Travel Insurance FAQ on Medical Issues

FAQs on Medical Issues

Q: What is a Pre-existing Condition?

A: Pre-existing conditions are defined as any injury, sickness or medical condition, for which the insured has symptoms or consulted a physician, has been hospitalized or was prescribed medications within a certain period before the effective date of coverage. The insurance company will 'look back' only so far (usually 3 months to one year) but depending on the condition, will look back over your entire lifetime. Any pre-existing condition that has not been stable for a certain period of time will usually be excluded from coverage. That's why it's important to be able to easily compare coverage and definitions before choosing the plan that works for you. 

Q: What is the 'stable period' for pre-existing conditions?

A: Travel insurance is meant to insure against the unexpected. If you have a medical condition that you could reasonably expect to cause you to seek medical attention or to file a claim for trip cancellation or interruption benefits, you probably won't be covered if the reason for your claim stems from that pre-existing medical condition. However, the insurance company may cover a pre-existing condition if it has been stable over a certain period of time prior to your insurance coming into effect.

Each company may use a slightly different definition of 'stable'. Depending on the company and the answers you may need to provide on their medical questionnaire, the stable period may range from 90 to 365 days. Certain conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular, cerebral vascular, or lung disease may be excluded from coverage even though they have been stable for longer than 365 days. It depends on the definitions provided under the terms of the policy. 

Q: I'm not certain about to answer the medical questionnaire because some people tell me that the medication I'm on is for one thing (i.e., blood thinner), and others tell me it is for something else (i.e., heart medication).

A: Each insurance company offers a different medical questionnaire to classify your medical risk. If you are not certain about how to answer the questions you are asked, you are advised to speak to your doctor, and get some help in determining the appropriate answers. You have to be aware that if you answer incorrectly to cause you to be classified as a lower risk than you actually are, your coverage may be reduced, or voided altogether. You could choose to avoid visiting your doctor and instead:

  • Choose another medical questionnaire from a different company that asks only questions that you understand the answers to.
  • Answer the question you are unsure of by erring on the side of caution when answering the questions, so that your answer is the one that would define you as a higher medical risk. Your premium will be higher, but you can rest assured that your answers were not inappropriately conservative, and your coverage will be valid. 

Q: Recently my husband has been having some symptoms that something might not be quite right, (signs of weakness, dizziness, profuse sweating, nausea, faintness, etc), but he hasn't been diagnosed with anything. Would that be considered a pre-existing condition, and if so, will it be covered by our insurance?

A:  It's important to realize that just because a condition hasn't been diagnosed doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Any condition that has already started to exhibit symptoms will be defined as a pre-existing condition. All companies have different wording concerning pre-existing conditions. In general, they will exclude all pre-existing conditions unless those conditions have been stable for a certain 'stability period' before your trip. The company will define what they mean by stable, and what period of time applies for the 'stability period'.

The company will also exclude any conditions for which it would have been reasonable to assume medical attention could be required. That's why, it's important to read your policy document before travelling, so you are aware of any exclusions that might apply. If the pre-existing symptoms are found to be related to the reason you require medical attention on your trip, those hospitalization expenses won't be covered.

Q: If I buy my policy ahead of time before my birthday (or when rates increase in early fall), and then prior to my trip my health changes, am I still covered?

A: Snowbird travel health insurance shoppers know that there is money to save by buying their travel insurance in the summer before they go away because rates often change in the fall. Before your birthday comes around, you might consider buying to be given a premium based on a younger age. But buying early doesn't mean that they have 'locked-in' their health status for insurance purposes.

If their health changes (i.e., a change in medication, or an investigation of certain symptoms, or a confirmation of a suspected condition, etc.) they are required to notify their insurance company so that their policy can be reviewed, and their premium adjusted if necessary. Not informing the insurance company of health changes can lower coverage, or void it altogether. If you have purchased a policy and then your health status or medication changes — please read your policy and contact your insurance company or call BestQuote if you have any questions.

For more information see:

Q&A General

Q&A For Visitors to Canada

Q&A For Canadians