Have Cancer: Can’t Travel – No Insurance!

Travel Insurance Vending Machine in Japan. No insurance: Can't Travel
Travel insurance vending machines in Japan; Mark Yang – CC BY-SA 2.0

Good to Go (Unless You Have Cancer)

Most people over 70 are likely to face difficulty in getting insurance if they want to travel. If you have cancer, you can’t find Insurance to cover it. It is either refused (because of an out-of-date medical questionnaire) or quoted at an exorbitant rate.

The dodge used to be to get the insurance free if you paid for a premium bank account. But that doesn’t seem to apply any more, at least for the over 75s and 80s. That age group may also be unable to hire a car abroad.

Living With Cancer

Cancer is a disease that catches many people if they have not died of something else more serious when they were younger. That is why so many retired people have cancer or have had bouts of it. If you go into a cancer waiting room in any hospital , that is where the over 65s are to be found. Since cancer treatments are much improved, these people are not necessarily going to die tomorrow. In fact they often die with cancer, rather – than of it.

No Insurance: No Travelling

Unfortunately the travel insurance business hasn’t caught up with the new cancer treatments. So anyone with cancer is almost confined to not travelling abroad. Legally, insurance companies cannot refuse travel insurance – although many do.

They also charge such ridiculous premiums, that it is cheaper to pay for anything unexpected that happens, rather than insure against it (especially as there is always some doubt as to whether the insurance company can wriggle out of paying up).

No Snowboarding, Please, You’re Past It!

Some pre-packaged holidays do insist on insurance and it is slightly easier to get insurance for a specific holiday, rather than annual travel insurance which covers multiple trips. Most insurance quotes only deal with Europe (not Worldwide) and specifically exclude the USA. Some travel insurance does include cruises (as that is what many elderly people do) but most exclude winter sports (as you are not supposed to do it after the age of 70).

They Just Keep You Hangin’ On…

What is particularly annoying is the length of time that you need to spend answering the medical questions. This can be 15 mins whether online or on the phone. At the end of the process, the company then says “no” – they will not insure you.

Some of the medical questions are unanswerable – as your doctor will not have told you – so you cannot give the correct answer because you do not know. All insurance companies use the same questions, but all appear to lack up-to-date information about cancer treatments.

One Trip, Or More?

I suppose this problem boils down to how many overseas visits you want to do in one year. If only one or two, then it may not be a great hardship to simply pay for travel insurance as part of the deal for that holiday. On the other hand, if you want to do 3–5 trips per year, then annual travel insurance would normally work out cheaper – that is unless you are over 75 and have pre-existing medical conditions (eg cancer).

You are not allowed to spend more than 45 days abroad for any one trip, and there is a limit to the length of time in one year. Surely, if people feel well enough to travel, that should be encouraged for their health and for the tourist trade in the country they are visiting.

But one must not forget the damage to the planet that your polluting air miles may cause.

Which is Better, Per Trip or Per Annum?

I recently tested out the theory that it is better for those with pre-existing medical conditions to ask for single trip insurance, rather than annual travel insurance. Previously I had been quoted £1,488 for annual travel insurance. I tried to use a four day trip to Ireland and I had quotes ranging from £800 to £3,000. Considering that this trip will cost me less than £1,000, I am not sure what the insurance industry thinks it is there for.

In the end I did sign up for annual travel insurance with a company who had previously insured me, but not before I had spent approximately four hours online and on the phone to various companies to try to arrange it. I even went through to MAPS (Money and Pensions Service – a government advisory service) on the phone. I had previously tried them for some other money problem and I was no more successful this time.

Try These …

They gave me three companies to phone. One refused to insure me; one declined on the grounds that they couldn’t deal with me because of the link with MAPS. The other one failed to call back.

Problems With Information Sharing

We are told that we are going to live longer and much healthier lives after we retire, but it seems that the insurance companies are not helping.

They do not appear to have caught up with current cancer treatments and do not ask the right medical questions. Maybe it would be possible to store the answers to your medical questions somewhere safe, so that you do not need to go through the same process, but just upload the file each time you need a quote.

The other problem is trying to get hold of the NHS to give you an answer – that surely takes longer than dealing with a travel insurance company!