by many companies through their standard policies. It provides the reassurance that if anything happens to you abroad, then you do not need to worry that you are not covered.

One disadvantage is the possible increase in the premium, although this is by no means certain. If the condition is not deemed serious enough to increase the risk level, then the premium is likely to remain the same.

The other disadvantage is the amount of questions that will be asked about the condition, which some may feel are a bit too personal. The policy is very specific to each person and the conditions that they have, and as such it is a frustrating but necessary process.

Customisation

Generally, the only things which will be altered on this type of policy are the premium and the medical cover, which will be changed according to the amount of risk that the traveller presents. However, other factors that are included on the standard policy, such as whether you wish to cover personal baggage or cancellation, should still be available and will increase or reduce the premium accordingly.

Which conditions should be disclosed?

The short answer is all of them. Insurance providers will usually ask you a general question regarding your medical history, or ask you to confirm that you do not have any pre-existing conditions. No matter how insignificant it may seem to you, if you say that you do have a condition, then you will either be politely denied any cover on the spot, or you will be redirected to the specialist section, which will usually involve phoning the company, to find out further details.

Not all conditions will prevent you from taking out insurance. There are many minor conditions that will not affect the premium, but which nevertheless have to be disclosed, so if you think that you may fit into that category then you may not have anything to be concerned about.

If you have had any tests recently and have not yet received the all clear, then this should also be disclosed. However, it goes without saying that you should never put off a trip to the doctor in order to acquire travel insurance.

Pregnancy

Millions of women travel globally each year and many of them are pregnant. Travel during this time can carry its own risks, and therefore travel insurance providers will specify a period of time in which they will not provide cover prior to and directly after giving birth.

Each travel insurance policy will have a clause for the cost of childbirth, stating that cover will not be available if your due date is within a certain number of weeks before the end of the trip. Be sure to check this clause carefully if you travel while pregnant.

It is important to check with your physician before making any travel plans during pregnancy, especially those which include air travel.

Medical Screening

This is the process used to determine the risk factor of providing cover for a traveller with pre-existing medical insurance. It varies from company to company, but in general you will be asked about a range of conditions, including physical or mental disorders such as anxiety, stress and depression, and any other conditions which are currently unresolved.

You will then be asked questions relevant to your particular condition to gauge the risk that it presents to the provider. These will vary depending on the condition, but will generally focus on trying to find how well managed the condition is, how much medication is required, whether it has required recent hospital treatment and whether any further treatment is required.

Risk factor

Depending on what level of risk you present, you will either be able to get the insurance unchanged from the standard policy, or you may have to pay an extra premium which could come with an increased level of cover.

If your risk factor is deemed too high, then you may be refused insurance altogether. However, a more likely outcome is that you will only be able to take out single-trip cover for a one-off holiday, rather than multi-trip cover for the whole year.

Another possible outcome if your risk factor is too high is that you will be offered insurance, but without any medical cover for treatment directly related to your condition.

The area of travel also plays a factor in the risk rating. If you intend to travel to the US, Canada, the Caribbean Islands, Spain or Cyprus, then this may well affect whether you will be able to acquire insurance, as these places have the most expensive medical care in the world.

Worth the effort

If you have a pre-existing condition it is vital you inform your insurance provider of this before you travel. Getting this policy will certainly require a bit more effort on your part, and on occasion will incur extra costs, but only on rare occasions will you be unable to receive any cover at all.

The most important thing is to make sure that you are fully covered when you travel, as this will provide you with a peace of mind that will be worth it if it helps you to enjoy your holiday more.