What You Need to Know About Buying Travel Insurance If You Are Over 65

As we get older, we naturally start to take looking after ourselves a little more seriously. You might say it’s a case of leaving the recklessness of youth behind. But it’s also true that, as we advance in years, we no longer feel as indestructible as we once did healthwise

For many people of a certain age, looking after their health and avoiding risks becomes a priority in most things they do.

It’s therefore a shame that, when it comes to travel, one of the mainstays of looking after yourself becomes less straightforward as you get older. Travel insurance becomes more expensive for everyone once you pass 65, and after 75 becomes harder to find full stop.

These challenges become even more pronounced if, like so many people in their later years, you live with any kind of medical condition.

This can be extremely frustrating for older would-be travellers who are keen to enjoy their retirement taking regular holidays or exploring the world. Frustrating, yes, but hopeless, no. It can take a little more work finding the right travel insurance policy - including at the right price - as you advance in years, but it’s certainly not impossible. Even if you do have a long-term health condition.

travel insurance

Here are the key facts you need to know about finding and buying travel insurance when you are aged 65 or over.

The Age Factor

Let’s start with the obvious elephant in the room - why does your age affect the availability and cost of travel insurance?

Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s because insurers see you are a greater risk. Older travellers are more likely to need medical treatment while abroad, and the costs of medical care can be higher for older individuals. In addition, older customers may be more prone to trip cancellations or delays due to health issues or other unforeseen circumstances. 

Insurance companies work on the basis of selling many, many more policies than the number of claims they pay out for. If they see the risk of claims going up, they put up their prices to protect their profit margins.

Some insurers will go even further than that. A lot of companies operate age limits because they view the additional risks and costs associated with insuring older travellers as simply too high. They justify age limits as a way of keeping the costs of their policies reasonable for all customers.

The Health Factor

As we’ve mentioned above, older travellers are more likely to need to seek medical assistance while they are abroad, for a range of different reasons. Medical cover is a key part of travel insurance, because as a foreign visitor to another country, you have to pay for medical care if you need it.

Travel insurance therefore covers any expenses you might incur from a doctor's visit, a hospital stay, or purchasing prescription medication. It may also cover the cost of evacuation to a medical facility in the event that you become seriously ill or injured. All of this can be very expensive indeed.

Because of those high costs, travel insurance policies provide an equally high level of cover, with payout limits for medical claims routinely running to seven figures. But such is this level of risk, insurers understandably impose some conditions on what they will pay out for.

The biggest one is that most travel insurance policies typically exclude cover for pre-existing medical conditions. What travel insurers say is that the medical cover on their policies is intended for unforeseen medical emergencies only, and that suffering from a long term condition means an episode of ill health is not entirely unforeseen.

Pre-existing medical conditions are defined as any ailment or symptom that you had before purchasing the insurance policy. This can include chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. The definition also covers conditions that you are actively undergoing treatment for and those that have been diagnosed without treatment starting yet.

What should I do if I have a medical condition?

The exclusion of pre-existing medical conditions from most travel insurance policies disproportionately affects older people. Close to three in five people aged 60 and over live with a long-term medical condition, compared to just 14% of under 40s. 

So this can feel like a double whammy for older travellers planning a trip abroad. Not only does their age make travel insurance more expensive and/or more difficult to come by, but they are penalised by their health status, too.

What are your options?

Not all travel insurers take the view that providing cover for known health conditions is not worth the risk. In fact, some travel insurance policies are designed specifically to provide coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. 

There are several options for finding travel insurance for pre-existing health conditions:

● Run a web search for providers that specialise in insurance for travellers with pre-existing health conditions. These companies offer bespoke policies geared to the medical needs of different conditions. They are often the best option for finding comprehensive cover for more serious conditions, and also for getting reasonable prices.

● You can also specify that you are looking for cover for a pre-existing medical condition on online insurance comparison sites. Look at the filter options in the search facility to see if this is available. This is a good way of comparing the cost of lots of different policies quickly, but you may not be able to narrow your search down to your specific circumstances, especially if you have multiple conditions. 

● If you are working with a travel agent to book your trip, they may be able to recommend travel insurance options that provide coverage for pre-existing health conditions.

The golden rule with medical conditions is to always, always declare them before you buy a policy. It’s better to be rejected and have to shop elsewhere than it is to buy a policy without providing full disclosure of your health status. If you don’t, any claim you subsequently make will be rejected. Your insurer will look into your medical history, see you have a health condition that you didn’t declare, and void your cover on that basis. That could leave you facing a very expensive bill.

Other things to consider

As an older traveller, the two main things to have in mind when shopping around for travel insurance are finding a policy that is suitable for your age and your specific medical circumstances (if you have any). The older you get and the more complex your medical status is, the easier it becomes just to go straight to a specialist provider that caters specifically for older customers and/or insurance for pre-existing medical conditions.

While cost remains an important consideration, the older you are, the more sense there is in buying the most comprehensive level of cover you can afford, rather than opting for the most budget policy you can find. There’s more than just medical cover at stake. If you fall ill before your trip and need to cancel, for example, that won’t be covered by the medical terms. You will need a robust level of cancellation cover that a) pays out for last minute cancellations by you and b) stretches to the full cost of your flights, hotel, car hire etc.

Overall, it is important to carefully review the terms and conditions of any travel insurance policy before purchasing it to ensure it meets your needs and provides the coverage you need.


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