Table of contents
Table of contents
If you’re planning to take a trip, you need to plan for every eventuality, especially because your health insurance likely won’t cover illness, injury, or emergency medical transport when you’re abroad.
Fortunately, purchasing travel medical and medical evacuation insurance policies can help you (and your traveling companions) get the care you need if you get sick or hurt or experience other types of medical emergencies while traveling.
However, it’s important to note that if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you could be denied coverage unless you qualify for a pre-existing condition waiver. Here’s what you need to know about travel insurance with pre-existing conditions.
Does travel insurance cover pre-existing conditions?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people with pre-existing health conditions get travel medical insurance if they plan to travel abroad, live overseas for more than six months, or participate in dangerous activities, like scuba diving.
However, getting travel medical insurance with a pre-existing medical condition can be tricky. Insurance companies may be more reluctant to offer you coverage since your risk of getting sick or having a flare-up overseas may be higher.
If you have a pre-existing condition and need travel insurance, it’s important to understand what types of coverage may be available and what special terms, if any, may apply. While some plans make exceptions for certain types of pre-existing conditions, you may have to first qualify for a special waiver.
Pre-existing conditions explained
When it comes to travel medical insurance, a pre-existing condition may be defined as an existing health issue or diagnosis, which can include a recent injury or illness or a long-term disease for which you’re receiving medical treatment. It may also be defined as a long-term condition, such as high blood pressure, dementia, or even pregnancy.
In the U.S., under the Affordable Care Act, people with pre-existing conditions can’t be excluded from most types of standard health coverage. However, these same rules don’t apply to travel insurance.
Factors that determine your eligibility for a pre-existing condition waiver
If you have a pre-existing condition, you can benefit from travel medical insurance in the event of an emergency, but you must obtain a pre-existing conditions medical waiver in advance. Without a waiver in place, any claim you file for medical coverage could be denied. This would put you on the hook for costly medical care, treatments, and expenses.
To get a waiver for a pre-existing condition, you’ll need to meet certain eligibility requirements, including:
Being medically cleared to travel
Most travel insurers that offer exclusion waivers require you to be physically able to travel, with no changes to your medical condition for a set amount of time (usually 60 to 180 days). Some travel insurance policies may require medical records, copies of your medical history, or a sign-off by a physician.
Buying your policy within a specific time frame
You must purchase a pre-existing condition waiver within a certain window (typically 14 to 21 days after you’ve made an initial trip deposit or first payment on your trip). Most waivers are good only for the first — and only for one — booking, meaning you can’t reschedule the trip.
Insuring the full cost of your trip
You’ll also likely need to purchase an amount of coverage that’s equivalent to 100% of the non-refundable cost of your trip, including airfare, hotels, and other travel arrangements.
Covered pre-existing conditions
Travel insurance doesn’t typically cover medical treatment for pre-existing conditions without a waiver. But if you qualify for a waiver, any illnesses or injuries that occur during your trip will likely be covered. However, since policies can vary on a case-by-case basis and between travel insurance companies, it’s a good idea to check the fine print of your plan before your trip.
Pre-existing conditions that aren’t typically covered
While many types of pre-existing conditions are eligible for a waiver, most travel insurance companies won’t cover certain medical conditions, including:
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Anxiety and depression
Normal pregnancy and childbirth
Conditions related to alcohol and drug abuse
In addition, other circumstances may not be covered, even if they’re medical in nature. For example, a pre-existing medical condition exclusion waiver may not cover a situation such as an accident or illness caused by risky activities, like extreme sports. You also may not be able to get a pre-existing exclusion waiver for trips that are deemed expensive.
Good to Know
Waivers are also only typically available as single-trip policies — meaning you can’t purchase annual travel insurance coverage or multi-trip plans. Your coverage may also have limits. When in doubt, be sure to check with your travel insurance company and review your trip insurance policy’s fine print.
Travel insurance companies that offer pre-existing medical condition waivers
If you have a pre-existing medical condition and need travel insurance, you may be able to qualify for a pre-existing waiver. When comparing options, check the fine print about each travel insurance plan’s waiver requirements, as they can vary widely between companies.
While not all travel insurance companies offer pre-existing medical condition waivers, here are a few to consider:
Travel Guard by AIG
How to buy travel insurance with a pre-existing condition
If you have a pre-existing condition, here’s how to buy travel insurance:
Gather your options. Shopping around is important. You can check insurance companies’ websites directly or consider using an insurance comparison site to make searching easier.
Review your policy options. Compare each policy’s requirements for waiver eligibility information to find the best travel insurance plan for your needs.
Compare costs from top insurers. Costs can vary between travel insurance plans, so carefully consider the best plan for your budget.
Buy your coverage. Once you find a travel insurance policy that’s a good fit for your pre-existing condition, budget, and travel plans, you’ll need to buy your policy. Most waivers require plans to be purchased within a specific time frame to ensure coverage, so be sure to read the fine print.