Travel Insurance for Older Travellers and Pre-Existing Conditions

Young people seeking to purchase travel insurance do not have the worry of increased premiums that face many older travellers. Unfortunately, it is an unavoidable fact of life that many older travellers have pre-existing medical conditions, and consequently have to pay more for travel insurance.

The need for higher premiums is not because insurers have anything against older people, but because the reality is that older travellers are more likely to make claims on their travel insurance for health-related problems.

There are several factors at work:

Older people tend to have more disposal income and free time and therefore can afford to take more trips and holidays. Unfortunately, this translates to more claims for emergency medical care for accidents and illnesses abroad.

A larger number of older people than ever before are travelling long distances. They are statistically more likely to claim on their travel insurance for emergency medical care – and the costs can be astronomical. This is particularly true if medical problems arise in destinations like the United States where medical treatment is extremely expensive. Consequently, insurers have to make up for the losses, and it inevitably means higher premiums for everyone – but especially for older people travelling to the U.S.

The cost of repatriating someone by air ambulance from far-flung destinations such as Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Canada and the United States is extremely costly (up to £50,000 or more).

In remote destinations of the world the medical facilities may not be adequate to treat serious illnesses or injuries,making it necessary to transport the patient to a neighbouring country for treatment before repatriation. Again, all very costly.

Frequent travellers who faithfully renew their travel insurance policy with the same company each year may find there is a sudden jump in the premium. They may have crossed an age threshold that they were not aware was imminent and have to decide whether to stay loyal to their trusted company, or shop around elsewhere to find a better deal.

Insurance premiums for older travellers vary from company to company, as far as age ranges and premiums. If pre-existing medical conditions are an issue there may be an additional charge to cover a certain condition, or the insurance may be issued to exclude any claims related to that condition. Some may have specific cut-off ages for any type of travel insurance and some may increase the premium and/or excess for certain age groups.

Comparison sites may be a way for an older traveller to search for a cheaper quote, but remember that not all insurers choose to be listed on the comparison sites and you may find a cheaper price by checking elsewhere. If you do opt for a cheap policy on one of these sites, always check the levels of cover – especially for medical care. A very cheap quote may mean that the levels of cover have been cut, or the excess (the amount you pay towards a claim) has been raised to compensate for the low price

If you are one out of the five people in the UK that does not purchase travel insurance, consider whether you are in denial about the potential financial ruin you – or your family – could face. This is especially true if injury or illness should strike when you are halfway round the world. Contrary to the mistaken belief held by many, your consulate or embassy does not cover these costs and, without insurance, it is up to the affected person or their nearest and dearest to come up with the money!

Many travellers are under the impression that insurers try to wriggle out of paying claims and so it is not worth having insurance. This is a very unwise attitude as insurance policies need to have sensible terms and conditions. Ultimately it is up to the purchaser to ensure they purchase the right insurance for their needs, and also understand what is and is not covered. The truth is that insurers pay out huge amounts in claims – and the higher the claims the more the premiums are inevitably pushed up for travellers in all age groups.

Parents with grown children leaving on round-the-world trips or gap year adventures could save themselves a headache by purchasing travel insurance as a leaving gift, to ensure that these vulnerable young people are covered. A Backpacker or long-stay policy is very affordable for a young person and most provide basic cover for the very important medical, liability and legal costs. Check that cover is included for all their planned activities. If there is any possibility they may participate in skiing or snowboarding or other winter sports why not pay a bit extra to have this added to the policy, just in case.

(For those who think that cheap Backpacker policies are only available to teenagers or those in their twenties, it may be a revelation to know that many companies offer policies that are valid for travellers up to their late forties in age).

For travellers within the EU it is important to obtain the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), as this will pick up most of the cost of emergency medical care in participating countries. However, it is important to also have travel insurance to pick up costs that are not covered under the EHIC – including very expensive medical repatriation, if this becomes necessary.

When purchasing insurance it is important to check that the policy includes adequate cover for emergency medical care and medical repatriation. It is widely believed that the minimum should be £2,000,000, but obviously higher levels are better – especially for Worldwide travel. Medical cover up to £5,000,000 or even £10,000,000 would be preferable – especially for Worldwide cover – and should be enough to cover just about any serious medical problem.

Paying a higher premium for travel insurance because you are in an older age group is an unfortunate fact of life. However, the extra cost is worth it for the peace of mind it provides. No matter what age you are, the important thing is that you feel free to enjoy foreign travel for as long as you want to and are able to!

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