A diagnosis of a serious medical condition is likely to cause anxiety and confusion, especially in those used to travelling while enjoying good health.
The good news is that having a medical condition does not necessarily mean your travelling days are over. However, it is important to have some basic understanding of travel insurance and health issues. Many insurance policies automatically cover hundreds of medical conditions. The bad news is that for more serious conditions or combinations of conditions you may have to pay an extra fee. In some circumstances you may need to seek out a specialist insurer.
It is essential that you are totally honest and declare any pre-existing health condition(s) when purchasing travel insurance. Believing that you can hide your condition and no one will find out is a very bad idea. If you are lucky your trip will go smoothly without any problems, unplanned medical expenses, or need to contact the insurance claims or emergency assistance department; but what if you are not so lucky?
If an undeclared medical condition should flare up or cause you to become ill (or, worse yet, not survive) while overseas, someone has to pay the costs for hospital care and repatriation. Many travellers mistakenly believe that if they are injured or become ill abroad their consulate or embassy will take care of things for them and pay the hospital bills. If you do not have insurance you or your family have to pay the bills for your medical and hospital treatment. Medical bills are often astronomically high, depending on the condition and the country.
If you become ill while travelling it is very important to contact the emergency assistance number in your insurance policy as soon as possible. Failure to tell them immediately may result in denial of claims for unauthorised medical expenses. Who needs that!
EU citizens travelling within the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland should apply for and carry the free European Health Insurance Card. However, never use this as a substitute for travel insurance - you need both. Why?
To explain briefly: the European Health Insurance card provides cover under reciprocal health care agreements between participating countries. However, it does not extend to all costs - especially expensive medical repatriation. Any costs involved in transporting you (or your body or remains) home are the sole responsibility of you or your family, unless you have a good insurance policy that covers repatriation. So... always check your policy to make sure it is included!
It is very important to research all aspects of your holiday destination, and do it well before your trip - especially concerning health care and medical treatment. Government websites such as the British Foreign Office, Department of Foreign Affairs (Ireland), U.S. Department of State and Smartraveller (Australia) provide important and updated travel advice and often include detailed information about medical care.
For example, if you travel to Australia and need medical treatment always check the terms and conditions for Medicare in your travel insurance policy. It is especially important that you contact the emergency assistance number provided by your travel insurance when treated as a hospital in-patient, especially if the treatment is not available free under Medicare. A little time spent checking the rules set out in your travel insurance policy could save a lot of worry - and potentially financially crippling medical bills.