Is it right that travel insurers can change your policy after you’ve bought it, such as withdrawing medical cover if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer? Isn’t the point of travel cover to cater for the unexpected?
Got annual travel insurance? Me too. I don’t rely on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), because that will only help you get immediate medical treatment at the point of an accident. This is unlike travel insurance, which will pay for ongoing treatment and repatriation, if required. At least, that’s the plan.
In practice it’s a different matter altogether. Sure, the chances are that if your luggage turns up in Timbuktu instead of hitting the carousel at Sydney, you’ll get compensation.
But what happens if you are diagnosed with cancer between buying insurance and taking your pre-booked cruise to Bermuda?
Cover, what cover?
In this case you’d think you would be covered. And you’d be right in many cases. This is because insurers cannot discriminate against people with a long-term degenerative illness – thanks to the Equality Act 2010.
Yet, they can impose unfair terms and conditions, such as a clause that states they reserve the right to change policies once they’re running. Many insurers do just this to get around covering you for a terminal illness. This simply isn’t right and is an abuse of the current law.
It all stems from the Marine Insurance Act 1906. Yes, 1906. The Act was introduced to enable Edwardian City types to liaise on business deals. It required total disclosure of any relevant information for a deal to be valid.
A century on, decent people are telling their insurer that they’ve just been diagnosed with a serious condition and the insurance buckles.
Kick you when you’re down
You see, if you are diagnosed with cancer after taking out your annual insurance policy, but before your next holiday, your insurer could use the 1906 Act to change the terms of your policy and remove cover.
I mean, seriously, you abide by the rules by disclosing your recent diagnosis and they pull the rug from under you. I take out insurance specifically to cover the unexpected. Yet it seems like too many providers are using this interpretation of the law as a ‘get out of jail free’ card.
Around 300,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year. Some will need a holiday more than the rest of us because of this. Others will have more practical reasons to travel. This could turn out to be their last chance to see relatives, or sort out their affairs. They have paid for annual insurance, the unexpected has happened, they are in dire straits and they’re told they’re not covered. I think this is wrong. What do you think?