Pre-existing Medical Condition Waivers – Do You Need One?

What is a pre-existing condition waiver, and why do I need it?
What is a pre-existing condition waiver, and why do I need it?

When you’re shopping for a trip insurance policy, you should be aware that most insurers will deny a claim if the traveler canceled the trip because of a pre-existing medical condition. This generates one of the biggest frustrations when it comes to travel insurance claims. Some pundits see this a “gotcha” – simply a way for the insurance company to deny a claim. But what is a pre-existing medical condition, and what is the best way to address a pre-existing medical condition when you are buying travel insurance?

Each insurance company has its own definition, but the basic definition is: any injury, sickness or condition of you, your traveling companion or your family member booked to travel with you for which medical advice, diagnosis, care or treatment was recommended or received in a specified amount of time (generally between 60 – 180 days) called a look back period.

So, what does this mean? Here’s an example. You are being treated for hypertension. Your condition is stable, and you have had no changes to your medication and have not sought medical treatment for the hypertension during the look back period. The hypertension would not be considered a pre-existing condition. You would not need a pre-existing condition waiver for your trip insurance because you were medically stable during this period.

On the other hand, lets say you have diabetes. You are doing well, but your insulin needed to be adjusted by your doctor in the last 60 days. This would be a pre-existing medical condition because you sought medical treatment from your doctor. You would be wise to purchase a policy with a pre-existing medical condition waiver.

All travel insurance companies will disqualify any claims for trip cancellation, trip interruption, and medical treatment during your travels for pre-existing medical conditions.   Some plans offer a pre-existing condition waiver if you purchase the plan within 14-15 days of your initial trip deposit.   Purchasing one of these plans within that time period speeds up the claim process because the insurance company does not have to request your medical records from your doctor to prove you did not have this issue just before you bought the insurance. The reason they impose this 14-15 day window to buy, is to minimize the insurance company’s risk that a medical problem comes up long after you paid for your trip, and you are just buying the insurance to file a claim to cover a known risk that will force you to cancel your vacation.

So, do you need a policy with a pre-existing medical condition waiver? If you are buying trip insurance, it’s better to be safer than sorry. Just be sure to purchase it within the amount of time required in the policy (usually 14 days), and be sure to insure the entire cost of the nonrefundable portions of the trip.