Back in my twenties, buying travel insurance was easy. And quick. And cheap! It was one of those simple five minute jobs, normally done whilst watching television, and often on the day before the holiday. Fill in a short form online, pay for it, and voila, insured wherever I wanted to go. For a few quid I’d be covered for a week’s vacation to France, and a year’s backpacking around the world, cost less than a box of beer. 🙂
Then at the age of 32, I developed Pulmonary Hypertension. With an upcoming holiday to the land of croissants booked, and oblivious to the many implications of a diagnosis, I contacted the insurance companies we normally used. They all refused to cover me. Very quickly I learnt that a pre-existing condition, brings an end to easy, cheap, quick travel insurance. Instead of mainstream insurance companies, I could now only use specialist medical ones. Filling in an online form in front of the telly, was now replaced by long and complex phone calls dissecting my medical history. And most shockingly, if my answers deemed me too medically risky on their algorithms, now they’d refuse to insure me! Consequently, I’d have to ring five or six or seven companies before getting the green light for cover. And just to keep me on my toes, insuring me one year, didn’t mean they’d do so the next! The struggle magnified when I developed Pulmonary Venous Occlusive Disease. Being so rare (1 in 10-100 million); I now needed to be granted special permission for PVOD cover, directly from the underwriters. But worst of all, the high of finding cover, would swiftly be followed by the low of the expensive quote. Many many times higher than Phil’s cover for the same trip. (One weekend to Belgium, cost him less than a tenner; but seventy odd quid for me). Travel insurance for those with pre-existing conditions is like being bitten by a snake, when you’ve already been struck by lightening. The folks that are being charged the most, are often the ones in society who can least afford it. It feels frustratingly unfair.
Despite the obstacles, thankfully, I’ve always eventually found insurance. However that was before Covid.
Since the emergence of the Coronavirus, early in 2020, I’ve not left the United Kingdom. However, keen to visit family on the Isle of Man; I once again added ‘get travel insurance’ to my pre-holiday checklist. For our last trip across the Irish Sea, two years ago; the premium has been £8. But now, the same insurance company wanted to charge me… £600! Yep, six hundred eye-watering pounds. Yikes! Since our last visit, there had been no change in my medical condition, and no change in my medical answers. If anything, I’m clinically improved. So, the astronomical rise, must solely be due to Coronavirus. I’d expected a small premium increase, to fund the current uncertainty of travel… but I hadn’t expected to be quoted 7400% more than before. Madness! And to add insult to injury, the same company, quoted healthy Phil, a mere £16. Where was his ‘rona inflation?! Instead of being charged six or seven times more than the hubby… they now wanted 38 times extra. So cruelly unfair. The snake and the lightening attack… closely followed by a flood. Gees!
So I rang around. For three days. I tried every company on the government’s directory of specialist medical insurers (MAPS) and every company on the British Independent Brokers’ Association (BIBA). Despite existing for the sole purpose of finding ill folk insurance, so they wouldn’t feel forced to travel without… I had no luck. Cover denied. Or equally extortionate quotes, equivalent to the entirety of my monthly PIP (disability) income. It was three days of frustration and anger and disappointment. Three days of talking about my disability and can’t dos. And three days of being reminded of my precarious medical situation, every time the algorithms refused me. Eventually I found a quote for £263- but still way way way more than I’d ever paid before.
I debated not going. I debated only going for a few days (still £200). I debated not taking out cover at all. Eventually, we opted for the latter. And crossed our fingers!
It was the first time I’d not been fully insured when travelling. And hopefully it’ll be the last. It was stressful. 🙂 Particularly when I got ill whilst there. 😉 I really hope the current -eye-watering- cost of travel insurance, is a temporary blip. Else the double-edged conundrum of ‘to insure or not to insure’ is here to stay. Rocks and hard places spring to mind! 😉