It’s hard to get travel insurance when you’ve had cancer or when you are being treated for it, and, when you can find it, the prices can be extremely high.
We've written this guide to travel insurance for cancer patients in the UK to help people understand how insurers make decisions about cover and the options they have.
How do other insurers view holiday insurance for people with cancer?
Insurers offer cover and set prices based on the likelihood the policyholder will need to claim.
People with no additional needs can easily get an automated quote online from most insurers but those suffering from cancer have to fill in impersonal forms about their medical history and are often refused insurance with no explanation or are quoted unreasonably high prices from mainstream companies.
For travel insurance, the most common claims typically relate to cancelled holidays or to medical treatment while abroad. Insurers try to assess how often these claims are likely to happen and how much they will cost when they do.
For cancer patients, there is a higher chance of medical events causing them to cancel a holiday or to need treatment abroad. Insurace companies expect cancer patients to make more claims than another similar person without cancer, so they increase their prices.
This approach usually fails to take into account individual circumstances. The ability to travel will vary massively depending on the cancer patient's diagnosis and the treatment they are undergoing. They may be at more risk if they've recently undergone radiotherapy of chemotherapy but someone recovering from breast cancer may be perfectly fit to travel.
But because insurers use a general set of health questions rather than looking at individual cases, prices are unlikely to reflect each person's needs.
What do insurers consider when offering you a policy?
To help insurance companies consider customers consistently and equally, insurers put in place standard questions that investigate the severity of a customer’s cancer. These questions include:
• Are you currently having treatment for your cancer?
• Are you expecting to have treatment for your cancer?
• Is your cancer a secondary cancer? Has the disease ever spread?
• Is there a terminal prognosis?
• How old are you?
Many insurers will immediately turn cancer patients down but some focus on particular questions in the medical survey and have designed their business to offer cover to particular patients.
For example, some insurers believe it is difficult to predict whether patients still having treatment are more or less likely to claim, so they just refuse to cover individuals until they are given the all clear. Others specialise in this area and are willing to consider them.
Alternatively, some insurers will not consider individuals with a terminal condition, whereas others will.
It is possible to find travel insurance with cancer cover, it's often a case of matching a patient with the insurer that best understands their condition. The bad news is that this can lead to a fair amount of shopping around.
What can I do to find travel insurance with cancer cover?
There’s no magic bullet (but we have taken the first step to resolve that with a policy that will cover those undergoing treatment – join our group to find out more and help further improve this), but here are our top tips for you if you are trying to find travel insurance with cancer cover:
(1) Join our group – We believe it needs to be easier for cancer sufferers to get insured for their travel. That’s why we formed our Travel Insurance for Cancer Patients group.
(2) Try single trip quotes – Insurers often do not offer annual multi-trip policies to those with a serious medical condition because they believe the patient’s condition might change significantly over the year. Their stance can be different for single trip policies since they only cover a short period of time and the patient’s condition is more likely to be stable.
(3) Take care with price comparison sites – Confused.com et al are aimed at the mass market so often miss out specialist insurers who are irrelevant to 90% of their visitors. So for a specific need – like travel insurance with cancer cover – most of the insurers they search are the wrong type, leading to scarce cover and high prices. It pays to find the specialists!
(4) Conduct some web research – Some cancer charities like Macmillan have fantastic page listing insurers who they have no commercial relationship with, but have been recommended for travel insurance with cancer cover by cancer sufferers and their families.
(5) Be honest about your condition - Tweaking your answers to the medical questions to get cover or reduce your premium is tempting but can invalidate cover. If you try to claim and are found to have given false information in your application, the claim will likely be refused and the policy becomes worthless. While frustrating, honesty pays off here.
(6) The fall-back option – Some people will take the decision to travel without insurance, often as the last resort when they’ve been turned down during their search. While it is possible, it’s not recommended as you might need serious hospital treatment at a very high cost.
Add your voice to our Travel Insurance with Cancer group to help cancer sufferers get a better deal.
If you are an older traveller, you may want to join one of our Travel Insurance groups for the Over 65s or the Over 70s (which have no age limit!). Although not specifically for cancer, both have access to discounted offers with our insurance partners.
We’ve also published articles on Tips for finding travel insurance for the over 65s, as well as getting travel insurance for Over 70s with medical conditions and the over 75s and 80s.
Finally, we’ve written about travel insurers’ approach to age limits for travel insurance.