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Everything You Need to Know About Travel Insurance With Pre-Existing Conditions

Don’t let a pre-existing condition affect your ability to protect yourself on your next trip.


Published on March 14th, 2024 in Travel Insurance

More Americans are buying travel protection than ever.

In 2022, the U.S. Travel Insurance Association conducted the Travel Protection Market Study and found several interesting facts on the topic:

  • We spent almost $4.27 billion on all types of travel protection in 2022
  • Approximately 77 million people were protected by over 49 million plans
  • The number of folks protected increased by 17% from 2019 and 10.7% from 2021

There’s a good reason for this. Both travel assistance and travel insurance can provide numerous benefits to all types of travelers.

We learned from the COVID pandemic that medical emergencies while traveling don’t discriminate based on age or previous health risks. More travelers than ever now value the additional protection that these types of protection and membership plans provide. It brings peace of mind knowing you have protection if you have to cancel your trip due to unplanned illness, or if your trip is interrupted by a sudden medical emergency.

We’ve already covered the benefits of travel insurance, but as a quick recap, it’s designed to reimburse you for trip cancellation, trip interruption, cover medical expenses, and other unanticipated trip costs you may incur while traveling.

But today we’re going to zoom in on a specific type of traveler: Those with pre-existing conditions.

This type of traveler may wonder:

  • Can I buy travel insurance if I have pre-existing medical conditions?
  • Will my trip insurance policy be more expensive?
  • How do I buy travel insurance if I have pre-existing medical conditions?
  • Where can I find a reputable travel insurance company?
  • How can I ensure my pre-existing condition is covered by travel insurance?

In this article, we’re going to answer all of the above questions, give tips on purchasing travel insurance, plus a whole lot more. Let’s go!

What are considered pre-existing conditions?

The term “pre-existing condition” can be confusing for travelers and may result in unsuccessful insurance claims. Pre-existing conditions in the context of travel insurance generally refer to documented medical conditions that you have been diagnosed with or received treatment for before purchasing the insurance policy. These conditions can vary, but common examples include:

  • Chronic illnesses: Conditions like diabetes, hypertension, or asthma
  • Cardiovascular conditions: Heart diseases or conditions related to the circulatory system like high blood pressure
  • Respiratory conditions: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, or other respiratory issues
  • Cancer: Both current and past diagnoses
  • Neurological conditions: Conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease
  • Mental health conditions: Depression, anxiety disorders, or other mental health issues
  • Musculoskeletal conditions: Arthritis or other chronic conditions affecting the bones and joints

In broad terms, most travel insurance companies usually define a pre-existing condition as a diagnosed illness or medical issue that hasn’t remained stable over a specified look-back period. “Stable” implies no changes or deterioration in the condition—no new diagnoses, treatments, medications, or pending/in-progress treatments, scans, or test results.

Can you buy travel insurance if you have a pre-existing condition?

Absolutely. Comprehensive travel insurance plans from reputable companies come with emergency medical coverage. This coverage can complement or substitute your regular health insurance, assisting in reimbursing emergency medical expenses incurred during your travels.

Many comprehensive travel insurance plans extend coverage to include pre-existing medical conditions, sometimes at no extra cost. However, if you end up trying to use this travel insurance coverage to pay for medical bills incurred on your trip related to one of your pre-existing conditions, you may run into trouble if you haven’t secured a “pre-existing medical conditions waiver.”

What is a pre-existing medical conditions waiver?

A pre-existing medical conditions waiver is an allowance or endorsement within a travel insurance policy that provides coverage for medical conditions that you (or a family member) may have before purchasing the insurance. Typically, travel insurance policies exclude medical coverage for pre-existing conditions, considering them as elevated risks. However, by obtaining a pre-existing medical conditions waiver, you essentially gain approval for coverage related to these pre-existing health issues.

How do you obtain a pre-existing medical conditions waiver?

To qualify for this waiver, you must meet certain conditions. Keep in mind that eligibility criteria may vary among insurance providers. Here are a few general steps that you will likely need to take to obtain this waiver:

  1. Purchase early: Typically, you need to purchase travel insurance that includes the pre-existing conditions waiver shortly after making your first trip deposit, which is usually well before your departure date. Insurance providers often have a specific window within which you must buy the coverage to be eligible for the waiver.
  2. Meet time requirements: Pay attention to the time requirements specified by the travel insurance provider. There is usually a deadline from the time you make your initial trip payment (for example, 10-21 days after you put a deposit on a hotel) to when you can purchase the insurance with the pre-existing conditions waiver.
  3. Complete application truthfully: Provide accurate and complete information about your medical history and medical record. Disclose any pre-existing medical conditions, as this information is important for determining eligibility for the waiver.
  4. Review policy terms: Carefully read the terms and conditions of the pre-existing conditions waiver. Understand the extent of coverage, any limitations, and specific criteria for eligibility. Not all waivers are the same, and coverage details can vary.
  5. Document your health status: In some cases, insurance providers may require documentation of your health status. This could include recent medical records, statements from healthcare providers, or other relevant documents.

You (or your family member) will need to be medically capable for traveling in order to qualify. You’ll also need to insure your entire trip (not just the flight, for example) in order to qualify for a waiver.

pre-esiting medical conditions

These steps are crucial to obtaining a pre-existing medical conditions waiver, because if you purchase a policy without one, insurance companies may look to deny your medical claim for reimbursement based on what’s called a “look-back period.”

What is a look-back period?

A look-back period is a specified timeframe that insurance companies examine to assess the stability of your health condition. This period is crucial in determining whether a particular medical condition qualifies as pre-existing. This is what an insurance company will use to assess your claim for medical bills if you do not have a pre-existing medical conditions waiver.

During the look-back period, the insurance provider reviews your recent medical history to check for any changes or developments in your health. The purpose is to identify any new official diagnoses, medical treatment, medications, or alterations in your condition. If your health remains stable within this defined period, it is less likely to be classified as a pre-existing condition. The length of the look-back period can vary between insurance companies and policies. Commonly, it ranges from a few months to a couple of years.

Will travel insurance be more expensive if you have pre-existing medical conditions?

Yes, travel insurance premiums can be higher if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Travel insurance companies assess the risk of covering individuals with pre-existing conditions (among other factors) and as a result, they may charge higher premiums to account for potential medical expenses or trip cancellations related to those conditions. Some policies may actually exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions altogether – so be sure to read the fine print carefully.

Finding travel insurance coverage for pre-existing medical conditions

Now that you know the lay of the land, here are some tips for finding travel insurance that will cover your pre-existing medical condition.

Get quotes from reputable insurance companies

We know it’s a bit anticlimactic, but the simplest and most reasonable solution is to just purchase comprehensive plans from reputable travel insurance companies with full disclosure about your medical condition. Two great options are:

Note: Comprehensive plans are much different than so-called “flight insurance plans” you buy from the airline. These will definitely not have any medical coverage, much less coverage for pre-existing conditions.

For Emergency Assistance Plus members, TripInsure Plus is a great option because it acts as the perfect complement to your travel assistance protection. Get full protection with maximum financial efficiency. Get a free quote from TripInsure Plus.

tripinsure plus

We recommend getting quotes from multiple travel insurance companies so you can compare coverages and costs.

For serious conditions, try specialist medical sites

For comprehensive medical coverage of more severe conditions like heart ailments, specific joint issues, or cancer, you may need to explore specialized medical insurers, which are often not featured on regular comparison websites. An example of one of these options is Allianz Global Assistance.

Note: The TripInsure Plus Premium plan also includes a pre-existing condition exclusion, as well as optional Cancel for Any Reason** coverage.

**Additional terms and conditions apply. Optional CFAR comes at an additional cost and is not available to residents of NY.

Complement your travel insurance policy with a travel assistance membership

It’s crucial to understand a fundamental aspect of all types of insurance, be it health or travel:

Travel insurance primarily operates by reimbursing you after a situation has been resolved, offering limited proactive assistance during emergencies.

In contrast, a travel assistance membership plays a proactive role in aiding you during a medical emergency while on a trip. This assistance begins with a single phone call and services are arranged and provided on your behalf. Unlike traditional health or travel insurance companies, numerous travel assistance providers have response centers ready to take your call whenever you require assistance no matter where in the world you are.

For instance, Emergency Assistance® (EA+®) Plus operates 24/7/365, ensuring that you can make a call and arrange travel assistance services. Common services facilitated by such providers include:

  • Emergency medical evacuation: If you need specialized medical treatment or emergency medical care – and the transport is deemed medically necessary — you would be moved to the nearest appropriate hospital via ground or air transportation.
  • Transportation home: When your condition improves and you’re released from the hospital, EA+ handles all the travel arrangements to get you home.
  • Nurse escorts: Upon recommendation of a physician, EA+ will provide a nurse escort to monitor your condition and administer care during your trip home, if necessary.
  • RV/vehicle return: If you can’t drive your vehicle back home because your documented medical emergency prohibits it and your companion can’t drive it either.

And these are only a few of the protections EA+ offers our members—you can read more details on our plan information page.

To speak with an expert about the benefits of a travel assistance membership, contact us via our website or call: 1-866-863-4460.

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Emergency Assistance Plus® (EA+®) is not insurance, it is a membership plan. This is only an outline of the plan’s features. Hospitalization (admitted as an inpatient) is a requirement to be eligible for some services. All services must be arranged and provided by EA+. Please read the EA+ Member Guide carefully to understand all the services available to you, as well as any rules and regulations. EA+ is only available to U.S. residents at this time and is not available to residents of New York. Washington state residents must be traveling more than 100 miles away from home to be eligible for EA+ services.