Travel insurance for cancer patients

One issue which has come up time and time again for cancer patients and survivors is affordable travel insurance. Many people have said that travel insurance can end up costing more than the holiday itself, which can put people off travelling.

It is not recommended to travel without travel insurance and some tour operators and airlines can refuse carriage if a person is not insured. We have put together some information to try and make sure people can get away for a break without paying too much for insurance.

If you are planning to go on holiday then we strongly recommend that before you book anything that you speak to your doctor to ensure that you are fit to travel and that they would be happy with you travelling. You may need a letter from your doctor to say that you are fit to travel when you buy insurance so it can be handy to have that prepared when you start making enquiries about insurance options.

We have had a look at different options out there and compiled this information about different companies which specialise in insuring people who have or have had cancer. There is no way to know whether each company will be able to offer insurance to every patient and survivor,  as each person has to receive a personalised quote but we have put together this list of companies and some general jargon busting information to help people get the best deal that they can.

It always pays to shop around and get different quotes from different companies. It can also be useful to ask lots of questions about your policy to make sure that it is adequate for your needs. If you are a long time past recovery, mainstream insurance companies may be able to provide cover. Many people have travel insurance through bank accounts as well, if you have been cancer free for a long period of time, it is worth checking if a standard policy can cover you.

If they cannot help or are too expensive explore the specialist companies which may be able to offer better value for money.

Most companies offer savings if booking on-line but it can be valuable to call them up and go over the details of your cover to make sure it is right for you. If you are buying your holiday from a travel agent they will usually have an insurance policy which they recommend, it is often not the best value option so it is worth shopping around. Travel agents will have completed training courses about insurance but we would recommend speaking to an insurance specialist as travel agents will not have the same expertise.

Finally, do not panic if you buy a policy and realise that it is not appropriate for your needs. All insurance companies have to provide you with a “cooling off” period of 14 days. This means the policy can be cancelled free of charge within 14 days. This is the law and insurance companies and people who sell insurance (eg travel agents) are required to tell you this when you purchase the policy.

Specialist Insurance Companies

This is not a definitive list but these are some groups which might be able to offer good value travel insurance for patients and survivors. We cannot guarantee that all people will be able to be offered an insurance policy or what price it will be but there are lots of options here, so you can shop around and see what is best value.

 When calling for a quote you should be prepared for questions about your condition, your treatment and your medical needs. If you are currently undergoing treatment it would be best to deal with a specialist insurer rather than a mainstream insurer, as they will have more experience and sensitivity when providing insurance services for cancer patients.

Some of the questions they may ask can feel very uncomfortable but it is important to be honest and as detailed as possible with information like:

  • Your exact diagnosis eg oropharyngeal cancer/thyroid cancer . They may also ask if it is a primary or secondary cancer. Some companies ,especially companies which do not specialise in cancer, may not ask these questions in a very sensitive way. If you have a life limiting condition we would recommend dealing with a specialist travel insurer who have a track record of sensitivity and compassion. You can find a list of specialist insurers on this page.
  • When your treatment ended or if it is ongoing ?
  • What medication you have to take with you?
  • Have you spoken to your doctor about travelling?
  • Have you a letter from your doctor saying you are fit to travel?
  • Where are you going? Different countries will be more expensive than others . For example high healthcare costs in the USA mean it can be pricier than European countries.
  • How long are you going for? Do you need cover for one holiday or many holidays?
  • Will you be using budget airlines like Ryanair or Easyjet?
  • Names and dates of birth of people who are to be covered by the policy.
  • dates of planned travel.
  • Is it a specialist holiday like a cruise, a skiing trip or an adventure holiday? These types of holiday can all require additional insurance whether you have had cancer or not.

Some of the companies below will ask for your permission to talk to your consultant directly for the medical questions which can be helpful for some people, be aware though that there might an additional charge for this kind of service.

They provide insurance services for a range of pre-existing conditions and have an online chat facility as well which can be helpful.

Specialises in travel insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. When you call them they will do a medical screening and give you a quote in one call.

This company was started by a woman who herself had cancer and was shocked at the expense of travel insurance.

Specialises in providing travel insurance for all cancer conditions. They have many testimonials on their site praising their sensitivity and service levels. They offer a bespoke service for each individual needs.

Specialists in bespoke policies for people who have had cancer or are undergoing treatment.

Offers a bespoke service for patients and survivors to tailor policies which meet their individual needs.

Provides travel insurance for people aged 50 or over. We have had some good reports about Saga and their insurance services.

Staysure are over 50’s specialists and are specialise in insuring people with pre existing medical conditions.

Cover for pre-existing conditions and not based in a call centre. Some testimonials on their site from satisfied customers.

Insurance Jargon

There are quite a few phrases and words which are very common when searching for insurance and it can make it a baffling and frustrating experience. We have some common terms listed here and what they mean:

Cancellation – this means if you cannot go on your holiday. This is a key part of any insurance policy. Be aware that you have to disclose any pre existing medical conditions to your insurer because if you cancel your holiday because of condition which you have not told the insurer about then the policy will be invalid.

Claims Handler– Named on your travel insurance policy documentation. They are appointed by the Insurance Company to handle all claims arising under the terms of the travel insurance which you purchase.

Cooling Off Period- All travel insurance policies will offer a cooling off period during which you can return your policy within 14 days from receipt of documents in order to receive a full refund of premium provided no claim has occurred and travel has not taken place.

Curtailment – this means if you have to cut your holiday short. This is a key part of any insurance policy. Be aware that you have to disclose any pre existing medical conditions to your insurer because if you cancel your holiday because of condition which you have not told the insurer about then the policy will be invalid.

EHIC – This means European Health Insurance Card and is card which entitles you to reduce costs or even free medical care in European countries. While it is not comprehensive and not a substitute for insurance it is very useful when travelling in Europe. More information can be found here on what it covers and where to get it.

Excess – this means the part of an insurance payout you have to pay yourself. For example if there is an excess of £100 and your payout is £500, you will receive £400. Some policies will offer an “excess waiver”, an excess waiver means an additional payment for your policy but then you do not have to pay excess on any payouts.

Exclusions – this means things which are NOT covered by a policy. This can mean pre existing medical conditions like cancer. Some companies will offer you a policy which covers you apart from things listed as exclusions. It is really important that you get insurance which is appropriate for you. Check any policy in detail to make sure that you have the right level of cover for you. Exclusions can cover a range of things not just pre existing conditions : cruises, winter sports, budget airlines can all be excluded so it is worth checking out what you are covered for, and what you are not covered for.

Geographical Limits- Geographical areas shown on the policy documentation. Note that most travel insurance policies do not cover claims arising from travel to countries that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against visiting.

Hazardous Activities– If you are going to take part in a dangerous activity where there is a high risk of injury, check that your insurance covers you. Certain sections of the policy will have specific exclusions in this regard. You will normally need additional travel insurance cover for winter sports.

Limits/Level of Cover- Most sections of your travel insurance will have limits on the amount the Insurer will pay under that section. You are advised to check your travel insurance levels of cover if you intend taking expensive items with you.

Medical Assistance Company – this is recommended medical company which your insurance company uses in the area which you are travelling. It can be useful to take a note of these contact numbers in case anything does happen when you are abroad.

Missed Departure – Arriving at the British Isles departure point too late to commence the trip as booked.

Material Fact – A material fact is a fact that is likely to influence insurers in the acceptance or assessment of the risks attaching to the travel insurance, (for example, an insured person’s state of health or that of a relative or friend on whom a planned holiday or trip may depend).

Non-Disclosure- Non-disclosure or misrepresentation of a material fact may entitle the travel Insurers to void the travel insurance. This is why it is important to always make sure that you declare all your medical conditions Pre-existing medical condition: If you have taken any prescribed medication or required medical treatment with the last two years, or been a registered in or out-patient in the last two years. When travelling abroad medical treatment can be very expensive, and this is why we would advise comprehensive cover for your conditions.

Pre-exisiting conditions – This means the insurance company wants to know about any illnesses or conditions which a person has before they travel. This means you have to disclose any conditions which you know you have. This can mean you have to undergo a medical screening. This is usually done over the phone and can involve some personal questions about your illness and your recovery. It can be hard to go over this with a stranger over the phone but it is important to tell your insurer all the facts. Not telling them can result in the insurance policy being invalid and the insurance company will not pay out.

Personal Liability – this means if something happens where you are responsible for damaging someone or someone’s property. Insurance policies can cover you for this but check the details of the policy. For example many companies will consider a policy invalid if a person has drunk alcohol.

Reasonable Care – You need to take all reasonable care to protect yourself and your property in the same way that you would when on holiday or travelling abroad if you were not covered by a travel insurance policy.

Reciprocal Health Agreement – If you intend travelling to Europe you should either obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This will entitle you to certain free health arrangements. You should take the EHIC with you and make sure that any medical treatment is provided at hospitals or by doctors working within the terms of the Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement unless the Medical Assistance Company agrees otherwise.

Repatriation – this means when you have to get back home from a holiday due to illness or injury. A vital part of any policy.

Single Trip and Multi Trip – this means whether the insurance policy is for one holiday or for multiple trips in a designated period (usually a year). Which one you choose depends on your needs. If you are only going on one trip single trip will usually be better value, two or more trips can mean multi trip/annual insurance can work out better value.


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