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Can You Get Travel Insurance With Mental Health Issues?

Like many other health conditions, mental health issues are largely invisible to the casual observer, but they still require carefully structured treatment plans for those affected by them. And like other health conditions, international and domestic travel is far from impossible, with a bit of planning and preparation. Which should include travel insurance.

But travel insurance isn’t only necessary for anyone travelling with a pre-existing medical condition, since it includes many benefits other than just necessary medical treatment when travelling. However, travelling with a pre-existing medical condition, including mental health issues, does sometimes result in limitations to some of the benefits included with travel insurance.

Are mental health issues considered a pre-existing condition?

A pre-existing medical condition is any chronic or ongoing medical or dental condition that you are aware of - or should reasonably been aware of - and have received treatment for in the recent past. The recency of the treatment varies among insurers and could be anything from the past six months, to the past 10 years. An official diagnosis is not a requirement, so pre-existing medical conditions would include any health-related issues currently under investigation too. A very broad range of conditions can be considered mental health disorders – from bipolar mood disorder, anxiety, and depression, through to PTSD and eating disorders - so while an insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) won’t always mention specific mental health conditions, it doesn’t mean that other mental health disorders aren’t considered pre-existing medical conditions. As a general rule-of-thumb it is better to disclose any medical conditions you have - or have received treatment for – and let the insurer decide whether it is considered a pre-existing condition.

Can I still get travel insurance with mental health issues?

The short answer is that you shouldn’t have any difficulty getting travel insurance, even if you are being treated for a mental health condition. However, as noted earlier, you must disclose to the insurer that you are receiving treatment for a mental health condition or are currently being assessed for one. Not all insurers offer cover that includes benefits for mental health conditions, so based on their own criteria and risk assessment, travel insurers will either:

  • Offer you cover that excludes any benefits for events or claims relating to your condition.

  • Offer you cover that includes benefits for events and claims relating to your condition but requiring you to pay an additional premium in order to access these benefits.

Comparing different travel insurance products can help you find one that offers you the benefits you require, at a price you can afford. Travel insurance is still a smart buy even if your chosen insurer isn’t willing to extend benefits to include your mental health condition, because it would still offer benefits that cover:

  • Your luggage or personal belongings being lost, stolen, or damaged while travelling.

  • Any expenses relating to travel delays, as long as the delays are not the result of your medical condition.

  • Reimbursement for prepaid expenses if you have to cancel all or part of your travel, but again as long as this is not the result of your medical condition.

  • Cover for some medical emergencies and treatment while travelling, if none of the treatment is the result of your mental health issues.

As with other medical conditions, if you only become aware of and/or start receiving treatment for a mental health disorder after you purchased travel insurance - but before departing on your trip - you should still disclose this to the insurer, since it could affect your level of cover. Failing to do so could result in the insurer refusing to process any claims you submit.

Tips for travelling with a mental health condition

The longer you have known about and received treatment for your mental health condition, the better equipped you will be for managing your health condition under different circumstances. But a little bit of extra planning will still be useful and shouldn’t be seen as only necessary for someone with a new or recent diagnosis.

  1. Speak to Your Healthcare Team

The healthcare professionals treating you and your condition will be better equipped to assess your overall fitness for travel, not only taking your health into account, but also the destination you intend travelling to. They should also be able to discuss coping mechanisms with you, especially for things like jet lag and anxiety which could act as a trigger for some symptoms associated with your mental health condition.

  1. Check Your Prescription Medication

Make sure you have enough prescription medication with you to last the duration of your trip, with a few extra days cover to account for any possible delays. Ask your doctor to also provide you with a copy of your prescription that not only lists your medication, but also the dose for each, and what it is meant to treat. Try to keep your medication in its original packaging, so it is easier for border control personnel to identify it, and to confirm that it is meant for you. You should also research if the country you will be visiting has any restrictions in place for any of the medication you are taking. These could either limit the amount of medication you travel with, but in some instances could see you having to ask your doctor for an alternative if some of your medication is prohibited in any countries you plan on visiting.

  1. Do Lots of Research

The more you know about your chosen destination, the more easily you will be able to adapt to an unfamiliar environment. This includes knowing when and where to expect large crowds of people if you happen to experience anxiety from time to time. It can also help to have plans in place for if you find yourself struggling to cope and want to return home earlier than planned. Your travel insurance might not cover the costs involved in this, but just knowing that you can end your trip sooner than planned can relieve you of some stress.

  1. Don’t be Reckless

Be extremely diligent about taking your medication exactly as prescribed, but also make sure you get enough rest and don’t consume too much alcohol, since this can worsen your condition. It shouldn’t mean you can’t have a good time while vacationing, just that moderation is more important than ever when you don’t have easy access to your regular team of healthcare professionals.

Additional Resources

  • https://mhaustralia.org/ - national non-government organisation representing and promoting the interests of the mental health sector and committed to achieving better mental health for all Australians.

  • https://moodgym.com.au/ - interactive online self-help book which helps you to learn and practise skills which can help to prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  • 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.

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