What You Need To Know When You Buy Travel Insurance

It's A Living Nightmare!

Denise Griggi, Dennis Gittins & Allan Cox what do they all have in common? Well, they got stuck abroad because they fell sick when traveling. They went into hospital and their medical bills were in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. There’s also something else that they had in common. Which, is they all had travel insurance which refused to payout.
Their stories are horrific and it’s disturbing just how fast these insurers got rid of them. The question still remains, how could they do it? What made it so easy for them to be able to shirk responsibilities?

How can they get away with that?

Well, in each case there was a common theme that enabled the insurance company to deny the claim. This was a pre-existing medical condition that the the insurer used it to refuse payment. The claimants said that they’d informed the insurance company or weren’t asked questions. They said because the insurer didn’t enquire they didn’t feel the need to say anything.
Where the policy holder said they’d informed the insurer, they didn’t have proof. No one doubts that they told them yet being able to show it is important. Making sure that you have a record of your correspondence is important.
If they had evidence then it would have been much harder to refuse their claims.
As for no one asking them about their medical history, this isn’t an excuse. Applying for insurance means you’ve a legal obligation to disclose all relevant information. You have to tell them about your cholesterol, high blood pressure or anything else that you’ve had. If you don’t then there is going to be one outcome, yes you guessed it they won’t pay your claim. This law is pretty much universal across all countries. By not disclosing to the insurance company you’re making it easy for them to not pay out.

You have to tell them about your cholesterol

So Why Bother?

This may lead some of you to think “what’s the point in bothering with travel insurance?”. In all these cases it does seem like a waste of money. Though it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s worth noting that there’s more people facing medical bills without any insurance. Though it doesn’t quite make for the same headline. Plus it may not be quite as easy to go without travel insurance as you might think.

Why Going Abroad without Travel insurance is getting harder

government assistance

If you think that you can always always rely on your government, well don’t. There isn’t much chance that they’ll come to your rescue. At one time they may have lent a helping hand. Today however, things are a bit different.
This is because more people travel and national resources are under enormous pressure. Governments refusing to pay medical bills abroad is now the norm. If you don’t have travel insurance or it’s run out then your government isn’t going to help. What you see are people turning to the generosity of others and using crowd funding instead.

Rules of entry

This isn’t the only thing that makes travel insurance harder to escape. Countries are getting tired of foreigners leaving unpaid medical bills. Japan announced that foreigners who have done this can’t enter the country. The UK also implements a very similar policy and more countries are likely to follow suite.
Other countries now want proof of insurance when a foreigner enters their country. If you want your visa approving you’ll need to provide them with details of your insurance policy. This is a trend that will only continue as national resources become even tighter.

If you want your visa approving you'll need to provide your insurance details

getting it right

Whilst we may view travel insurance with scorn, going abroad without it will only get harder. So, if we’ve got to have it then we should make sure that it’s going to work for us if we need it. What should you be looking out for, how can you make sure that your insurance will pay?

Fit for purpose

First of all make sure that you’re getting a policy that gives you the cover that you need. Unfortunately, all too often people go for the cheapest or most convenient option.
They don’t check what they’re getting and assume that the policy will cover them. It could be that they’re ticking a box when they’re booking their flight ticket. Or they could be relying on the complimentary insurance from their bank or credit card. The likelihood in both these cases is that people have no idea what they’re getting.Take Abbie Sontag who’s taxi got hit by a truck whilst on holiday in Thailand.
She suffered serious injuries that required treatment costing over £35,000. At which point she found out that medical costs weren’t part of her her travel insurance policy.
The main reason for having travel insurance should be to cover medical expenses. Whilst delays, cancelations and lost luggage are inconvenient and can bring unwanted expenses. They are nothing in comparison to the cost of treatment abroad. So making sure that you have medical cover as part of your policy from day one is essential.

the main reason to have travel insurance is to cover medical expenses

Check your activities

If you’re going to do any dangerous sport or activity, don’t assume that the policy includes cover.
Anything that increases your risk of injury you’ll need to check with the insurer.
If you’re in any doubt check with the insurance company first.
You may need to get prior approval from the insurer that they’ll cover you if anything were to go wrong.
Some policies may have adventure sports riders that are worthwhile paying a bit extra.
So if there’s a chance that you’ll be doing anything that could increase your chances of injury, check.
Make sure that you get their confirmation in writing.

look for a good track record (or avoid a bad one)

Once you’ve identified some suitable insurance providers what should you do next? One thing that’s worthwhile doing is to check out an insurers claims record. You can ask then for details of the percentage of claims that they decline on average each year. What are the main reasons for doing so.
If they don’t provide this information then you can search for them. Look for people who they may have helped and want to tell people about the great service they got.
Also see if there are any nasty stories that relate to them. If you start finding a common theme where they keep refusing to pay claims then you may want to look elsewhere.
It’s worth noting that it doesn’t matter how good your insurance company is, they don’t cover stupid. If you get hurt doing something reckless then I’m sorry you’re on your own.


Once you’ve decided which company you’re using you’ll need to complete the application. Whilst it isn’t something that anyone should get excited about, it’s better to do this yourself. You’ll know exactly what’s written and information provided. It’s also a good idea to ask the insurance company to check it over for you before you submit it. 
When they’ve comeback to you complete anything that you’ve missed and then look over it again.If you’re happy submit it to the insurance company.
Again remember to keep a copy of the application and any correspondence.

Maintaining a paper trail is essential

Medical History

When filling out the application make sure you declare all your medical history. The main reasons that any insurer declines a claim is because of a pre-existing condition. Not disclosing something will lead to one outcome. If you’re on any medication or have a condition/illness then you need to tell them. If you’ve had a procedure in the past and have been fine ever since you still must tell them.
It doesn’t matter if they don’t ask questions on the application form either. As we mentioned earlier it’s your legal responsibility to provide them with information. It’s better to have the insurer decline your application or charge a higher premium. Rather than pay your premium think that you have cover when you don’t. You know where you stand and you’ll have cover or be able to make alternative arrangements.

who's ever going to know?

Don’t think that they won’t find out about something. They will and even if they can’t prove it 100% if they have the slightest doubt they’ll deny your claim.
It’s then down to you to prove that they’re in the wrong. If you have got something wrong with you then you’re not going to be able to do that.

keep things in writing

Doing all this on the application form means that there is an undeniable record. If they call you with further questions ask them to send you an e-mail instead. Keep everything in writing. Ask them for written confirmation of any restrictions that may be applicable.
Whatever you do, DON’T tell the insurer about your medical history over the phone. If you claim and the insurer declines because they didn’t know about your high blood pressure. What will you do? It’s their word against yours and you have nothing to back up your claim.
You’ve paid your premium make sure you get covered. Keeping this paper trail is important and make sure you can access it when you’re traveling.

Don't tell the insurer about your medical history over the phone

your family need access to the policy details

Also your family need access to policy details and any supporting documents. What happens if you’re in a coma and the only person who has your insurance details? Your medical bill starts to grow and the people around you have no idea how they’re going to pay it. They’ll have negotiate with the hospital and find ways to fund your care. They may even have to consider making compromises to your treatment.
If the unthinkable happens and you don’t pull through, they’ll have to pay the bill. This could end up with them selling their home or taking on debt, when all along your insurance would have paid.

Check the T&C's

Before you go ahead with the policy ask to see the terms and conditions. I know, who reads them right? Well when it comes to your travel insurance then it’s worth while looking over them. What you’re trying to find are any restrictive clauses.
Does the policy place restrictions on dangerous activities? Is there anything that relates to alcohol or drugs and injuries that come as a result of over indulgence? As we mentioned earlier doing something stupid is a sure fore way to get your insurer to deny your claim.

Does the policy place restrictions on dangerous activities?


If you do things right you can get a great policy that gives you extensive cover at a reasonable price. If you’re paying the premium then make sure that you’ve got cover. Don’t make travel insurance an after thought, it could be the only thing that gets you home safely.
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