Travel Insurance and Chronic Illness
Back in 2014 I had to cancel a major trip due to a health issue. We’d bought travel insurance but I learned the hard way that travel insurance and chronic illness don’t work well together.
While standard travel insurance won’t help you if you need to cancel a trip for a chronic-illness-related reason, it can be helpful for other cancellation reasons that are out of your control (such as a sudden illness, or bad weather). To make travel insurance work with chronic illness you need to dig a little deeper and I’m going to help you out with what you need to know about travel insurance and chronic illness.
I have read many recommendations about buying travel insurance. I’ve probably even recommended it myself a time or two. I have purchased travel insurance a couple of times and each time I’ve been unable to use it (despite having to cancel the trip/ event). Why? One of two reasons:
1. Most travel insurance plans do not cover chronic illness, or any pre-existing condition. Basically, the only way you can even apply for it is if it’s an issue that comes up out of nowhere.
2. Even if it’s an issue that comes up out of nowhere, you’ve got to get a doctor to not only supply documentation but be willing to fill out the forms that the travel insurance provides. Good Luck!
The first time I discovered that travel insurance and chronic illness don’t work together was when I bought insurance to cover concert tickets. I didn’t read the fine print until I needed to use it. When I went online to try to get reimbursed I was met with a mountain of paperwork that my doctor needed to fill out. At the time I was pretty sick and just decided it wasn’t worth the effort or the stress it would cause me to follow through on even trying to get reimbursed.
The last time I attempted to use travel insurance was when I hurt my neck/shoulder about a month before a scheduled trip to Mexico. I actually looked a little closer at the travel insurance that time around and realized that it wouldn’t cover me if I just had a fibro flare (as that would be a pre-existing condition).
However, it wasn’t a fibro flare that caused me to cancel that trip, it was my whacked out back/ shoulder / neck. Unfortunately, I was dealing with Dr. Obvious at the time when I needed the paperwork, and he wasn’t even willing to acknowledge my pain, let alone fill out the paperwork. “We don’t do that.” was the response I received from this office.
Luckily, the gods were in my favor and a few days before we were scheduled to depart for Mexico a freak winter storm hit Atlanta closing the airport and cancelling all flights (including what would have been our connecting flight).
I hadn’t bothered to cancel our flight because the the fees to reschedule would have eaten up the entire cost of the flight. It felt pointless. Thankfully, the weather event allowed us to reschedule without any money lost.
So, what can you do to protect your trip if you have chronic illness?
1 . Know the Value
Can you afford to lose the hundred bucks you just spent on concert tickets? Hopefully you can or you probably shouldn’t have bought them.
If you can afford to lose what you are spending, it’s not worth spending more for insurance. You insure things you can’t afford to lose or replace (like a car, your health, your life).
If you wouldn’t have missed it, don’t insure it. However, with a larger trip there’s a little more to it. You might want to reschedule that trip later and if you didn’t insure it you may not be able to afford rescheduling.
2 . Read the Fine Print
Before you buy travel insurance, read the fine print and know what is expected in order for you to use it. Can you cancel under any circumstances ? Those are the keywords you are looking for.
If you can’t cancel under any circumstances, for any reason, then you may want to save yourself the money. In addition to knowing when it can be used, know what the terms are on how you file a claim and what is required.
What documentation is required when you submit your claim? Who needs to sign off on it? And, in what time period must the claim be submitted? And, do you have access to the people that will be needed to sign off? Do you have a good doctor who will help you out?
3 . Know What’s Covered
There are many types of travel insurance. If you are going on a trip make sure that your coverage not only includes cancellation, but also trip interruption (if you get sick in the middle of the trip), and evacuation (if you need to be transported to a hospital).
If you are traveling outside of your home country you may also want to consider Travel Medical Insurance as many health insurance plans do not cover you when you travel abroad (including cruise ships).
4 . Check Your Payment Method
Many times certain credit cards (American Express, for example) will provide a certain level of travel insurance if you buy your tickets using that card. Make sure you understand the coverage and that it meets your needs before you rely on it.
5 . Talk to Your Doctor
If you have a trusted doctor, your specialist or general practitioner, talk to them before you schedule your trip.
Make sure they are comfortable with your plans and ask them ahead of time if they would be willing to provide a letter should something happen to cancel your trip. Talking with them in advance will avoid an awkward issue later.
6 . Research
Don’t rely solely on whatever travel insurance is offered to you by your travel agent, airline, or booking service. You can buy travel insurance independent of your booking.
Do your own research ahead of time and find a travel insurance that will meet your needs.
After the experiences I’ve had with travel insurance it will probably go on my list of “ways to waste my money” and things to avoid. However, there are certainly times when it is probably worth the money, if the right insurance can be found.
The most important thing is that now I know what to look for and what to avoid (and so do you).
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