Why You Should Declare Medical Conditions When Buying Travel Insurance

The government sponsored Money Advice Service recognises that you are likely to need specialist travel insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

Standard insurance policies may continue to rule out any cover at all for those with a serious illness, but specialist providers now make it possible for the elderly, infirm and those with one or more pre-existing medical conditions to enjoy the rewards of overseas travel.

One such specialist provider, BengoTravel, has even published a comprehensive guide for those travelling with pre-existing health conditions.


Although travel insurance is available for people already suffering or having suffered a medical condition – and the cover offered meets all the elements typically included in standard travel insurance – it is founded on one critically important step: a declaration of your medical history.

Insurance is all about assessing risks – the likelihood of the unexpected happening. In order to assess those risks, any insurer needs to know what are termed “material facts” likely to influence the probability of an incident occurring. This forms the basis for the contract between the insurer and the insured.

So importation is the declaration of all material facts that insurance contracts in English law are based on the principle of “utmost good faith” (or “uberimae fideii” to give it its Latin name). According to this principle, any insurance contract requires the insured to declare all material facts. Any failure to do so – or, indeed, any attempt to disguise the accuracy of the declaration – may render the entire contract null and void.

Declaration of pre-existing medical conditions

In the case of travel insurance – which has at its core cover for medical emergencies and their response by health professionals – the prevailing state of health of the insured is clearly important. It is a material fact.

Since your present state of health is firmly influenced by pre-existing medical conditions, the accuracy with which you declare these material facts is the foundation of your contract with the insurer. If you are less than accurate and subsequently make a claim, the insurer is entitled to reject that claim and consider the insurance contract null and void.

How to declare them

Different insurers have different criteria for assessing the impact of existing medical conditions on travel insurance. Typically, you are asked to complete a questionnaire designed for the disclosure of illnesses and conditions such as:

  • any condition for which you are awaiting the test results;

  • anything for which you are waiting to have surgery;

  • the number of times and reasons for your having visited your GP in the past year; and

  • serious chronic conditions such as heart, lung disease or cancer.

Depending on your replies, the insurer assesses the current risks when you are travelling and adjusts the premiums accordingly or declines the proposal for insurance. Either way, it is important that you have accurately and honestly declared all pre-existing medical conditions.

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