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Can You Get Travel Insurance With Heart Disease?

Heart disease, also referred to as cardiovascular disease (CVD), covers a broad range of medical conditions that all affect the heart or cardiovascular system in some way. Many are chronic, lifelong conditions, and while all carry some risk with them, not all are considered high-risk medical conditions. With the right treatment, it is possible to live a full life with very few restrictions or limitations, and this includes being able to travel.

Travel insurance is an important component of modern day travel, both international and domestic, since it offers financial protection against a range of unexpected events that could affect your travel. For some travellers, the medical benefits included with travel insurance are the most important, which is understandable when you consider the high cost of even short-term medical treatment in many foreign destinations. But travel insurance includes other benefits beside necessary medical treatment, such as:

  • Cover against all or part of your trip having to be cancelled or delayed, including recovery of deposits and other prepaid expenses.

  • Cover for your luggage or other personal belongings being lost, stolen, or damaged during any stage of your trip. Important travel documents and varying amounts of lost or stolen cash are also covered.

  • Cover for legal expenses or personal liability claims involving you or other people travelling with you, if they also have travel insurance.

  • Emergency evacuation or repatriation, both medical and non-medical.

Many travel insurance policies automatically include cover for up to 40 pre-existing medical conditions, at no additional cost to you. These are primarily low-risk conditions that meet specific requirements, with some cardiovascular diseases included. High-risk medical conditions are not automatically excluded and in many instances could still be included in your travel cover after you undergo a basic medical assessment, and pay an additional premium. However, it is always up to the insurer to decide whether or not to include your pre-existing medical condition in your travel insurance or not.

What Heart Conditions are Considered High-Risk?

Different travel insurers could have different criteria for what medical conditions they consider to be high-risk. For heart disease, the following conditions might be considered high-risk:

  • Angina

  • Previous Heart Attacks

  • Cardiomyopathy

  • Cardiac arrhythmias and heart palpitations

  • Congestive heart failure

  • Cardiac Valve Disease

  • Previous cardiac surgery, such as stents, angioplasty, bypass surgery, valve replacement, and placement of pacemakers or intracardiac devices

Any pre-existing medical condition needs to be disclosed to the insurer, whether it is listed as being automatically covered or not. Disclosure of medical conditions helps the insurer make a more accurate assessment of the risk, allowing them to decide whether it will be included with your travel insurance, and if so, will it require the payment of a higher premium. If an insurer decides not to cover your pre-existing medical condition it doesn’t mean you won’t be insured, it simply means you won’t be covered for any events related to or caused by your medical condition. You would still have access to almost all other benefits, and you could even have access to some medical benefits, as long as any medical treatment you receive while travelling are not the result of your pre-existing medical condition. Failing to disclose a medical condition beforehand, however, could see your entire insurance policy being declared void should any claim you submit be found to be the result of an undisclosed medical condition that you were aware of.

How will Your Heart Disease be Assessed for Travel Insurance?

When disclosing certain pre-existing medical conditions, including heart disease, your insurer might ask you to undergo a medical assessment before deciding whether to cover the condition. This assessment would be in the form of a brief telephonic interview, completing an online questionnaire, or an in-person medical assessment. It is not a medical examination, but you will be asked question relating to your condition, such as:

  • What medications you are currently taking for your heart disease

  • Whether you have recently changed any of your medication

  • When last you saw a medical practitioner about your heart disease

  • Whether you are scheduled for a medical review or treatment assessment

  • Whether you have recently been hospitalised, or undergone surgery or in-hospital treatment for your heart disease

The recency of any of the above will vary from one insurer to the next, and 'recent' could be anything from the last three months to the last five years.

Tips for Travelling With Heart Disease

While travel is definitely possible for most people with a heart condition, spontaneous travel is probably not a good idea. Travelling with any chronic medical condition requires a bit of planning and preparation to ensure you’re able to fully enjoy the trip, and not put your health at risk.

  1. Choose Your Destination Carefully

High-activity or adventurous holidays are probably not a good idea, as is visiting any destinations at a high-altitude. You could find yourself exhausted most of the time, with the risk of worsening your condition.

  1. Prepare Your Medication

Make sure you have enough medication with you for the entire trip, and a little bit extra in case there are any unexpected delays. Split your medication between your carry-on luggage and your check-in luggage, so if your luggage is delayed or lost, you still have some with you for a few days. You will also make border crossings easier if your medication is all in the original packaging, or in packages that include your name. Ask your doctor to also give you a letter that lists all the medication you are taking, the dosage, and what condition it is used to treat. It will also help if you doctor can confirm that you are fit to travel.

  1. Stick to Your Treatment Plan

Yes you're on holiday, but that doesn't mean you can skip your treatment plan. Continue taking your medication exactly as you always do, and if you have to follow a specific diet, you should continue doing so. A little treat or deviation might be okay - if your doctor says so - but it shouldn't be the norm during your trip.

  1. Stand, Stretch, and Walk

Remember to stand up regularly during long flights or journeys, and walk about too if possible. If you're worried about disturbing other passengers, let the airline staff and tour guides know about your condition so they can explain it to other travellers if necessary.

  1. Take Out Travel Insurance

Comparing different levels of travel insurance, and from different insurers, could help you find affordable travel cover that includes cover for your heart disease. Just because one insurer refuses to cover a heart condition doesn’t mean all insurers will also not cover it. At the very least you would still have cover for other events that could affect your trip, but don’t be tempted to take out travel insurance without disclosing your heart condition, since this could see any claims you submit being rejected.

Additional Resources

  • https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/heart-and-cardiovascular-health - government-funded service providing quality, approved health information and advice.

  • https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/ - charity committed to funding heart research, heart disease prevention, and heart disease awareness.

  • https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/medicare/reciprocal-health-care-agreements - list of countries that Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with. Travelling in any of these countries could give you access to free medically necessary care.

Should you feel that you have been unfairly refused travel cover, you should first discuss this with the insurer by lodging a complaint with them. They will then have up to 45 days in which to respond, and if after that period you still feel the matter has not been properly resolved, you can approach the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) to lodge a dispute. AFCA replaced the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) in Australia on 1 November 2018.

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