Travelling with Pre-Existing Medical Conditions: The Ultimate Guide
You are hours away from leaving for the airport. While scrambling around, you try to make sure that everything is ready. Luggage? Check. Passport? Check. Peace of mind? Hang on.
What if my flight gets delayed? Or if my luggage gets lost? Or if I get an asthma attack? You suddenly remember that you bought travel insurance for this trip and breathe a sigh of relief.
But are you aware that your travel insurance may not cover the asthma attack? This means that if an attack sends you to the emergency room, or you have to fly home because of your asthma, the average travel insurance plan will not compensate you for these costs.
It sounds harsh, but there’s no need to panic. With the right type of travel insurance coverage and a few preparations, you can enjoy your trip without worry.
In this guide, you will learn what counts as a pre-existing medical condition, how to choose the travel insurance that best suits your medical condition, and travel tips that will minimize your risk.
What is a pre-existing medical condition?
A pre-existing medical condition is an illness or injury that you knew about before the start of your trip, or were diagnosed with, took medicine for, received medical treatment or been asked to get medical treatment for in the 12 months before your trip date. An example is asthma that you’ve had since childhood, or a recent Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis.
Eczema, diabetes, epilepsy, and high blood pressure are examples of more pre-existing conditions. Most travel insurance policies automatically exclude these conditions if you’ve had them before your journey.
How to choose travel insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition
A medical emergency is the last thing you need during a trip. It’s stressful, dangerous, and can mean thousands of dollars in medical bills, depending on where you are.
It’s worth getting travel insurance with coverage for pre-existing medical conditions if you have already been diagnosed with one, because it can defray unexpected medical costs that might arise from your diagnosis. Having this means you’ll get covered for overseas hospitalisation costs, medical evacuation, or repatriation that arises from your pre-existing illness.
Here’s how to do it.
First, determine if you really have a pre-existing medical condition
Do you have any injury or feel unwell before the trip? Do you have recurring conditions where you take maintenance medication?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it means you have a pre-existing medical condition. Being over the age of 60 also puts you at risk of chronic health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Getting the right travel insurance plan can ease the financial aspects of your forgone holiday, and your life.
Check the travel insurance policy’s look back period
Were you diagnosed with a medical condition years ago, and have not had symptoms since? This is important to know because most travel insurance plan’s have what you call a “look-back period”.
The look-back period is the amount of time the insurer looks back at your medical history when you file a claim. This varies from plan to plan, but it is generally around 60 and 180 days.
The insurer will check if you were medically stable during the look-back period. Medically stable means that during this time, you were not diagnosed with a new medical condition, you did not visit a doctor or get treatment for your pre-existing condition, or your prescription did not change.
If you were medically stable, the travel insurance plan will cover your medical expenses during the trip, even without a pre-existing condition clause.
Some travel policies like Income’s Travel Insurance do not have a look-back period. It simply covers any existing injury or sickness that you’ve have before the start of your trip.
Choose the plan that best suit your needs
At its core, travel insurance is meant to cover all unforeseen events that may arise from your trip. If you need coverage for pre-existing medical condition, opt for a one-stop travel insurance plan that allows you to enjoy comprehensive coverage. That way, you won’t need to purchase a separate travel insurance plan for other benefits unrelated to pre-existing medical conditions, such as travel delays and personal accident.
A comprehensive travel insurance plan should also provide a benefit of around $3,000 for loss or damage to personal belongings, at least $150,000 for personal accidents, and at least $5,000 for trip cancellations.
Additionally, if you are traveling in a group or with family members, your travel companions should also get travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions coverage. This ensures that they will be covered for unforeseen situations due to your pre-existing medical conditions such as trip cancellations or postponements.
Travel tips for anyone with pre-existing medical conditions
Pre-existing conditions shouldn’t stop you from traveling, especially if you’re armed with the travel insurance plan that best suits your needs. Make sure to consult your doctor before traveling and get medically cleared for your trip. Use your doctor’s visit to get guidance on what medications to bring and precautions to take.
To be safe, book accommodations close to a hospital or pin down where the closest hospital is. If you won’t be staying in one place for very long, keep an emergency hotline in your phone’s speed dial. Income’s Travel Insurance plans have a 24/7 medical emergency hotline at (65) 6338 1222. You can call this number in case of a medical emergency from most destinations in the world1.
Here are some more tips for traveling safely and comfortably with chronic illness.
Travelling with asthma
- Bring your asthma medications. Refill your prescription and bring enough medication to cover the duration of your trip. If you need to use a nebulizer, invest in a travel-sized one.
- Plan your diet. If your asthma is triggered by food allergies, let your airline, hotel, or host know what you’re allergic to in advance.
- Check for environmental allergens. If you’re going to wooded areas or outdoor location where you’ll be exposed to pollen or insect bites, limit your outdoor time or bring insect repellant.
Travelling with diabetes
- Bring enough insulin, medication, and blood-test supplies. It goes without saying that you should bring all the insulin and syringes you need for your trip’s duration, plus extras. Carry your insulin with you wherever you go. Consider getting a cool pack for your insulin to keep the temperature stable.
- Request for diabetes-friendly meals. Call your airline in advance and make sure they serve you low-sugar, low-cholesterol meals.
- Dress for the weather. Both hot and cold climates can also greatly affect blood glucose levels. Bring comfortable, climate-appropriate clothes.
- Pack low-GI snacks. Most packaged snacks contain ingredients that affect your blood sugar. Pack your own low-GI nibbles, such as unsalted nuts, carrot sticks, or apple slices.
Travelling with heart conditions
- Bring your heart medication and ECG. Make sure you have more than enough of medication during your trip. Bring a copy of your prescription, and a copy of your electrocardiogram (ECG).
- Choose an aisle seat. Sitting on long plane flights can increase your chances of forming blood clots in the legs, especially if you have heart disease. Pick an aisle seat so you can easily stretch and move the blood in your system.
- Wear compression stockings. Another way to decrease the risk of blood clots is to wear compression stockings when on a plane for more than eight hours.
- Be mindful of your food and water consumption. If you have a history of heart failure or cardiomyopathy, make sure you avoid salty food and drink lots of water.
Travelling with hypertension
- Bring your blood pressure medication. Take enough to last you for the trip’s duration, with extras to spare in case of delays.
- Bring a portable blood pressure monitor. Keep an eye on your blood pressure and bring a travel-sized monitor with you.
- Watch your food and alcohol intake. Avoid salty food, as this can cause a spike in your blood pressure. Alcohol should be avoided or minimized, especially during a flight.
- Wear compression tights during long flights. Post-surgical hypertension can increase the risk of blood clots. Prevent this by wearing grade 1 compression tights during long haul flights.
Travelling with eczema
- Carry your medicine and creams. Assume that you’ll get a flare up daily, and make sure you have enough medicine to cover the rest of your trip.
- Bring your own toiletries. Don’t risk an eczema flareup by using hotel soap. Bring your own eczema-friendly personal care products so your skin doesn’t get irritated.
- Know your climate triggers. Research your destination and make travel adjustments based on your climate triggers. If heat triggers an attack, make sure to book air-conditioned rooms and transportation.
- Bring your own bed linen. If you’re sensitive to detergent, it’s worth bringing your own bed sheets and pillowcases.
- Be mindful of your food. Trying new cuisines is part of travel. But if you’re sensitive to some ingredients, be careful of what you eat. Use Google Translate to ask what ingredients are in your food.
If you are at risk, consider prevention over treatment
The best medical advice usually discusses prevention over treatment. This line of thought applies to managing your personal finances as well, especially if you are trying to budget for a vacation. If you know your family already has a history of one or more of these chronic conditions, it is worth building a habit of getting screened and adopting a healthier lifestyle.
After all, spending around S$100 per month for a gym membership is cheaper than spending thousands of dollars per year on treating your condition and paying much higher health insurance premiums. Even if your pre-existing condition is hereditary, making sure you are exercising regularly, eating healthy and reducing stress can delay the illness's onset and give you more financial freedom to save for a great vacation.
Don’t Let a Pre-Existing Medical Condition Stop You from Traveling
With these tips in mind, we hope you feel more confident about traveling overseas despite having a pre-existing medical condition. Income’s Enhanced PreX Travel Insurance plans cover overseas medical expenses and trip inconveniences related to pre-existing medical conditions that you knew about before the start of your trip, as well as unexpected events not related to pre-existing medical conditions like loss of bags, money and other personal items.
Get an instant quote online when you apply for Income Travel Insurance.
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.
1 Does not cover travel in, to or through Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Sudan or Syria.