Inaccurate Travel Medical Applications Can Devastate You

Filling out a medical questionnaire when applying for travel insurance is serious business. You can damage yourself severely if you lie or otherwise “hide” the truth of your medical condition. Almost all travel insurers who cover supplemental out-of-country health insurance provide plans for people in less-than-perfect health—even some with long and complicated medical histories. They do this because they want the business and because they realize that most people, once they get to a certain age, take some medications, undergo regular testing, have chronic conditions, yet refuse to give up their right to travel. But applying for medically underwritten insurance (coverage that is based on your state of health and the stability of your medical conditions) requires the insurer to know all about your health. And it’s your responsibility to provide that information.

It’s no good saying “my doctor never told me I had a heart murmur” or “I didn’t know my medication was changed” or “I considered my asthma stable so I didn’t think reporting it was relevant.” The insurer or broker selling you insurance is not a detective and will not investigate to see if the answers to your medical questionnaire (whether written or verbal) are accurate when you apply. They take it for granted you are telling the whole truth. But if you submit a claim for expenses, you can be darned sure the insurer will requisition all of your medical records going back many years to see if your application was accurate, inclusive, and whether or not you told “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” They have a right to do that and it’s not because they’re trying to trick you or play gotcha.

The bottom line is that it’s your responsibility to provide true and complete information. You can’t shift that to somebody else. If you’re in doubt when completing an application, ask your doctor for help. But even then you must realize: you’re the one signing the application, you are responsible for its content—your doctor is not.

When you applied for medically underwritten insurance you signed on to these terms: “I tell you what I have, what medications I take, what tests I am taking, and you quote a price for insuring me.” That’s the deal. If you withhold something, even accidentally or because you forgot, it’s the same as “forgetting” to tell someone who is buying a used car from you that your transmission occasionally makes some noises. You might get away with it. But more often than not you won’t. Instead, your claim may be denied, meaning that all of the expenses you piled up—and they could amount to many thousands of dollars—are now your responsibility.

It’s better to be told by an insurer that they cannot cover you than to travel under the false illusion that you are covered. At least then you know where you stand. And then you will still have the chance to go to another insurer to see if they have a plan that will suit your needs.

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