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Can You Get Travel Insurance With Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is usually divided into two broad categories, with pulmonary and laryngeal TB carrying a low to high risk of infectivity, and extrapulmonary TB carrying a negligible risk of infection. The degree of infectivity is further influenced by the recency of the infection, the treatment plan, and the results of smear and culture tests.

Can I Travel if I Have TB?

Domestic and international travel are certainly possible following a TB diagnosis, but always with the approval of your treating physician. Their primary concern will be whether or not you are still considered infectious, and the risk of interruption to your treatment plan. If you don’t have a drug-resistant form of the disease, and have complied fully with your initial treatment plan, you could be considered non-infectious within two weeks of starting your TB therapy, but this would depend on the results of ongoing smear and culture tests, which should be negative for three consecutive tests done on separate days. However, your illness could influence the benefits you are entitled to on travel insurance.

Do I Need to Disclose my TB When Taking out Travel Insurance?

It is always advisable to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions you have when taking out travel insurance. These would be any long-term or chronic medical conditions that you are aware of, should be aware of, and are or have received treatment for within the last five to ten years – the time frame varies from one insurer to the next. This allows the insurer to assess the risk your medical condition poses to the cover they offer and based on that they might limit your access to certain benefits. While all travel insurers have a list of pre-existing medical conditions that are automatically covered, tuberculosis is not automatically covered, and it would be up to each insurer to decide whether or not to include cover. If they do decide to include cover for your TB, they may require you to pay an additional premium.

Should I Still Take out Travel Insurance if my TB Isn’t Covered?

Travel insurance offers cover against a number of events that could affect you on both domestic and international trips, not just medical benefits. These include cover for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage and personal belongings, personal liability cover, and even cover against costs associated with cancelled or delayed travel plans. If no travel insurer is willing to offer cover that includes benefits for your tuberculosis, you would still have access to most of the other benefits they offer, as long as your reason for claiming is in no way influenced by your medical condition. That means that while they won’t cover the costs associated with you seeking medical treatment for your TB while travelling, the might cover the costs of you needing medical treatment for food poisoning, or other ailments. And comparing travel insurance products from multiple insurers will help you find the right level of cover for your needs.

Tips for Travelling With Tuberculosis

  1. Get Your Doctors Approval

As noted earlier, having been diagnosed with TB doesn’t prevent you from travelling, but it should always be with the approval of your treating doctor. Discuss your travel plans with your doctor before you make any arrangements, and if you only receive your diagnosis after already making plans, discuss them as soon as you are made aware of your diagnosis. With the right treatment plan, you should be fine to travel even on a long-distance flight. Your doctor is only likely to advise against travel if you are still considered infectious, or if there is a risk of you not adhering to – or interrupting - your treatment plan. Your doctor should also provide you with a letter confirming that you are fit to travel and are not infectious.

  1. Organise Your Medicine

Even though you could be considered as non-infectious within two weeks of starting your TB treatment plan, your full treatment plan could last up to six months. It is vital that your treatment plan not be interrupted in any way, so you would need to ensure that there is no risk of this happening while you travel. Ensure you have enough medication for the full duration of your trip, with a little extra to account for any unexpected delays. And you should always pack your medication in your carry-on luggage, even if you won’t need to take any during the flight, as this further reduce any risk of you interrupting your treatment plan if your check-in luggage is delayed or lost. Any medication you travel with should ideally still be in the original packaging, and in your name. Having a letter from your doctor listing all the medication you need to travel with, and what each is used to treat, will also make your international travel easier.

  1. Choose Your Destination Carefully

Some countries might deny you entry if you have recently been diagnosed with TB, even if you aren’t considered infectious. You can check with the local embassy or consulate to ensure that this won’t be a problem. However, you should also avoid making any travel plans that involve a lot of physical activity, destinations at a considerably higher altitude than where you are travelling from, or locations with a high amount of air pollution. This could result in complications that require some medical intervention, which you will have to pay for out of your own pocket if your travel insurance doesn’t include cover for your TB. Additionally, any excessive physical exertion might see you tiring more quickly, resulting in you not enjoying your trip fully.

Additional Resources

  • https://www.tbcre.org.au/ - The Tuberculosis Centre of Research Excellence supports world-class research aimed at improving approaches to TB control.

  • https://www.thearc.org.au/ - The Australian Respiratory Council is an NGO that continues to build expertise and sustainable capacity in respiratory health.

  • https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/medicare/reciprocal-health-care-agreements - details of countries that Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with, which could allow you to receive necessary medical treatment when travelling.

If you ever feel that you have been unfairly 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. 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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