Pre-existing medical conditions and travel insurance: What you need to know

Jul 05, 2019
Buying a travel insurance policy that specialises in covering pre-existing medical conditions is super important. Source: Getty

Nothing ruins a trip faster than an unexpected bill, meaning that it is super important to ensure you have correct and adequate travel insurance before jetting off.

Holidaymakers tend to think that travel insurance will provide you with cover for all pre-existing medical conditions, but this certainly isn’t always the case.

In fact, the majority of travel insurance policies only provide automatic cover for a limited number of pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or high cholesterol, so it’s critical to let your travel insurance provider know if you have a medical condition they should know about.

That way, if something does happen abroad, you’re able to get the medical attention you need and you won’t be left out-of-pocket.

However, worrying new research by revealed nearly one in two Australian travellers don’t know which pre-exisiting medical conditions to declare when buying travel insurance.

“These findings show that a vast number of Australians risk travelling without sufficient cover,” Natalie Ball, director at, says.

“In the event that you require hospitalisation or emergency assistance, travellers who haven’t disclosed their prior medical conditions could be uninsured and therefore liable for tens of thousands in medical costs.”

Not sure if your condition is covered? Here’s everything you need to know:

What is considered a pre-exisiting medical condition?

Generally speaking, a pre-existing medical condition is an injury, sickness or condition, for which treatment, medication, investigation, surgery or advice has been received, Ball explains.

Additionally, if you don’t declare your condition, you’re not just liable for any medical costs you incur overseas, your insurance provider can also choose to cancel your policy altogether.

“The problem with omitting your pre-existing condition is that you risk invalidating your whole policy,” Ball adds.

“You have a duty of disclosure. By knowingly withholding crucial information your insurer may choose not to cover any of your travel expenses, full stop.”

What do you need to declare?

To avoid unexpected healthcare costs, Ball recommends playing it safe and listing any recent condition(s) you can remember.

“Most insurers define a pre-existing condition fairly broadly. In simple terms, if you have sought medical attention for it at any time, it may be worth declaring,” she explains.

“Our best advice would be to speak to your insurer and be as transparent as possible. Answer all questions and check with your doctor if you have to.”

According to, the following are some of the most common pre-existing medical conditions that will need to be declared:

  • Heart related conditions: If you’ve ever suffered from any heart related conditions
  • Lung disease: If you’ve ever suffered from a lung disease condition, such as pulmonary fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • High blood pressure: If you’ve ever suffered from any diagnosed circulatory condition and have a reading over 165/95
  • High cholesterol: If you suffer from a known heart or cardiovascular disease
  • Arthritis: If you’ve received a diagnosis or treatment
  •  Mental illness: If you’ve ever suffered from a diagnosed psychiatric or psychological condition
  • Pregnancy complications: Any complications relating to the pregnancy like pre-eclampsia, or gestational diabetes would need to be declared
  • Epilepsy: If you’ve had a seizure which resulted in a visit to a medical practitioner or treatment
  • Irritable Bowel Disease: If you’ve received a diagnosis or treatment
  • Joint replacements: If you’ve received treatment and surgery
  •  Cancer: If you’ve ever suffered from any diagnosed conditions

What are your thoughts on this? Have you travelled with a current or pre-existing medical condition?

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