Should I declare a past medical condition to my travel insurer?

Gill Charlton has been fighting for Telegraph readers and solving their travel problems for more than 30 years, winning refunds, righting wrongs and suggesting solutions.

Here is this week’s question:

Dear Gill,

This year my wife and I set about buying annual travel insurance for visits to Europe. We’ve used Aviva in the past, so I telephoned an agent to discuss cover. I told him about my wife’s operation for bladder cancer in February 2020 and that annual check-ups had since been clear. We were told that, as the condition was resolved more than two years ago, it was no longer an issue.

However, the premium of £260 for both of us was quite high, so I entered our details into Moneysupermarket’s comparison site. The only question asked was: “Do you have a pre-existing medical condition?” I answered “No” on behalf of both of us. The site then offered a choice of insurers. We chose an Admiral policy, which took us to Moneysupermarket’s payment page, where I parted with a total of £120.

Sadly, my wife’s cancer returned in April. We canceled our June trip and applied to the Admiral for a refund of the deposit of £895. The admiral refused our claim as we had not declared the condition, even though its terms also included the two-year rule. Who is right?

– CC

Dear CC,

Unfortunately, it seems that the Admiral is within its rights here. Its medical declaration does indeed say you must declare “any medical condition in the past two years for which you were prescribed medication, received treatment, or had consultation with a doctor or hospital specialist”. However, it also says you must declare “any heart or respiratory condition, any circulatory condition (problems with blood flow, including strokes, high blood pressure and cholesterol), any liver condition or any cancerous condition…”

The admiral told me that any past cancer, however long ago, must be declared or the insurance is invalidated. If you had ticked “Yes” when asked about medical conditions on the Moneysupermarket site, it would have taken you to an online medical screening to assess the ongoing risk before quoting a premium.

Most people applying for travel insurance will need to do a medical screening before purchase and pay close attention to the wording. For example, “Consultation with a doctor” – often listed as something to be declared – includes all GP visits. This is why insurers insist on a letter from your GP about your health before paying out.

I spot-tested the premiums and completed screenings for health conditions such as high cholesterol, skin cancer and urinary tract infection. These increased the quote by only £1 or so. However, a past bladder cancer doubled the cost of annual European insurance: from £45.69 to £89.12 when bought directly from Admiral.

Incidentally, if you do use a price comparison website, always double-check the cost of buying the same policy directly from the insurer, as sometimes this can work out cheaper.


Your travel problems solved

Gill takes on a different case each week – so please send your problems to her for consideration at [email protected]. Please provide your full name and, if your dispute is with a travel company, your address, telephone number and any booking reference. Gill can’t answer every question, but she will help where she can and all emails are acknowledged.

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