Travel insurance covers an individual for specific losses, illnesses or injuries related to their travel experience. For trips overseas, such travel insurance is typically sold to travellers and some policies cover domestic travel within Australia. However, these insurances do not usually do not cover medical or hospital expenses as these are already covered by Medicare or the individuals’ private health insurance.
For women suffering from breast cancer, it is not always easy to access this service. Given a breast cancer diagnosis, many women have been denied travel insurance. Sometimes the insurance companies are not as well informed about the patient’s condition and refuse outright to entertain breast cancer patients.
Others refuse to do so by refusing travel insurance for any medical costs related to the cancer, but may provide coverage for non-medical purposes such as loss of luggage, theft of goods, or accommodation expenses among others.
In the face of such extremities many women have chosen not to mention their breast cancer experience when applying for travel insurance. This is a very personal decision and deciding to withhold the information means that they will not be covered for any travel expenses that may result from the breast cancer.
Others have been unable to travel to countries where they would not be covered for any hospital costs.
Why seek travel insurance if you have breast cancer?
The choice to take out travel insurance is a personal one and like other types of insurances, is optional. Most travellers choose to opt for travel insurance by weighing the potential risks of not having coverage. International travellers do so to cover themselves for issues like lost luggage, accidents or medical coverage.
If a breast cancer patient has private health insurance, it will usually cover them within Australia but unlikely to do so outside the country.
Likewise, for Australians with breast cancer traveling internationally, Medicare coverage is also no longer valid outside the country. However, there are a few countries where Australian travellers can enjoy coverage by the host country’s public health system. These countries are part of a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia and can cater medically necessary treatment that an individual may require while in that country. Nations part of the RHCA include Finland, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Malta, Norway, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.
Accessing travel insurance for breast cancer patients
Travel insurance can be accessed from a range of different sources including insurance companies, travel agents, private health funds or insurance brokers. But since every patient’s breast cancer considerations will be different, it is important to find an insurance plan that individually caters to the patient’s needs.
It is very important to shop around for a travel insurance policy and investigating what it covers or does not cover. Reading the fine print carefully will help make an informed decision about the full conditions of the policy.
Patients who are unable to get a policy that covers their medical condition properly can look into the option of getting in touch with an insurance broker. These individuals have a wide range of contacts with different insurance companies and may be able to get a suitable policy.
Important considerations for breast cancer patients
More recently, some travel insurance policies have started to provide medical coverage for certain conditions given that a letter from the individual’s doctor is provided and outlines the current status of the cancer.
Some others will provide coverage for a pre-existing condition after assessing a breast cancer patient’s medical condition. Requirements for such policies may include completing a medical assessment form as well as authorisation from the doctor to submit details of the patient’s diagnosis, current health status, medication and treatment.
Based on the given information, insurance companies will then consider the risk of insuring the breast cancer patient and might issue coverage subject to special conditions, limitations, excesses and perhaps an increase in premium.
However, not all companies may provide coverage for pre-existing conditions like cancer and may refuse insurance if they consider the patient’s condition a greater risk than someone else’s. Yet, at the same time, insurance companies cannot discriminate unreasonably and a complaint can be filed if the breast cancer sufferer feels that they have been treated unfairly. If the insurance company declines coverage based on a pre-existing illness, the applicant can then ask for a written explanation of their reason and contest it formally.
1. Travel insurance for women with early breast cancer: https://www.bcna.org.au/media/2137/bcna-fact_sheet-travel-insurance-for-women-with-early-breast-cancer.pdf
2. Travel insurance for women with secondary breast cancer: https://www.bcna.org.au/media/2135/bcna-fact_sheet-travel-insurance-for-women-with-secondary-breast-cancer.pdf
3. Travel insurance for women with breast cancer: http://www.breastcancer.org.au/our-services/how-we-can-help/useful-information-and-links/fact-sheets/travel-insurance-for-women-with-breast-cancer.aspx
4. Cancer survivors denied access to travel insurance: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/cancer-survivors-denied-access-to-travel-insurance-20130316-2g7ky.html