A recent column written by financial writer James Daw in the Toronto Star revealed just how far some travel insurers are prepared to go to cover those in less than perfect health—a large and increasing segment of the population. Snowbird finds insurance excluding her kidney
Daw wrote of Ontario resident Karen Payne who was getting discouraged by her failure to find an insurer to cover her for an anticipated trip to the sunny South. Karen had received a kidney transplant last July and though she now felt perfectly healthy and ready to go, insurance agents she spoke with told her to forget it, that her kidney transplant disqualified her from coverage. That’s until Daw hooked her up with a specialist in travel insurance who not only reassured her, but got her covered: not for anything related to her kidney transplant, but for all other, unrelated medical emergencies she might encounter. That was exactly what she had hoped for, more than she thought she could expect.
There’s a lesson here not only for transplant patients, but those who have a history of cancer, heart problems, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. As in Karen’s case, insurers may not cover you for a recurrence of your cancer or problems with your transplant or bypass graft, but they may cover the costs of most other medical emergencies and that’s a lot better than not covering you at all. Some policies may even cover you if you have had some forms of cancer that has been eliminated by surgery, radiation or chemotherapy and you are now cancer free. Not all cancers, but some.
Most policies will also cover you for other major conditions that have been stable for a certain period, perhaps a year. But stable means what your insurer says it means, not necessarily what you or your doctor thinks it should. Usually it means you have not required a change of medication, or manifest new or recurrent symptoms, or needed medical intervention other than simple monitoring. In some cases this might include heart bypass graft, major surgery, perhaps even some cancers.
Coverage of chronic or pre-existing conditions will always require some form of medical underwriting, which means you will have to fill out a questionnaire accurately, completely. I suggest that if you have any chronic condition that requires regular monitoring, medication and occasional intervention by your physicians, put yourself in the hands of an experienced travel health insurance specialist, and don’t hesitate consulting with your doctor. This is not the time to think about shaving a few dollars off your premium by “forgetting” about that lab test you underwent a few months ago—even if it showed nothing serious. Just the fact you had it must be disclosed.
A lot of people today like to make their travel insurance arrangements online. This may not be the best option if you have a history of cancer or organ transplant or coronary artery bypass or some other major chronic conditions. Go for the personal approach with a specialist, take your time, don’t leave it to the last minute, and regardless what you are told, get your contract and read it from beginning to end. I know that’s a pain, but knowing what you are in for up-front can give you great piece of mind later.
Travel insurance is a competitive business. New products are coming out all the time, just as thousands of newly minted boomers and zoomers are coming into the marketplace with the usual array of ailments these age groups are heir to. One way or another, they will be served.