Travelling with medical conditions

5 minutes

All of our content is approved by our in-house advisory board of experts

If you live with an existing medical condition like cancer, diabetes or a heart condition, getting the right type of travel insurance can be tough. Here's how to find the best travel insurance for your condition.

  • Before you travel for a holiday, it’s essential you organise travel insurance
  • If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you must disclose this when booking insurance
  • The premium you pay will depend on the severity of your condition, with specialist providers available for serious illnesses

Living with an existing medical condition can make day-to-day life difficult but it shouldn’t mean that you can’t explore the world. Whether you’re staying in the UK or going further abroad, we believe you should take every opportunity to make new memories.

Once you’ve booked your break, it’s vital you arrange travel insurance before leaving. You may even want to get quotes before you book to make sure it’s affordable. Having cover protects you against unexpected costs you might incur, should you need medical assistance while you’re away or something more mundane like you lose your luggage, or your flight gets cancelled.

When you buy travel insurance, it’s essential that you declare any pre-existing conditions. Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed, are recovering from treatment, living with a long-term medical condition or no longer have a condition, you need to inform your insurance provider.

Unfortunately, several standard travel insurance policies won’t cover pre-existing medical conditions. This can make it difficult to get the type of travel insurance that’s right for you. Thankfully, there are options available to ensure you’re fully covered and allow you to truly relax on your break.

This guide will look at the reasons why you need travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions, where you can find cover, and guidelines on healthcare while travelling in Europe and further afield.

Why do I need travel insurance?

If you’re holidaying overseas, travel insurance is essential. It can provide peace of mind, knowing that you’re covered in case something goes wrong. It can help you in several scenarios, including:

  • Medical assistance – if you require treatment or emergency care while in a foreign country
  • Flight or holiday cancellations – if your holiday is cancelled due to airline disruption, bad weather or other causes outside of your control
  • Lost baggage – if your baggage is delayed or gets lost in transit

By far, the most common claim that travel insurance companies find is for medical expenses, accounting for around £201 million per year for UK insurers. This is because few countries provide the levels of free healthcare that people are offered by the NHS.

If you’re travelling abroad with a serious medical condition, like cancer, diabetes or heart disease, a comprehensive travel insurance policy will offer a backstop, in case you fall ill and need emergency treatment.

Not only does insurance help cover medical bills, it can cover the cost of travelling back to the UK for further treatment. This can even extend to flying by air ambulance if necessary.

How does travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions work?

When you apply for travel insurance, you’ll complete an online form that details how long your trip is, where you’re travelling to, the type of cover you require and your personal details – which is where you’ll declare any pre-existing medical conditions you have.

The insurance company will then assess your application, taking into account your condition, and works out the risk of insuring you. They’ll then calculate the cost of your insurance accordingly.

If you have a terminal diagnosis, or you’re particularly unwell, it might not be possible to provide cover for your medical condition or limitations may be put in place.
However, if you have a less serious condition, one that is perhaps managed with drugs, or is in remission, you are more likely to receive medical travel insurance cover.

Do all travel insurance companies provide cover?

Though there are more options available for travellers with pre-existing conditions, not all insurance providers offer cover that guarantees correct medical care. When you take out travel insurance, you’re paying an amount to the company, in exchange for guaranteeing any emergency medical treatment you might need while you’re away.

If this treatment is particularly costly, it may exceed the premium you originally paid to the insurer, costing them more money. Insurers will look at those who have pre-existing medical conditions and see a higher risk – as you may be more likely to make a medical claim.

To offset additional costs, some insurance companies will either:

  • Exclude pre-existing medical conditions – you would receive medical travel insurance, but the insurer won’t pay out for claims directly or indirectly related to your existing illness
  • Charge extra for medical cover – your condition is covered, but you pay a higher premium for cover than someone without a pre-existing condition

Travel insurance for different medical problems 

Several common medical conditions are widely insured by specialist firms, who offer bespoke packages. Here are a few frequent examples and some guidelines on getting a quote:

Travel insurance with cancer

If you are suffering from cancer, you will be classified as high risk for travel – even if you are in remission. Travel insurance firms are generally reluctant to cover due to the potential for expensive treatment while away, however specialist companies can help. When travelling, take all important medical documents and medications you need with you – as well as your GP’s contact details.


Travel insurance with heart condition

If you have an existing heart condition, you may need to contact a cover provider that specialises in insuring people with these issues. Disclose all previous health conditions you have had, as well as your heart condition, as this will create an accurate quote for you. Take care to plan your trip in advance before you travel and pack all necessary apparatus and medication that help your condition to ensure you’re covered. 


Travel insurance with diabetes

If you are living with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, then purchasing standard travel insurance may not cover medical bills, or any losses of medication that you use to control your condition. Again, specialist companies are available to help cover you. 

During your travels, ensure you’ve got a healthy supply of your medication and be prepared to take information about your condition away with you in case you need to speak with medical practitioners during your trip.

Can I use the EHIC with my illness?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does cover treatment for pre-existing medical conditions, providing essential medical treatment prior to you returning home. The simplest way to apply for an EHIC is online. You can do this through the UK government website or the NHS website. Or you can call the EHIC application service on 0300 330 1350.

Medical care is given at a reduced rate in some countries, on a co-payment basis, where you would pay a percentage of the cost towards the treatment you receive. Luckily, these costs can usually be reclaimed through your travel insurance. In most cases, however, treatment is given free of charge.

Please remember that European Health Insurance Cards are not a substitute for insurance. You will need both to get the level of cover you may need for your medical condition.

It’s also worth bearing Brexit in mind. Should the UK leave the EU without a deal, your European Health Insurance Card will be invalid. The UK government has advised that you should purchase travel insurance that covers healthcare as it would if you were travelling to a non-EU nation .

Several mainstream companies can provide travel insurance  for pre-existing medical conditions and will offer tailored packages to suit your unique needs. When you apply for this insurance, try to give as much information about your condition as possible, as it will help them give you an accurate quote.


This article contains links to other sites, and we're not responsible for the contents of any of these websites.