/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Has a medical condition affected your travel insurance?

Picture of dream holiday against stormy sky

There is nothing worse than going through the rigmarole of getting a quote, giving out all of your medical details, only to be told that the insurer is unable to provide you with cover for your condition.

What is even worse is if that provider doesn’t even bother to direct you to another insurer who would have been able to provide you with cover, leaving you high and dry.

Which? members have contacted us to tell us they have had trouble finding affordable cover for their condition, and some are unable to get any cover at all.

Cover for cancer patients

Among the main conditions they listed are heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol to name but a few. Just last week, Steve C told us:

‘My annual, worldwide travel insurance expires in March; last April I was diagnosed with bile duct cancer which requires on-going, palliative treatment. I’m planning my honeymoon for May. I doubt whether they will renew the policy once I tell them of my condition.’

A recent Which? travel insurance satisfaction survey found that 12% of members have been turned down for travel insurance because of a pre-existing medical condition and weren’t able to find cover.

A previous survey found that one in five people with a pre-existing medical condition had difficulty in obtaining travel insurance. Insurers also refused to insure 39% of people with a pre-existing medical condition and 66% of those that did receive quotes were offered a higher premium. Only 11% suggested using an alternative provider.

Finding alternative travel insurance cover

Under the terms of the signposting agreement introduced by the Government and insurers in April 2012, providers that are unable to provide a policy to older customers are obliged to direct them to an insurer who can offer them suitable cover.

So, if there is signposting on age, why is there no provision for pre-existing medical conditions?

Also, once you have found a quote for a policy that covers your condition, how competitive is that quote? Do you feel you’re better off going with one of the mainstream travel insurers on price alone or is it worth spending more on a specialist provider? If the latter, how do you feel the insurer adds value?

If your insurer won’t cover you with your pre-existing medical condition, should they be forced to signpost you to another?

Yes (80%, 481 Votes)

Don’t have a strong view (12%, 71 Votes)

No (8%, 51 Votes)

Total Voters: 603

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I was diagnosed with depression many years ago and until recently I never knew I had to declare it. Considering a fair percentage of the UK population suffer from anxiety or depressive disorders, I’m sure we’re used as a bit of a cash cow. In fact, some insurers won’t insure me at all despite being fit and well in all other aspects of my life. I’m sure a lot of sufferers are unaware and potentially not covered when they travel.

discodee says:
31 March 2015

I just discovered this. have suffered anxiety for yrs and didn’t know i had to declare it. Also have very mild asthma and didn’t relaise I had to declare that. However I found flexicover this year who added just £3 to the premium for both.
However I got the family policy for my husband 20 yr old daughter and 16 yr old son. son. my daughter suffers anxiety and has suffered depression. As a result the extra to her premium would have been £80!!! However I was allowed to exclude it from the policy and not pay anyextra. This means no claims relating to depression would be paid, but that won’t happen anyway, as you said.
The only flaw in this is, if you suffer say high blood pressure which you’d be so silly not to have covered AND depression, you can not have cover for one and not the other, thus bumping the policy sky high.
There should be a law that if you do not declare pre existing conditions you are just not covered for THOSE CONDITIONS ONLY and then you can declare just the ones you want cover for. It is a con to make you do all or nothing!


my mum who is 61 years old but 30 years old in her mind, has was diagnosed with severve copd, she was admitted into hospital in june 09 with an exberation of copd, she was hospitalized less than two months later and i must say alot lot worse, her sats dropped to 47 and me (her daughter) my brother and sister were called as things turned for the worse.she has to go home after a someone in the hospital recommended herbal clinic to us thankfully after three weeks and the shere determination of my mums will to live shes home, she was connected to oxygen 24hours a day, very tired,cant do things for herself. but shes alive!! this is a horrible condition for any human being to have to go thru but i can proudly say she is fully cure of COPD diease.

[Sorry WalidErika, your comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. Please ensure that your comments do not contain promotional material. Thanks, mods]

barbara says:
12 February 2014

my husband has had several episodes of cellulitis in the past. The insurers WILL cover us but they EXCLUDE cover for any episode related to this condition. This is based on their written protocols, no communication from his doctor or specialist would make any difference

Jackie says:
9 September 2015

I have had severe cellulitis and the last episode I had was in March this year. Some friends of mine want to go to Majorca next year in May. I am wondering now if I will get any insurance cover at all after reading your post Barbara. I don’t want the cellulitis to prevent me from travelling anywhere.

Anne Armstrong says:
12 February 2014

I’m planning a trip to Canada in April but when I went to get ins had a shock that I couldn’t get any.I am over 70 but I consider myself fit and well.I had bowel cancer last year which was taken en masse so am clear so the hospital say,also I have asthma and emphysema which has been controlled for years and also controlled blood pressure.
I have two more firms to get in touch with and hope to find someone who will insure me.


I had angina that was resolved with a couple of stents a few years back. No problems since then health wise but declaration resulted in a refusal to cover with some and three fold increases in premiums elsewhere. Seems sometimes that it is any excuse to bump up the price

Margaret says:
15 February 2014

Try Aviva directly, we got single trip policy for us both at a fair price. We had this problem last year after my husband had a pacemaker fitted(3 stents and a heart attack many years ago as well) and after trying many sites including lots of the Which recommended sites we found that if we could get a quote at all it was nearly the cost of the holiday. Best of luck


A very true statement, so many different quotes for 202 days single trip from £1750, down to £525,
2 stemps 6 years ago but they ask if any medicines you take for condition, you have to answer yes as you are on Ramifil and aspirin possibly statins to maintain a low cholesterol level, rest of your life – the whhhhooosssshhhh up goes the price, and then have you consulted a doctor in the last year = well annual checkup on tablets and blood test, it is a rip off!


7 day family short break holiday to Lanzarote, Quoted insurance came to more than the cost of the holiday and flights. Ok so wife has Asthma, but even insurance for me (50, male, no problems at all) was a ridiculous price. We ended up travelling without insurance, just EEC blue medical cards and luckily had no problems and felt let down by a insurance industry that seems to want to only insure low risks and charge a high price to do it.


I have asthma, eczema and serious allergies, I found several companies that offer very reasonable insurance for me, below £10 for a UK trip and below £20 for a European trip. I have found that using a certain comparison website gave me the best offers.

discodee says:
31 March 2015

You can get cover from flexitravel and insure and go, and probably others too, if you ask,which will give you cover for everything but your pre existing conditions 🙂 At least you know everything else is covered then 🙂 I didn’t even think things I had needed to be declared as in the past it has just said “You must be fit and able to travel, and I am so I have! I didn’t realise anxiety came into it! My daughter has that and depression. I paid £56 for an annual policy including winter sports for her, her dad and brother. Middle level cover. To add on the PEMC would have been £80! £30 more than a policy for a year for 3 people!!! I have declared it but excluded it as it isn’t that it will bother her while away. My own annual policy incl winter sports was £31 with them but they wanted £45 to add cover for mild asthma and anxiety. £35 with flexicover and they only wanted £3 more. on’t need the anxiety covering but think it would be sensible cover the mild asthma, esp as we ski each yr so are in a cold country, and you cna’t have cover for one and not the other! So I paid the £38 nd have the cover. Still under £100 for the 4 of us AND I got 15% cashback through quidco for the flexicover one!

Phil Meade says:
12 February 2014

I paid my bank Santander for my current account £12 a month and in this package received annual worldwide travel insurance. I had to pay an extra £70 last year as I had bowel cancer in March 2010. Later that year they decided to cease all these packages added to accounts with effect from October 2013. I had to rearrange my insurance I am over 70, the old policy would cover me to 79, plus my medical details now looked like costing £500 + eventually I was directed by the Colostomy Association to companies that would cover me. I choose Staysure and the cost was reduced to about £300 for a 2 week holiday cruise in the Caribbean. Unfortunately this is an expensive area owing to its proximity to USA. Since then I have had to advise them of other medical bits which adds to the cost plus an admin charge.


This is one of those Conversations where it would be really useful to have somebody from the industry to explain how their products are priced. I have always assumed there is a competent risk analysis and claims experience rationale underpinning the writing of these policies, but now I am not so sure. By the time people reach a certain age they probably have some adverse medical history, yet it appears that, however inert or benign it may be, it jeopardises the purchase of cover. And once a non-standard premium has been applied by one insurer it has to be declared to any other, irrespective of whether any claim was made. Many people have the means as well as the desire to travel abroad well into their eighties, and there are many holidays available where they are probably looked after better than if they stayed at home. Cruises come to mind, but many other resort holidays offer perfect climate, comfort and relaxation that would actually be good for them and potentially improve their condition so that the insurance risk is lowered. Competition does seem to be working in theory but I believe the companies collectively are taking unfair advantage of people with medical conditions. I agree with Ian’s summary above.

Barbara says:
14 February 2014

A couple of years ago I was annoyed to discover that the insurance bundled with my bank account did not cover me for allergies (mild hay fever, mainly, no serious ones) AND charged me an extra £100 or so to insure me at all. A previous insurer had not charged extra. Any condition requiring regularly prescribed medication must be declared apparently, so the insurers can deny cover to anyone who does not declare a minor ailment but has repeat prescriptions.

A recent cancer diagnosis means I will have to look very hard to find insurance even though it was totally removed by surgery. I discovered that Macmillan have a leaflet called Getting Travel Insurance which is available as a PDF. This could be useful to anyone as the companies are used to dealing with people with so called uninsurable conditions. One company was started by someone who had cancer and been denied insurance.

Barbara H says:
14 February 2014

We travel regularly to the USA and have to pay huge amounts for insurance. Some companies won’t insure me, others won’t cover my husband, so it took the equivalent of 3.5 days to find a company that would cover us both. A joint policy is less costly than 2 separate ones. On one occasion it was cheaper to travel as 2 individuals on one policy than as a couple! I have also found that 3 weeks’ cover can cost more than an annual policy. How crazy is that? Within Europe don’t rely on the EHIC card as it only covers treatment on offer to nationals of the country you’re in, ie not repatriation costs. We currently hold a policy with Staysure and have previously used Age UK.

Angela Jackman says:
11 August 2014

I have had ‘bank bundle’ insurance for my husband & myself for years & never needed to claim. 10 yrs ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I notified the insurers – no change. 3 yrs ago still under 65 I had a heart attack & a stent fitted. Last year I had a second heart attack & the original stent was removed & replaced. Still have PD but no worse. I contacted the bank’s insurers but the company uinderwriting the cover had changed. They declined any cover for me or my husband & put the phone down. I tried Staysure because of their extensive advertising cover for pre-existing conditions. After a brief phone interview covering age & current conditions, treatments etc I was told within seconds that we had both been turned down for medical cover by all the companies they use, then charged a punitive amount for other insurance eg theft, baggage, transport etc. We are going to Greece this month – any ideas on medical cover? We have new EHIC cards.

Simon says:
9 March 2015

Hello, I am looking to travel to USA to visit a long lost friend who I have not seen in 30 years whilst I can still travel. I have heart failure, diabetes, sleep apnea and arthritis, insurance quotes are around £500, but I have found a way around this, the US Insurance market offers visitor medical insurance including all pre existing (no questions asked) for around $60.

kate says:
19 August 2015

I am a Canadian Snowbird…live in the USA for 5 months. No company will insure you in the USA unless you have a visitor’s permit or a green card. You said $60….did you ask the deductible? Probably 1000 dollars. That means you either pay $1000 deductible or $125 for a doctor’s visit. Do the math, this “company” will not lose a penny on you…in fact, if you are stupid enough to pay the deductible, then they have made money.

Janet says:
15 February 2014

We have given up going abroad because of the high cost of our travel insurance, which will not cover us for our pre-existing illnesses. 17 years after my treatment for breast cancer finished they will not cover me at all for cancer. I worry that if Scotland go independent, I will have the same problem with travel insurance for holidays there.

Pamela Hibbert says:
16 February 2014

We have found it increasingly difficult to get travel insurance because my husband had a heart attack 15 years ago. He is now 65. Staysure widely advertise their willingness to cover existing conditions and we bought a 12 month worldwide policy in May 2013 with a premium in excess of £300. In January 2014 we were due to fly to the Caribbean. In November 2013 he was diagnosed and treated for early bladder cancer.His consultant had no concerns about the travel plans. We informed Staysure of this event and were informed that they were not prepared to cover any problems arising from this new medical condition despite it having occurred mid policy.

On reading the small print in the policy document I discovered that it states that Staysure reserve the right to withdraw cover at an time.! Surely the point of any insurance policy is to cover the unforseeable and we pay hefty premiums because the insurer take the risk. Not is Staysure’s case.


Insurance companies that deliberately attract business from people with medical conditions must be carrying a much higher proportion of risk than other insurers. I have been wondering how that can be in policy-holders’ interest as it’s bound to lead to a tougher approach to risk acceptance and claims, and to higher than average premiums. Supposedly, insurance premiums are calculated on the basis of a realistic assessment of risks and the experience of claims. With other classes of insurance now increasingly competitive and with the industry moaning that margins have been whittled to the bone, it must be tempting to take advantage of the most docile group of customers available.

Barry Jones says:
19 February 2014

I agree with this service as i believe it benefits many people – Thanks

Diana says:
24 February 2014

I have suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for over 40 years, but am relatively fit. As a result of this I have mild bronchiectasis with few symptoms and also acid reflux. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a reversible heart condition brought on by stress. 9 months later when the heart condition had gone and I had been cleared by the hospital I needed travel insurance. It had been bad enough before, but the addition of a new condition, even though it was no longer present, was the last straw for the insurance company. These companies do not understand many of the medical conditions and any hint of something, even though it may provide little or less risk than someone ‘healthy’, makes premiums leap or excludes one from insurance. The companies who say they specialise in people with pre-existing medical conditions seem just as bad. They seem to specialise in certain conditions and don’t understand others. In the past I have been offered insurance that excluded rheumatoid arthritis. You can imagine what would happen if you had an accident. Nearly every bit of medical care would be considered to be a result of the arthritis! Travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions is a con.


Getting cover that allows for less serious pre-existing conditions has not been a problem (Saga, Direct Travel). A major difficulty has arisen when you are in the middle of a series of tests with no final diagnosis or treatment. No cover is available under any conditions, insurers just do not want to get involved as the risk is unknown.

maureen barnes says:
22 April 2014

my brother tried to get insurance cover and he was quoted more cost than the holiday, he stayed home and gave the holiday to his son as his wife had pre booked,


From what I have seen from a recent cruise holiday a lot of people are over ambitious as to how healthy they are. They may be fine in their normal day to day mode but put them on a day trip to Petra and it is quite shocking how many were in serious physical distress from the high heat and the walking.

As it happened we had five ambulances to take of people at the next three ports. We also had a couple who spent the remainder of the cruise recovering in cabin.

Travelling by air is stressful , people are possibly going to over exert themselves, or try exotic foods and drink. Old illnesses may weaken peoples resilience to events. I think that the general public are perhaps too ready to avoid thinking of the downsides. How many thousand £500 travel policies would I have to sell to make a profit and to cover a claim for specialist heart care and medical plane repatriation from the southernmost town in South America.?

As a business model I reckon none of us readers would be interested in the slightest.

Eddie says:
18 May 2014

Like everyone else we have struggled to get reasonable travel insurance and have been refused by some. Our conditions include diabetes, copd, heart attack, angina and atrial fibrilation plus the statins, blood pressure medication and warfarin tablets which go hand in hand with the conditions.I was asked if I would take part in a worldwide medical research study called Reveal concerning good cholestoral. I said yes, that was it, I then became more or less uninsurable.The University of Oxford who are part of the study told me to try Able2travel. What a surprise, they not only insured us but allowed us an annual policy at a reasonable price. I agree it’s hard work and expensive but we would never go away without it.


When will Which? cover pre-existing psychological conditions in the travel insurance reviews. I am tired waiting for this review and expected it to be covered in the latest review after commenting on this failure. Are people with depression, stress, anxiety and more serious conditions travelling abroad without declaring their conditions? By not covering the mental health conditions in their travel insurance review, Which? is discriminating against those suffering with mental health problems.

Alex, when are you reviewing travel insurance for those with mental health conditions?

Stewart says:
25 July 2014

It must be considered discrimination against disability.
There is also discrimination against age.

Just as society funds healthcare for all Insurance companies must be forced to quote a flat rate for all regardless of medical conditions with absolutely no ability to refuse insurance on the basis of age or medical conditions bar the extremes of age or life threatening illness that would preclude travel.

High time similar principals were applied to vehicle insurance too.

Meantime the Insurers all compete to cherry pick the most profitable customers leaving the most vulnerable often priced out of the market. It is outrageous. Make them compete on customer service, features and the flat rate prices alone.


Discrimination against age, and disability?

By a flat rate I suspect you mean that everyone pays the same price for the same cover. Seems to me that would encourage the unfit to travel and the consequent large claims force up travel insurance for all – or all of those who will then bother to take-out travel insurance.

I am not sure that this plan will fly.


I agree with Dieseltaylor. Normally I’m very much in support of measures to help the disabled but what Stewart has suggested is simply not reasonable.


All insurance cover is risk-based and most companies lay-off their risks through re-insurers who also have to be satisfied. There can be no open-ended one-size-fits-all blanket provisions in such a system. It is the particularisation of risks and probabilities that keep insurance broadly affordable for the majority – it continues to amaze me that travel insurance is still fairly wide open territorially since it is usually broken down into just Europe or The World; the range of risks, medical fees and repatriation costs within either category must be immense but it is all averaged to produce a standard policy and premium. The last thing we want is insurance companies collapsing under the weight of medical expenses claims. I recognise that a consequence of this is that some people become unable to travel outside the UK or cannot afford the premium where special cover is available. In my opinion that is neither discriminatory nor inequitable.

Stewart says:
28 July 2014

I think it is perfectly reasonable.

If your health is parlous, as I suggested, they should not be obliged to cover you and it might be a matter for a GP’s reference letter, but otherwise insurance should be open to all with the healthy majority paying a little more for the rest.

We have Socialised healthcare and the same principals should apply to insurance.

For that matter it should also apply to Private Health Insurance and those companies should be obliged to offer flat rate policies with no discrimination by pre existing conditions. Even the Americans are trying to go this way!

It will also force the healthcare and travel insurers to start competing on transparent pricing, customer service and Ts&Cs


Unlike the national healthcare services and other life events for which we have a compulsory national insurance scheme, travel and holiday insurance is not a legal requirement and it is not available from a state provider. People are entitled to go without insurance cover and to travel at their own risk. Compelling insurance companies to take on unlimited risks would be unsustainable since the “flat rate policies” would end up with higher and higher premiums in order to choke off demand, and the companies with the lowest rates would be overloaded with bad risks.to the detriment of other customers who would progressively switch providers leaving the books seriously unbalanced.


Is Which? discriminating against all those with mental health conditions by only reviewing travel insurance for those with physical health conditions or are they taking the easy option?


I think you have identified a lacuna in travel insurance cover. Mental health seems to be an unmentionable subject. I have recently renewed our travel insurance [with Barclays] and nowhere in the documentation, nor especially in the medical declarations, can I see any reference to “mental health conditions”. That is not to say that people with such conditions ccan take it for granted that they are automatically covered in the event of a claim if they take out such a policy and make the required declarations. The declarations seem to me to be predominantly related to physical medical conditions and I suspect that the policy is silent on mental health issues for some sort of commercial reason [or else the whole subject is too difficult and it’s commercially more convenient to look the other way until something happens and then respond in a halfway sympathetic fashion]. Having said that, there is a particular question that cannot be entirely isolated from mental health : “Have you or anyone to be covered under this insurance, EVER . . . . . had any cerebrovascular problems, including stroke, transient ischaemic attack or brain haemorrhage?” I presume that people who answer “YES” to that question will either be denied insurance or offered it on special [and more expensive] terms. I expect the same kind of questions appear in most insurance policy risk assessments and that most people say “NO” to all the questions. Then, in the event of a medical emergency abroad involving a mental condition, the insurer says “Aah – you didn’t tell us your full medical history so you are not fully covered”. I think it would be very helpful for Which? to examine this area in detail and report on it. There are at least four important issues: (a) are insurers treating people with mental health conditions consistently with other insured persons [i.e. those without any health conditions at all and those with physical health conditions]?; (b) is insurance being unfairly denied to people with mental health conditions, or are premiums being unfairly loaded against them [due to excessive and unjustified risk aversion perhaps]?; (c) are claims by people with mental health conditions being treated equitably?; and (d) are insurance companies, through the gaps and silences in their literature, effectively deterring people with mental health conditions from seeking travel insurance cover with the tacit intention of denying service to such people?


is an interesting overall view of the insurance industry and premium rating from 2009.

From this .pdf: which is irritatingly undated

Travel insurance
In most standard policies pre-existing conditions
will not be covered. Some companies do provide
full cover policies but the premiums are very high.
Sometimes your insurance company might request
a letter from your GP or consultant stating that you
are fit to travel.
It is also important to remember the European
Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is valid when
you travel to any other country within the EEA
(European Economic Area) or Switzerland and
has replaced the old E111 form. The EHIC entitles
you to free state-provided medical treatment in
the country you are visiting. It also covers you for
any pre-existing illness. It does not act a substitute
for travel insurance, nor does it cover repatriation
(travel arrangements to return you to the UK if you
become unwell)

Available with other guides from:

So it would seem the mental health charities can provide some of the information of use.


I wonder if there is an insurance body that provides statistics on claims for mental health problems insurance and claims for physical health problems. I have NEVER heard of anybody claiming for mental health conditions under their travel insurance yet most mainstream travel insurance companies refuse to provide a quote for a pre-existing mental health condition on their website.

That is why Which? should review insurance for mental health conditions.

A statistic to dwell on:
1 in 4 British adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any one year, and 1 in 6 experiences this at any given time.
(The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report, 2001)

I wonder if most of the 1 in 4 are travelling without declaring their condition.


There seem to be a number of specialist insurers who specifically refer to mental health conditions [I just put “travel insurance mental health” in my browser and several came up]. This is an extract from one of them called It’s So Easy Travel Insurance : “We can provide travel insurance for people with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, subject to a medical screening either online or over the phone. As with covering any medical condition, the premium will depend on your circumstances and you still have the option not to include the additional cover. However, if you choose that option, any claims related to your depression, anxiety or other psychological condition would be excluded. Obviously, to ensure that you’re adequately protected, we’d encourage you to include them in your cover. Most travel insurance policies have an automatic exclusion on covering any kind of mental health condition, so we are proud that we are one of the few companies that will quote for mental health conditions.” Later on the company states : “Most travel insurance policies – except ours – automatically exclude cover for conditions that fall under the umbrella term of ‘psychological’. These can include anxiety and depression. Many of us experience one kind of mental health condition or another at some point in our lives and insurers are interested in these only if someone has experienced one, or taken medication for one, in a period before taking out insurance. We will ask you to go through a medical screening process as we would with anyone with any other kind of medical condition. This is to build up a picture of your situation and is the basis on which the premium is calculated. If you feel you ought to declare a mental health condition but later would like to remove it from the quotation process, you can exclude it but should you make a claim directly or indirectly linked to that condition, then your claim could be declined.”

That is just one I picked out at random and I did not explore the specific cover available or prices; anyone wishing to take this further would be advised to consider and compare a number of alternative insurance providers. Other companies probably have a similar approach but there could be significant differences between companies in how they weight different conditions, how detailed or extensive their screening process is, their claims experience and how that impacts on premiums, policy terms and conditions, and exclusions and excesses. Clearly there is a market here and in view of the statistics you have quoted it is an important one that deserves to be properly researched and reviewed, especially as many of the people subject to special terms might be less able than others to select the most appropriate insurance cover. As you surmise, Figgerty, it is likely that many travellers are not declaring medical conditions, of either the mental or physical kind, for fear of attracting an adverse rating which would be shared through the industry database and render future cover unaffordable.


You can find travel insurance for mental health conditions but at a price that I believe does not reflect the risk or likelihood of a claim . See below:

It’s So Easy Travel Insurance quoted me online, for the following:

2 weeks in Europe from mid Sept for a 60 year old. Single trip only.

1. No declared medical conditions £23.67

2. Two hip replacements, trouble free since surgery £23.67

3 Bipolar Affective Disorder, no hospitalisations or any problems in past 10 years. since diagnosis. On medication which controls the condition. £94.58

I used details of someone with a history known to me. It would be useful if another member used their common medical condition or one known to them to obtain a quote. I would then like to know why travel insurance for mental health conditions is considered 4 times the risk of someone with a double hip replacement. OR is mental health the cash cow of the travel insurance companies.

What type of claim am I likely to make if I have a mental health problem on holiday. Knowing how stigmatised mental health is in this country I would not wish to take my chances in wider Europe, I might end up in continental Bedlam. A quick trip to the local airport and a cheapish flight home or a trip on Eurostar back to familiar Friern Barnet would be my solution.

What does this mean. the indirectly linked bit

“If you feel you ought to declare a mental health condition but later would like to remove it from the quotation process, you can exclude it but should you make a claim directly or indirectly linked to that condition, then your claim could be declined”

Does it mean that: if I break my leg, the insurance company may not pay out as I have an undeclared pre-existing mental health problem.

Earlier this year I researched travel insurance for pre-existing mental health insurance as I was planning a holiday and after many quotations I found a few specialist companies charging from around £50. Because I had made comments in Which? Conversation about Which? covering this in their next review I was contacted by a Which? researcher. I passed all of the contacts to him and expected the next review to include mental health conditions. To my amazement, Which? carried out it’s usual easy review – ignoring all of us suffering from mental health problems. I can only conclude that Which? is discriminating against us and so I wonder why I continue my membership. One years membership will pay for two weeks travel insurance and maybe even annual insurance.


I agree with you that the insurance companies are probably exaggerating the risks and overloading the premiums – and excessively so. I have no reason to believe that a mental health condition would, in general, pre-dispose a traveller to suffer an accident or mishap requiring treatment. An habitual heavy drinker who can tick the YES box throughout the medical questionnaire is more likely to need a doctor and nurse perhaps. I think the problem boils down to competition in the insurance industry – too much for general, motor and household insurance, and not enough for speciality cover. The consequence is that the major general insurers are fighting each other to the death over premiums levels and have cut out [or charge exhorbitantly for] any risks and perils that fall outside the norm [e.g. they have lowered the age limit for travel insurance]. This business is then left to the specialist insurers who end up with a disproportionate number of policy-holders requiring bespoke cover; these companies might possibly have a claims experience that they think justifies setting higher rates but my view is that they are over-cautious and seek to protect themselves totally from any perceived liabilities. Unfortunately, information which consumers could use to challenge this state of affairs is probably not available. There is no out-reaching form of statutory regulation for the industry and despite their fierce competition amongst themselves the companies huddle together under the umbrella of the ABI and other trade bodies to protect themselves from scrutiny [chiefly by remaining silent]. I would be extremely surprised if anyone from the industry engaged with this Conversation but it would be brilliant if they would. As you say, Which? has also dodged the issue and has taken the quick and easy route.

Does the same percentage difference apply in the case of an annual travel policy rather than a single trip one? It would be interesting to see whether there is any consistency.

On the question you ask about removing a mental health condition from an insurance quote, I think I know what they mean but it is certainly open to contrary interpretations and I wouldn’t fancy my chances of arguing the point with their lawyers. The word “indirectly” is the weasel in the case because it can cover almost any loose connexion between a condition and the event giving rise to the claim [however bizarre]. Ultimately I would expect a judge to rule in my favour on the grounds that when terms and conditions are misleading or confusing they cannot be relied upon by the company and the benefit of the doubt should be given to the consumer. Getting to that point of resolution would probably be such an awful experience that most people wouldn’t embark upon it and the insurance company would get away with it [and I bet the “legal action” cover in the household insurance wouldn’t take the case on either against another insurance company – so double jeopardy there perhaps].

I presume – on the basis of not very much unfortunately – that the people at Which? who start these Conversations actually read the comments submitted, . . . so come on, Alex, let’s have some action on this issue and a proper investigation into how the insurance companies set their rates for people with mental health conditions?

I used to go to a nice little Italian family restaurant in Friern Barnet [near the Orange Tree pub] – gave me a taste for Italy. Long gone I suppose.

discodee says:
31 March 2015

I have suffered anxiety all my life and my daughter has suffered depression. Didn’t even know we had to declare it until this year! I chose to exclude it from the family policy my daughter is on. That cost £56 for annual insurance for 3 people incl winter sports. To add cover for depression would have been an extra £80!! I was astounded. I chode to declare it but not have cover for it. However in light of what the germanwings pilot did, I guess you can see where they’re coming from. sadly we are all capable of being loonies! But then, so are people who have not been diagnosed, and more importantly , treated for it!!!

discodee says:
31 March 2015

John Ward, that legal process would make anyone suffering from anxiety need double dose of happy pills!!!



The Orange Tree pub is now a Tesco Express but there is still a nice Italian restaurant nearby. Friern Barnet’s Bedlam is now converted into luxury flats or apartments. Footballers and media types live there and they have tight security on the gates.

I obtained quotations for an annual multi trip travel insurance and obtained very interesting results, as follows:

No conditions declared, silver annual multitrip £77.08; gold annual multitrip £108.93

Hip replacement declared, premier annual multitrip £61.64; premier plus annual multitrip £78.38

Bi-polar disorder declared, It’s so easy will not cover me for this condition. I expect they think my condition can not be stabilised over a year.

There appears to be a gremlin in their system as a perfectly health person will pay more for insurance than someone who has had a hip and joint replacement.

I believe the difficulty in obtaining reasonable priced travel insurance for mental health conditions means that people are either travelling without cover or opting for a bog standard insurance policy and keeping quiet about their condition. I would not be happy with either option as I’m a belt and braces person and would worry all the way through the holiday about the unlikely event of a meltdown – something I have not had since I was diagnosed. I have found reasonable priced insurance for myself but I think we should all try and help our fellow men and women. The internet makes it so easy to connect with a great number of people and Which? as a consumer champion must not ignore those who are unfortunate enough to suffer from mental health problems. We still pay the membership fee and deserve to be considered when they carry out reviews on subjects where our disability is a major factor.

John, once again your response demonstrates what a kind and thoughtful gentleman you are. Thanks for your input on this subject.

discodee says:
31 March 2015

Think I will declare a hip replacement next time then! lol
Why would you worry all holiday if you chose to exclude anxiety?
When i found that you had to declare these things, i started worrying and cancelled the insurance I had just taken out. I then did research and tok the aforementioned policies out. I would not worry at all about my anxiety not being covered. firstly I go abroad twice a ytear and if anything am more relaxed when away. secondly it never gives me cause for alarmn. I WOULD maybe worry when skiing if I hadn’t declared my asthma as I got a bad cold one year that was near enough flu and it went to my chest and I was in bed for 3 days 🙁 I was in a pretty bad way. luckily got through it, but had i got bad and needed hospitalising they’d have blamed my asthma, so feel I need to declare it. I am not bothered about the anxiety though.


figgerty – Join the Consumers’ Association rather than just be a subscriber! No extra charge!!. It was interesting to see that your information disappeared into a black hole. However I do have concerns that if WHich? impinges on other charities preserves it will not be doing those charities any favours.

What I have suggested to Which? is that it effectivelly has a searchable Directory rather like a Google/Wikipedia but with pukka sites only that can steer various queries to the existing charities I think of it as CAWiki or Whichopedia.

As to the discrepancies in cover price I think you will find that people with hip replacements very rarely involve themselves in dangerous pursuits so ther claim record may actually be very good.

The non-cover for bi-polar disorder is less obvious but I can easily imagine that getting opinions from Doctors is not cheap easy or quick. The hassles involved may be why it is an unattractive business area. I am glad you have obtained cover and that as you say this news should be out there.

” Travelling Abroad & Travel Insurance
Similar to other severe illnesses, the only times you might be prohibited from travelling is if you are too ill to travel. If, for example, you are suffering from a manic or bipolar depressive episode (or have very recently had an episode) you are unlikely to be well enough to travel abroad.

NICE guidance states that there are risks for people with bipolar disorder travelling across time zones, due to medication timing and disruption of the circadian rhythm. (See http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/pdf/CG38niceguideline.pdf section for details)

Travel Insurance
It sometimes can be difficult to purchase travel insurance from High Street insurers if you have a severe mental illness. Bipolar UK works with two travel insurance companies:

Active Minds Insurance Services – please quote our unique scheme code “MDF” on 01424 215 315. Active Minds offer a special discount to Bipolar UK Supporter Members. Click here to find out more about becoming a Bipolar UK Supporter Member.

Active Minds also offer a Life Assurance scheme – for details of this, see the ‘Money, Benefits & Insurance’ section of our Frequently Asked Questions.

Free Spirit Travel Insurance – please quote our unique scheme code “MAN1156” on either 0845 230 5000 or visit their website at freespirittravelinsurance.com.
For annual cover from Free Spirit, please ask to speak to Mary Holt or the supervisor.”




Many medical conditions are represented by charities. This does not prevent Which? using the condition as an example when they carry our travel insurance reviews. All of the companies you mention and a few others were given as leads to the Which? researcher.

In my research I found that the following Insurance companies provided quite reasonable quotations. As I have not yet been on holiday I am unable to recommend any and I guess that recommendations are only of value after a successful claim. This is where the power of Which? would be vital.

Free Spirit
Freedom Ins
Cover for you
No Limits travel insurance

I had to contact Active Minds by email and I have yet to receive a reply. I was only interested in a single trip policy as two family members are having cancer treatment and nobody is planning too far ahead at present.

I am spending a great deal of time trying to raise awareness of Pancreatic Cancer so have very little time for extra Which? activities. This cancer has a five year survival rate of just over 3% and this figure has changed very little in the past 40 years. I am trying to get funding for research increased so the cancer is diagnosed much earlier and in time for effective treatment. At present most patients are too far advanced for any but palliative care. This is the first time my family has been hit by cancer, so two members in the matter of a few months is shattering. I am also getting information from Pancreatic Cancer UK and distributing it among family and friends to persuade their local GP’s to display them in their leaflet racks. A quick survey of a number of local surgeries showed a lack of information on this cancer.

Re the Consumers Association, I have a vague recollection of joining a Which? service but did not have time for the many communications I received. When things settle down I may look into it again. I thought it was called something like Which? Connect, but I could be wrong. Thr are now so many different Which? websites that I can’t keep up, I only became aware of some when replied to a survey. I think we should have a link to other websites on each website.


I have discovered a website called The Insurance Surgery where you can input your details and obtain a great many quotes covering Bi-polar and other conditions and some of the prices are very reasonable indeed. My two week trip to Europe costs only £38, and that is with Get Going Travel Insurance for their Premier Single Trip policy. The excess is only £75 if I remember correctly, seems very good indeed. Orbis Insurance quoted £72.

Bernice ferns says:
29 September 2014

I was diagnosed with a bladder tumour jan 2014 I have had op and one of my kidneys removed lynth nodes were negative so I haven’t had to have any radiography or chemo if I go on saga holiday would I get insurance

mike says:
5 November 2014

Ihad heart attacks in 1984 and 1995 then a heart by-pass in 1995.My condition since has been stable.On insurance forms they ask was my condition within the last 6 weeks or later.I the agent why they use 6 weeks as a time scale as this means my heart attack which was 17 years ago is considered the same risk as someone who had one 7 weeks ago.She just said that these were standard industry questions.

shorey says:
15 May 2015

my husband and i are going to Prague for a few days I rang Stay Sure for ins my husband is fit 86 but takes pain killers for hips,
He had Cataracts done last year and his eyelid was droopy this was stitched back separate from the cataract op. The surgeon remarked they should have sent you for both lids but i can only do what is asked, but go back to G>P and get re,sent which he did and has appointment for July but a different doctor , who may or may not decide if it needs stitching back, a couple of stitches in lid.
When I declared this they said could not insure him, and put the phone down before I could get a quote for my self he may not even need it done how rude to put phone down before I finished speaking,

gayle wheatley says:
22 June 2015

hi my daughter has an undiagnosed bleeding disorder, which we found out about when she was 8, she is now 16, its the first time she has been abroad and i am finding it extremely difficult to get travel insurance for her because the condition is rare and does not have a name. we were just wondering if there was anybody else out there who has had the same problem or perhaps anybody who could recommend a travel insurance company that will consider insuring her, thanks in advance


Good morning Gayle, I understand that you’re looking for a travel insurer which will cover your daughter’s medical condition. Have you taken a read through our best rated insurers, here:


You’re also very welcome to try our Which? Money magazine that is currently on offer. I’m certain that you would find this extremely useful because as well as getting the monthly magazine, you’d get access to the Which? Money helpline and so you’d be able to get money related advice over the phone from our financial experts. You can read more about Which? Money, here:



I have epilepsy, the condition is well controlled, and have not had a seizure for over twenty years. I have been buying travel insurance from the post office for over ten years because I work for Royal Mail and get a discount. However this year I was refused because I could not answer one of the questions with a yes or no answer.
I was asked did I get epilepsy because of
a, a brain heamorrage?
b, cancer of the brain?
c, a blow to the head?
I said it wasn’t a or b but I didn’t know if it was c because no one knows how I got it.
They said if I can’t answer yes or no they can’t carry on or insure me.
I said the specialists don’t even know how I got it at the age of 31.
They said it must be on my medical records
I said it is, and it says they don’t know how
They say sorry can’t go on and, or insure you
I say I don’t even want cover for the bloody epilepsy because it is not an issue!
Surely this is not right and something can be done about this?


Hello Brianclifford, thanks for your comment. If a provider can’t offer your cover, they are required to direct you to another provider who can. It may be worthwhile trying a broker for cover – the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) offer a ‘find a broker’ service that should be able to help you find a provider that can help https://www.biba.org.uk/find-insurance/


You know Shirley for all the criticism of “New World ” herbal cures which are establishment based and not “obeying ” Big Chemical USA a lot of them really do work . Just because they get a standard human being who has no problems and base any reaction on them doesn’t mean everybody has the same DNA/chemical make up internally . My wife has been PROVEN in hospital to be allergic to a whole range of foods including milk products , even from birth and has serious reactions to eating them . She has attended heath foods shops for 50 years and they certainly helped her, anybody coming out with “its all in the mind ” must have shares in Monsanto. Even my hero in politics Caroline Lucas is a vegetarian and so are a large number of the British population not scumming to Big Junk Food USA.


I am currently trying to make holiday arrangements for a COPD sufferer who requires oxygen. A few days in France for a family wedding. They receive suitable equipment in the UK from a contracted provider under the NHS. However, they refuse to let that equipment be taken to France, even if properly insured. Trying to find a “state” provider in France that will allow costs to be recovered on an EHIC card has so far not been successful. And if we do, we still need oxygen to reach the destination – which our NHS provider will not allow. Unless…… we hire it from the privately, for several £00s.

We might have missed a simple solution to this. But so far all the agencies we have contacted have been unable to provide real information or help. Are these people not supposed to go on holiday – unless they have deep pockets?


Malcolm have you contacted ELF (Europen Lung Foundation) based in Sheffield? E-mail address: info@europeanlung.org – Tel: 114 267 2875


Thanks Beryl. Yes, I did and that lead to Cliess in France (“The Cleiss is the liaison body between the French social security institutions and their foreign counterparts “) who gave a list of oxygen providers, but no indication of their status – whether state or private. I am still in contact with Cleiss when they are open – they have limited hours and I seem to just miss them.

What is so frustating is a lack of any official guidance to help with what must be a common problem.

ELF were the most helpful of all who we’ve contacted. Our NHS provider was least helpful; until it came to the private option.


I’m sorry to hear about this problem, Malcolm Is it the NHS or the equipment supplier that is not allowing equipment to be taken abroad, and does the airline have any objection?


It is the equipment supplier, and the person concerned is travelling by car, so would have no problem transporting equipment.


I see. It would be interesting to know why the NHS equipment supplier will not allow it to be taken out of the country. I wonder if the consultant might be able to help, because this problem will have arisen before.

If you run out of time, a cheaper alternative to hiring abroad might be to hire a machine from a company that is happy for it to be taken abroad.


The current provider will allow a machine to be taken abroad – providing the patient pays the private hire charge of a few hundred pounds..


The company can make the rules, unfortunately. An email to the CEO might not reach the top but might achieve a result, though it would not help others in the same position. A friend bought his own machine in the days when the NHS would only prescribe and deliver oxygen bottles.


This patient did originally buy their own, and replaced it as they do not seem to last for too long. At about £3500 a time it was a an expensive investment but far more convenient than dragging cylinders around. However, her health service then started providing portable battery/mains oxygen concentrators as an alternative to cylinders, and so the need to buy privately disappeared. Had they still got a functioning private machine the travel problem would not have arisen.

It is the NHS who contract with these companies for the supply of oxygen equipment. It is they who presumably should be making the rules. In turn they should be giving thought to those many patients who want, or need, to travel outside the UK and to help them deal with this. We are hoping we have simply missed the obvious solution, but no sign so far.


I agree, Malcolm. There are plenty of users of oxygen concentrators and I have read of similar problems online. Unlike poorly controlled asthma, COPD can be a stable condition and should not prevent travel.


To now complete this comment, for anyone interested :-). If you need medical oxygen and want to go abroad, you can hire equipment to be provided at your destination and recover some or all of the cost on your EHIC card if the foreign provider is a “state” supplier, not just private.

However, you have first to travel to your destination. To do this, the patient needs oxygen. The NHS do not permit you to take the necessary equipment they provide out of the UK. So you can only travel if you hire the oxygen equipment, at typically £400.

This seems like discrimination against the disabled. How many are prevented from travelling because of the cost – even if it is just a day trip to Calais. Something should be changed – in my view.


I’m a bit confused, Malcolm. You said earlier that the supplier would not permit the equipment to be taken abroad and here you mention that the NHS imposing the restriction. If the latter applies it will either be their decision or relate to their contract with the supplier.

It might be worth writing to the supplier and asking them to justify what appears to be an unreasonable stance. Certainly the short term hire charge deserves to be challenged. Best of luck and I hope you can report success soon.


It is apparently down to the contract between the NHS and the supplier. My friend was told by the supplier that they could not take their (NHS provided) equipment out of the country.

I do not expect to report any success as the current situation now appears clear. You either act dishonestly – just take your NHS equipment with you – or arrange a private hire. AlI I can now do is to bring this to the attention of others and hope some change might eventually ensue.


COPD covers a range of lung conditions that make breathing more difficult. As far as I am aware, while breathing can be helped – oxygen for example – there is no cure in what is a progressive ailment. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – where Chronic means”it’s a long-term condition and does not go away”. I would like to see real evidence that herbal treatment has been effective as I have a personal interest.


COPD does indeed cover a range of respiratory conditions, the best known being emphysema, and occupational exposure to dusts and smoking were common causes but there are other causes and many sufferers. My mother suffered from bronchiectasis – another form of COPD – as a result of ‘flu in 1957. The damage was restricted to part of one lung and gradually the need for pulmonary drainage lessened over many years.

Asthma also causes breathing difficulties, but they are reversible. Well established and inexpensive drugs can offer very effective prevention and treatment for most people these days, and the real challenge is to identify and avoid whatever triggers the problem, which can be a combination of allergens and stress.

Many sufferers of COPD are given asthma drugs and in some cases these can make a significant improvement.

Some prescribed drugs are purified versions of what occur in plants and other species but with herbal remedies the amount of active components will vary and there known risks (e.g. St John’s wort) and others that may not be known.


COPD can be misdiagnosed as asthma – certainly without more investigation. Temporary inflammation of the airways is helped greatly by drugs – such as given by the common blue Asthma inhaler. COPD is essentially the inability of the lungs to exchange oxygen well, and can lead to the retention of carbon dioxide which is effectively a poison.


Funny, Shirley has plastered that same post all over the net. The one place she hasn’t left a glowing review is the site itself, so reporting as blatant advertising.
Searching her “full name” in quotes gets plenty of results.


I reported a similar post this afternoon and it was removed. I expect that others reported it too. I have reported the one above because it is clearly promotional.

Alfa – I am hoping that websites such as this will be using software that detects posts that are identical or very similar to other material posted on the web. The technology already exists for detecting plagiarism.


I reported the above post from ShirleyHeche as “promotional” when it first appeared. Still there.


Another post now removed for advertising.


They are getting more subtle in their advertising , couching it in terms of the points being debated on the convo,s . At least it shows they read convo,s and are not the low grade advertising posts you usually get elsewhere. its one thing commenting on an advertised product relating to the convo , its another offering professional services to remedy the situation otherwise maybe some here would start advertising themselves. I can even imagine the advertising slogans .