Does Travel Insurance Cover Pre-Existing Conditions?
Travel insurance policies provide coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption and belongings that are lost, damaged or stolen during transport by a commercial carrier.
Because most U.S.-based health insurance providers, including Medicare, do not provide coverage for medical services provided outside of the United States, travel insurance policies also provide coverage for medical evacuations and emergencies that occur during travels abroad.
The medical coverage provided through a travel insurance policy may not provide coverage for emergency medical services provided to treat a pre-existing condition, however.
A pre-existing condition refers to any physical or mental condition which required review, consultation, advice or treatment from a doctor within a time period designated by a travel insurance policy before the policy’s effective date.
Pre-existing conditions include conditions whose symptoms are experienced during a policy’s exclusionary period even if the condition does not become manifest within the same period. Pre-existing conditions also include adjustments to prescriptions to treat conditions such as high blood pressure that occur before the policy becomes effective.
High blood pressure or similar conditions that have been controlled by static, unchanged prescriptions for a period that exceeds the policy’s exclusionary period are generally not considered to be pre-existing conditions.
Travel insurance exclusion or look-back periods differ between providers and policies. Common exclusion periods are 60 or 180 days prior to a policy’s effective date. Some exclusion periods extend to three years before a policy’s effective date.
If a condition becomes obvious through symptoms or diagnosis or if a person should have been aware of the health issue within reasonable terms during a travel insurance policy’s exclusion period, medical expenses resulting from the treatment of the pre-existing condition will not be covered by the policy.
Waiving the Exclusion Period
Certain insurance providers will waive a policy’s exclusion period or shorten the exclusion period when certain criteria are satisfied. A travel insurance policy must be purchased within a certain time, usually 14 days, after the first deposit for the trip has been made or within 24 hours of the final payment for the trip.
The full cost of the non-refundable portion of the trip and the entire length of the trip must be covered by the policy. Finally, an individual covered by a travel insurance policy must be medically able to travel at the time the policy is purchased, meaning the insured cannot have experienced any deterioration in health from a pre-existing condition or other cause.
Even with the exclusion period waived, travel insurance policies will not include coverage for non-emergency medical services provided abroad such as physical exams or mental health evaluations.
Travel insurance will also not provide coverage to replace prescribed items that are lost during travel, including hearing aids and eyeglasses.