How depression can DOUBLE the cost of your travel cover and ‘choice is limited for those with complex medical condition’
- Hard-to-spot conditions like depression are becoming more recognised
- Insurers are assessing them in the same way as disabilities such as cancer
- GoCompare’s research also shows a dip in the number of travel insurance firms willing to take on depressed or autistic customers
Millions of people with hidden disabilities like depression face paying more than double the cost for travel insurance – or will take a gamble by failing to buy any cover at all.
While soaring costs are well documented for people suffering from visible or severe illnesses – such as physical disabilities and cancer – a diverse group of consumers are suffering with illnesses largely hidden from view.
Experts say many are too nervous to reveal the full extent of their condition to insurers, and therefore risk invalidating their cover. Or they simply travel without a financial safety net.
Millions of people with hidden disabilities like depression face paying more than double the cost for travel insurance
Others face paying higher premiums as a result of their illness.
Research for The Mail on Sunday by comparison website GoCompare shows that the cost of a bog- standard travel insurance policy for people with depression can be more than double the price for people with no disorders.
Fiona Macrae, of consumer awareness campaign Travel Insurance Explained, says hard-to-spot conditions like depression, dementia and fibromyalgia are becoming more recognised and insurers are assessing them in the same way as physical or medical disabilities such as cancer.
She says: ‘On the surface, it appears that consumers have a huge choice when it comes to purchasing travel insurance. But the choice is limited for those with complex medical conditions.’
GoCompare’s research also shows a dip in the number of travel insurance firms willing to take on depressed or autistic customers.
For holidaymakers with depression, the choice of travel insurers fell by 30 per cent. For autistic customers living independently the numbers fell by 23 per cent.
But highlighting how confusing the search can be for complete cover at a decent price, some firms do not discriminate harshly against hidden disabilities at all and charge the same as for a ‘healthy’ person.
The UK’s financial regulator has announced a crackdown on poor practice in the insurance industry when it comes to helping all consumers with pre-existing medical conditions access comprehensive and affordable cover.
The Financial Conduct Authority is proposing a new ‘signposting’ rule to help holidaymakers with pre-existing medical conditions.
It would force insurers that don’t cater for these customers to point them towards a directory of companies that can help.
This would apply if firms reject a customer, cancel an existing policy, exclude a condition or add to the price because of an illness. Around 100,000 customers are declined travel insurance each year, according to the FCA, and more than 1.5 million are forced to buy cover that excludes their condition.
Changes to help those afflicted will not happen overnight – and the regulator’s consultation on reform does not close until September 15.
In the meantime, people with hidden disabilities are advised to be upfront about their conditions to ensure the cover they buy is valid.
Matthew Sanders, from GoCompare, says: ‘If you don’t declare to your insurer that you have a pre-existing medical issue, you won’t be covered for that condition and your entire policy could be invalidated.
If you are in any doubt, phone up before you buy and if you have an annual policy you must inform them about any changes.’
Specialist travel insurance companies for people with serious pre-existing medical conditions can save customers an average £600.
Macrae adds: ‘A really good place to get recommendations is from charity websites related to a specific condition.’
Companies that can help include brokers AllClear Travel and Medical Travel Compared, as well as providers like Staysure, Insure and Go and Free Spirit Travel insurance.
Anyone struggling to secure cover can use the ‘find a broker’ service from the British Insurance Brokers’ Association. Visit biba.org.uk. For jargon-free information about buying travel insurance visit travelinsuranceexplained.co.uk.
At the very least all travellers holidaying on the Continent should carry a European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to State healthcare for free or at the same cost as local residents. To apply visit ehic.org.uk.