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Can You Get Travel Insurance With Cancer?

Many travel insurance policies offer automatic cover for a range of pre-existing medical conditions. The exact conditions covered vary from one insurer to the next, but typically include allergies, hypertension, and glaucoma. Other pre-existing medical conditions might be covered with the payment of an additional premium and following a medical assessment. A pre-existing medical condition is defined as a chronic or ongoing medical or dental condition that you are aware of, or should reasonably be aware of, and that you have received treatment or advice for within a pre-defined period prior to taking out the travel insurance. The pre-defined period could be anything from the preceding 12 months, to up to within the last five to ten years. The exact period differs according to the insurer and the condition but will always be clarified in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).

Cancer, unfortunately, is not covered by default with travel insurance, but some insurers are willing to include cover for some types of cancer following a medical assessment. This is purely at the discretion of each insurer, but it is still possible to take out travel insurance with cancer, even if the cancer itself is not included.

What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

Travel insurance is about more than just cover for medical treatment while travelling. The standard benefits included with travel insurance for domestic travel or international travel cover a variety of events that could affect anyone when travelling. While cover for medical and dental treatment is important, being protected against your luggage and personal belongings being lost, stolen, or damage is also a key benefit, along with being reimbursed for costs associated with any part of your trip being cancelled or delayed.

Even if your insurer is not willing to offer cover for cancer, you will still be able to take out travel insurance that includes all the other benefits, and possibly even some medical cover as long any medical treatment you receive while travelling is not the result of the cancer. Domestic travel does not include any medical benefits, but it would still be necessary to disclose pre-existing medical conditions, since these could still have a role in trip cancellations or deferments. Comparing travel insurance policies will help you find appropriate cover at a price that suits your budget.

How do I Disclose my Cancer?

It is always better to disclose any medical conditions that you are aware of – not just cancer – when you apply for travel insurance. If your condition is automatically covered, the insurer will tell you this, otherwise they will ask you to first complete a medical assessment before deciding whether to cover your condition or not. Factors such as your current health, your current – and recent – treatment plan, and the risk your condition poses to the insurer are all considered before making a final decision. The insurer will then either offer you cover at a higher premium to include your medical condition or inform you that they aren’t willing to cover your condition but are able to offer travel cover for other travel risks or events.

The medical assessment usually involves answering a series of questions relating to your disclosed condition, and you can prepare for it by listing the type of cancer you had/have, the stage, all treatment you have received for it in the past along with any treatment (including medication) you are currently receiving, and whether the cancer had spread to other parts. The questions are not meant to be invasive but rather to allow the insurer to make a qualified risk assessment.

Finally, if you are diagnosed with cancer after you have already taken out travel insurance, but before you actually depart on your trip, you will still need to disclose this to the insurer. This allows the insurer to reassess your cover and to adjust it if necessary. Failing to do so could result in the whole policy being declared null, and no claims allowed even for events unrelated to the cancer.

Tips for Travelling with Cancer

Any current or recent treatment you received for cancer could result in your immune system being compromised, making you more susceptible to contracting other illnesses and medical conditions. This shouldn’t limit your ability to travel, but will require you to plan more carefully, and to take special precautions.

  1. Speak to your doctor

Discuss your travel plans with your doctor or medical team ahead of you making any bookings. They will be able to advise you whether you are fit enough to travel, discuss precautions you should take, and clarify if any of your medication is prohibited or restricted in any of the destinations you plan on visiting. You should also ask them to confirm your fitness to travel in writing, along with full details of your treatment plan and a list of all medication you are currently taking, what they are for, and the dosage.

  1. Pack all your medication

Make sure you pack enough medication to last the entire trip, with a little extra in case of delays. If possible, pack all of your essential medication in your carry-on luggage so you aren't severely impacted if your check-in luggage goes missing or is delayed. Try to keep all the medication in the original packaging, which should have labels with your name on it. Carrying a copy of your prescription could also make it easier to pass through customs and border control.

  1. Take good care of yourself

This means basics like washing your hands regularly, only drinking bottled water, and avoiding some exotic meals. But you should also plan your trip so you have plenty of opportunities to rest between activities or outings. And if you are going to be outdoors frequently, take proper precautions against sun exposure since some cancer treatments can leave you more sensitive to the sun.

Additional Resources

  • https://www.cancervic.org.au/ - independent, not-for-profit organisation involved in cancer research, prevention and support.

  • http://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/ - Australian Government agency working to reduce the impact of cancer, address disparities and improve outcomes for people affected by cancer. https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/medicare/reciprocal-health-care-agreements - details of countries with Reciprocal Health Care Agreements for Australia, under which you could access medically necessary care when presenting a Medicare card.

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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