Many factors can hike the price of travel insurance and mental health conditions are one of them. We explain how travel insurance is evaluated and what is taken into consideration.
Getting the right travel insurance is essential to protect yourself if something goes wrong while you’re on holiday.
Unfortunately, if you have a mental health condition such as depression, it’s not uncommon to see the price of your travel insurance rise.
According to Mind, the mental health charity, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, in any given week.
So, how do insurers decide on premiums if you are struggling with your mental health and suffer from something like depression?
What falls under mental health?
A wide range of conditions fall under mental health, including insomnia, learning difficulties and night-time terrors.
Depression and anxiety are the most commonly covered mental health issues says insurance specialist AllClear, which defines these types of conditions the same as pre-existing ones.
AllClear says it defines a pre-existing condition as:
Any disease, illness or injury, for which you, or anyone else taking out insurance on this policy, have taken any prescribed medication or required medical treatment; consulted a medical practitioner and/or been registered as an in or outpatient.
Expect to pay more
An ABI spokesperson told loveMONEY that insurers generally assess risks for mental health conditions in the same way they do for physical conditions, with the vast majority of people with ill mental health conditions able to get travel insurance – albeit at a higher price.
“Some mental health conditions, like other physical pre-existing medical conditions, can increase the cost of insurance," they added.
“This reflects that treatment of psychiatric conditions overseas can be very expensive, occasionally reaching hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
While this can be frustrating for those facing high premiums, insurers want to offer travel insurance to as many people as possible.
“Insurers are not there to discriminate against mental ill health,” said the ABI.
How mental health issues are handled
AllClear says it looks at all medical conditions and provides cover for over 1,300 different conditions.
Customers have to complete a quote online or over the phone, which includes declaring all medical conditions, both mental and physical.
The amount you have to disclose depends on where you buy insurance.
If you buy one of AllClear’s own policies via its call centre, you’ll only receive quotes for these branded policies, which only need a medical history of two years.
But if you get a quote via the comparison site comparing different firms, then you enter information that other companies need and will likely need to agree to share your medical history in the event of a claim.
“AllClear uses a bespoke version of the Verisk medical screening system, which has been specifically designed to be clear, sensitive and fair to the customer, while giving the insurer all the information it needs to accurately calculate the premium,” says Chris Rolland, chief executive officer at AllClear.
“In the event of a claim, a customer’s medical records may be required to confirm the medical declaration was provided correctly."
Specialist insurance provider Staysure uses a screening system called Verisk.
"The screening process is a multiple choice set of questions, which has been put together by medical experts in order to assess the extent of our customer’s medical conditions," said a spokesperson at Staysure.
It’s this system, rather than Staysure, that evaluates the customer.
If an individual's medical history is particuarly complex, a team of medical professionals will get involved.
What information do I need to provide?
It’s important to consider that some insurance policies may not cover pre-existing medical conditions, depending on its severity.
According to Rethink Mental Illness, some insurers may not offer travel insurance if you’ve been in hospital for a mental illness for a period of time before you travel, ranging anywhere from one to five years.
If your doctor has advised you against travelling, it’s also unlikely you’ll get insurance.
It’s best to be prepared and understand what an insurer may want to know.
If you have been diagnosed or received treatment for a mental health condition, they may want to know:
- The date of diagnosis;
- Method of treatment;
- Previous treatment methods;
- Your doctor’s details;
- Symptoms and date of last symptoms;
- Details of any previous hospitalisations;
- If you have taken any time off work due to the condition.
Insurers may also look at your family history.
How much can you expect to pay?
Research from price comparison site GoCompare found that declaring depression or autism hiked travel insurance costs by up to 40%.
However, there’s no clear-cut answer on what kind of premium you can expect if you declare a physical or mental health condition.
“This is because each premium will be calculated according to a myriad of other factors that are considered in conjunction with the medical condition, including, age, destination and length of trip,” advises Rolland.
The ABI recommends anyone looking for travel insurance declares all medical conditions to ensure comprehensive cover.
If you’re looking for annual travel insurance, a cheap policy will probably set you back only £30 – but this is likely to only cover the basics, have low pay-outs for medical expenses and require hefty excesses.
The ABI recommends checking the policy beforehand to ensure there are no onerous restrictions and that pre-existing medical conditions are covered.
You need to opt for the best cover for your individual needs, rather than the cheapest.
You might think that just sounds like a sales pitch, but if you buy a cheap policy that turns out to be worthless should you need to claim then you may as well have not bothered at all.
“Buying on price alone is more often than not a false economy, especially if the unexpected happens and you need to claim for cancellation or medical expenses abroad,” warns Rolland.
“One night in a US hospital can easily cost $10,000, and even in Europe, medical expenses claims can cost thousands, so it is worth making sure that comprehensive cover is in place.”
Why honesty is the best policy
Unfortunately, there’s a stigma around mental health issues, which combined with higher insurance premiums, may put some people off declaring certain conditions.
But it’s essential you declare any conditions as a claim relating to it may be rejected or partially paid, which could cost you thousands of pounds.
This applies regardless of whether you struggle with a physical or mental health issue.
If you are well at the time of booking travel insurance and then struggle with a mental health condition such as depression, or a physical illness, it’s vital to let your insurer know as soon as possible.
If you don’t declare, your insurance could be invalidated. That's not to say failing to declare something will lead to any claim being refused.
For example, claims for issues such as losing your luggage are extremely unlikely to be linked to a mental health issue.
To get the best travel insurance policy, it’s advisable to shop around and look at quotes from specialist insurers. They should be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority.
You need to understand what’s included in the cover as you could be caught out by policies that exclude claims related to your condition.
A letter from your doctor may help when applying for travel insurance as they can offer highly accurate information about your condition and the risks.
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