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Get the Right Travel Insurance When You Have a Pre-Existing Medical Condition

Oct. 29, 2021
4 mins
A young couple hike along a stream

Canada recently lifted the blanket travel advisory against all non-essential travel for fully vaccinated people. While COVID-19 still poses a risk to travellers, vaccines, masks, and other public health measures are working to stop the virus’s spread. As the positive case numbers drop, the country has slowly been reopening. On November 8, the U.S.-Canada land border will open to fully vaccinated non-U.S. citizens.

While many people have been dreaming of their favourite destinations, plans can officially begin. But don’t overlook this essential item: travel insurance. There’s nothing romantic or fun when it comes to picking the best policy, but it’s there in case of an emergency and can give you peace of mind. Paying out of pocket for something even as simple as a bump on the head can set you back thousands of dollars.

Add a pre-existing medical condition into the mix, and it can get more complicated. A pre-existing condition is defined as an illness or injury that you already know you have — whether it be a broken leg in a cast or a congenital defect — and it could require you to seek medical attention at your destination. Some policies even consider pregnancy to be part of this category.

Whether or not you can be covered depends on several factors. The two biggest points to consider are the amount of time since your diagnosis and whether the condition is stable. The definition of stable depends on the policy, but it usually means that there haven’t been any changes in treatment or medication, and the condition has not worsened.

It’s not impossible to find coverage for pre-existing conditions; however, you may have to undergo testing and receive prescription medication before being considered “stable enough” to travel. Some medical issues will not be covered by any insurance, even if they are relatively stable.

Here are some tips to help you find the right travel insurance that meets your needs:

Stay on top of your medical conditions

The first step is to be completely clear and knowledgeable about your medical history. Ensure you remember the dates of any operations or procedures you have had in the past. Jot down any tests or other treatments you’ve gone through and specialists you have seen. Keep a list of your medications or any daily routine required to keep your condition under control. Familiarize yourself with medical terminology related to your illness or condition. The more you know, the better off you will be — both when choosing your insurance policy and while you’re away.

Compare travel insurance policies

Whether you already have travel insurance through work or are considering purchasing it for your upcoming vacation, your first step is to compare travel insurance quotes to find the policy that best meets your needs at an affordable price.

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Talk to your travel insurance provider

Let your insurance provider know the details of your trip, like the duration and accommodations and any pre-existing medical conditions. Some medical conditions may be covered for free and may not require an assessment or declaration form. Other conditions may be covered for an additional fee or require a doctor’s visit.

Medical conditions or illnesses that may be covered under a standard travel medical insurance policy include high cholesterol, asthma, osteoporosis, cataracts, congenital blindness or deafness and diabetes — provided the diagnosis was over a year ago. However, cardiac problems, especially those that require a pacemaker, epilepsy, lung disease, some types of diabetes and any condition that has resulted in surgery in the past two to three years, may need a medical assessment.

Medical conditions or illnesses that may not be covered are terminal illnesses, chronic lung or cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, certain types of cancer, chronic pain, or mental illness. You may also not be able to get coverage if you are waiting for surgery or require oxygen.

Consider postponing your trip until your condition improves

If your condition isn’t covered but is likely to improve over the next six months to one year, consider delaying travel until you meet the requirements for coverage under one or more insurance policies. You may also choose to travel within Canada until then. However, it is advisable to purchase insurance within your home country if you plan to leave your province of residence.

Always tell the truth

You must disclose your medical history before purchasing a travel insurance package to ensure you get full coverage. Purchasing insurance without revealing your medical condition might cause more trouble than it’s worth. The insurance provider could deny any medical claims made against the policy as it would be invalid. If you have partial coverage for any other health issues, not disclosing your full condition can put eligibility for what is covered at risk.

A pre-existing medical condition doesn’t mean you are stuck at home. Provided you plan, you can still experience the joys of travel — whether it be to a world-class city, a beach in the Caribbean, or a hike through a rainforest. Take your time and compare rates to ensure you make the most of your time away from home.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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