Cancer sufferer charged £1,800 for travel cover – on £2,400 holiday: ‘I was treated like a leper trying to get worldwide insurance’
People with health issues are having to pay almost as much for travel insurance as they shell out for their entire vacation – after an exodus from major providers during the pandemic.
Among them is Helen Galer, who has been battling breast cancer for eight years. She was told she had to pay nearly £1,800 if she wanted to be insured for a two-week holiday with family and friends later this year, which would cost her £2,400. She says she feels like she is “treated like a leper”.
James Daley, chief executive of consumer group Fairer Finance, says people like Helen are falling victim to a contraction in the travel insurance market caused by the pandemic and travel restrictions.
Raving to go: Helen Galer, who works in a motorcycle shop, was told by her oncologist that she was fit to travel
He adds: “Major players pulling out of the market have significantly restricted the choice of cover available to people with medical conditions who wish to travel abroad this year. Some are denied coverage while others – like Helen – are charged exorbitant rates.
Helen, 56, works as a part-time salesperson at Stevelin Motorcycles in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire. Although the initial cancer was successfully treated, she was diagnosed with secondary cancer as it had spread to her liver and bones. She is receiving regular immunotherapy treatment and she says her condition is under control.
Although her oncologist said she was ‘fit and able to travel’, Helen says she ‘was treated like a leper’ when she tried to get worldwide insurance coverage for the tour. October with family and friends.
The vacation of a lifetime includes a trip to Niagara Falls in Canada followed by a luxury train journey to New York and then seven nights aboard Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2.
She had already booked the same trip in 2020 before having to cancel due to the pandemic. At the time, she purchased annual worldwide travel insurance from Insurancewith which cost just £242.
But now – although her condition has not changed in the past two years – the only comparable worldwide annual cover she has been able to obtain is from AllClear Travel Insurance which costs £1,774.
Helen says: ‘I am enjoying my life to the fullest – so I find it grossly unfair that travel insurers seem to want to stop me in my tracks.
“If my family and friends hadn’t insisted that I share this fantastic trip with them, I would have seriously considered not going.” Unfortunately, I may not be able to travel abroad in the future, not because of health issues, but simply because I cannot afford travel insurance.
Insurancewith was part of Travel Insurance Facilities. But last July, this major travel insurance provider stopped issuing new policies to its range of plans – including HolidaySafe, Flexicover and Alpha. He is currently being investigated by the city’s regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, in relation to ‘regulated activities, claims and complaints’. Spanish travel insurer Mapfre Asistencia also ended in the UK last year.
Among its travel cover brands was InsureandGo – which has since been taken over by insurer AllClear. Helen contacted Insurancewith last November to see if she could get cover again. He was unable to provide him with a quote.
Alarm bells started ringing when a series of insurers – Avanti, PayingTooMuch, insurePink, Staysure, InsureCancer and even the post office – all told him no.
Finally, she tried AllClear, the only company willing to offer her annual global coverage – albeit at seven times the cost of the coverage she had taken out two years ago.
The British Insurance Brokers’ Association says the travel insurance market has contracted over the past two years and premiums for people with health conditions have risen.
He adds: “Unfortunately, when your health risk is rated high, that translates into higher premiums. But there should be no reason why specialist cover can’t be found for anyone who wants to travel. As for Helen, a travel blanket was found.
Whether you are in remission from cancer or have received successful treatment, you must mention this on any application for travel cover.
Other serious medical conditions, such as triple heart bypass surgery, will also limit choice and increase premiums. Even relatively minor conditions, such as high cholesterol, must be mentioned, otherwise a claim could be rejected.
BIBA warns that you should never travel uninsured as a serious injury requiring treatment can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Guy Bellamy, Managing Director of AllClear, said: “Our commitment is to ensure that everyone has the right to travel and to do so safely – and for those with pre-existing medical conditions, our priority is to provide them with the best coverage possible for a dream vacation. ‘
For details of brokers who can help people with health problems call 0370 950 1790 or visit biba.org.uk and click on the ‘Travel Medical Insurance Directory’ link.