Who should tell you whether you’re fit to travel? Your doctor, who knows your medical history or an insurance company, which provides a service but exists to make money? The doctor every time, right? Perhaps not…
Customers might think so – but not travel insurers who prefer to rely on their own system of scoring medical conditions rather than the medical advice given to the customer.
In this month’s Which? Travel we highlight the problems faced by members who bought travel insurance policies and then believed they were covered for the trips they planned. But in between buying the policy and departing on the holiday they developed a new medical condition.
Members were told they were fit to travel by their doctor, but then had their medical cover removed or were told they could keep it in place only if they paid a much bigger premium.
New medical condition = no cover
It’s a common and growing problem – the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) is receiving up to 50 complaints a month on the issue, nearly double the number of three years ago.
The FOS said eight years ago that it was not generally fair or reasonable for insurers to behave in this way – unless the new condition represented a fundamental change in the risk being insured.
But one Which? member was told none of her previously insured conditions could be covered simply because she had a new minor condition of oesophageal reflux.
Another was insured for heart conditions, but when he developed a melanoma that his consultant said could be easily cured, his insurers told him neither the melanoma or the original heart condition could be covered.
An unfair system?
I don’t think this is fair, and it seems to be the result of insurers using a blunt instrument – the industry’s medical scoring system – to assess risk.
Thankfully, some insurers agree and believe that once a deal is struck, they shouldn’t vary the terms as long as the customer is not travelling against medical advice. We found policies with Axa Insurance, Freedom Travel Insurance and Miaonline.co.uk that put more emphasis on a customer’s individual circumstances rather than relying on an automatic scoring system.
Where do you stand? Have you been let down by a travel insurer when you thought you were covered? Or have you had good service that should be highlighted?