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Can You Get Travel Insurance If You’re On Kidney Dialysis?

Travelling with a pre-existing medical condition almost always requires a bit of careful planning, not only in relation to the medical condition, but also the destination, and travel insurance. While some pre-existing medical conditions are automatically covered by travel insurance at no additional cost, many aren’t and will either require the payment of a higher premium before they are covered, or the insurer could opt to offer travel cover that doesn’t include any benefits for claims relating to the medical condition. But not having your medical condition covered by travel insurance is no reason to forego insurance completely, since it would still cover many other travel related events, including missing or stolen luggage and personal belongings, along with offering benefits for costs arising from delayed or cancelled travel – as long as the delay or cancellation isn’t the result of your medical condition. However, having a kidney related condition that requires dialysis necessitates much more careful planning.

Can I still get Travel Insurance?

As a renal or kidney dialysis patient you can still get travel insurance; but your travel cover may not include any benefits for events relating to your kidney condition. Kidney related conditions, especially those that require dialysis, are not included in any insurer’s lists of automatically covered pre-existing medical conditions. Which means you will need to declare the condition, and possibly undergo a basic medical assessment, before the insurer decides if they are going to include cover for your condition or not. Their decision will be informed by their own internal risk assessment processes, along with your recent medical history. If they do decide to include cover for your kidney condition, they will inform you of the higher premium you will need to pay, along with any special conditions attached to the extra cover. However, as noted earlier, if they choose not to offer cover for your medical condition, it won’t mean they aren’t willing to offer you travel cover at all. You will still be able to have travel insurance, but it won’t include any benefits for claims arising from your kidney condition.

Remember that you have multiple travel insurers to choose from, so don’t be afraid to compare travel insurance products to find the perfect fit for your needs and budget.

Do I always need to disclose medical conditions?

It is always advisable to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions you have, irrespective of them being listed in the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS. That way the insurer is better able to assess whether they will cover your condition, and to discuss any exclusions that may apply as a result of your condition. And you should still disclose any conditions even if you know the insurer won’t offer cover that includes your medical condition, since it could still affect what other benefits will and won’t apply, and not disclosing it could see the insurer declining any claims you happen to submit.

What about Reciprocal Health Care Agreements?

The Australian Government has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with 11 countries which allows you to access medically necessary care at no cost when travelling to any of these countries. However, you will need to show that you are an Australian citizen, and that you qualify for Medicare, while the medical treatment you can access through RHCA are usually limited to what you can access via Medicare and should be essential medical care that can’t wait until you return home.

If you aren’t travelling to any country with a RHCA in place with Australia or aren’t able to get travel cover that includes your dialysis, you will be responsible for paying for any treatment while you travel – and for making the necessary arrangements. Research renal and dialysis units in the country you intend visiting ahead of time, so that you are able to make bookings and get a quote about the costs involved beforehand. If you aren’t sure about the standard of treatment you can expect, speak to the healthcare providers at the dialysis unit you are currently using for advice and assistance in making the necessary arrangements.

Tips for Travelling When You’re on Kidney Dialysis

  1. Get Vaccinated

Speak to your doctor about any new immunisations or booster shots you may require for the country you are visiting. Getting sick while travelling can complicate your condition, but even if your travel insurance includes some basic health benefits these won’t be accessible if you didn’t take the necessary precautions against malaria, TB, cholera, and other contractible illnesses. This should happen at least eight weeks before you travel.

  1. Organise Medicine and Other Treatments

Make sure you have enough prescription medication for the duration of your trip, and also ask your doctor to issue you with a letter that details what medical condition(s) you have, and what your treatment plan involves, including necessary medication. Pack your medication in your carry-on luggage so it is easily accessible during the flight, but also to prevent yourself from being stuck without medication if your check-in luggage happens to go missing or be delayed. You should also make the necessary bookings for dialysis and/or blood tests you may need while travelling; don’t expect to be able to just show up at a dialysis unit and receive treatment without a booking.

  1. Pay Attention to What you eat and Drink

Stay hydrated. It’s quite easy to take in fewer fluids while travelling, especially when your days are filled with a myriad of activities that don’t always include regular breaks. You should also not stray too far from your usual diet or eat anything that could upset your digestion.

  1. Update Your Contact Information

If you are on a transplant list, make sure your doctor and other necessary healthcare professionals have the contact details you will be using while travelling. The same details should also be shared with the team at your dialysis unit and any dialysis units you have made arrangements with ahead of your trip. You wouldn’t want anyone struggling to contact you with urgent information relating to a transplant or scheduled treatment.

Additional Resources

  • https://kidney.org.au/ - Australian not–for-profit organisation dedicated to helping people with kidney disease.

  • https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/medicare/reciprocal-health-care-agreements - details of the countries that Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with.

If you ever feel that you have unfairly been refused travel cover, or that a travel insurance claim has been improperly processed and settled, you should first contact your insurer to lodge a complaint with them. Your insurer has up to 45 days in which to respond to your complaint, and if the matter has not been resolved, you can then approach the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) to lodge a dispute. AFCA replaced the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) on 1 November 2018.

If you ever feel that you have unfairly been refused travel cover, or that a travel insurance claim has been improperly processed and settled, you should first contact your insurer to lodge a complaint with them. Your insurer has up to 45 days in which to respond to your complaint, and if the matter has not been resolved, you can then approach the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) to lodge a dispute. AFCA replaced the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) on 1 November 2018.

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