When you travel, it’s vital to have insurance, but it can be tough to get if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Many travel insurance companies don’t offer coverage to people who are sick or have been in the past. So how do you organize a policy that will cover your back during your well-deserved vacation? We’ve put together an outline of why insurance is important and tips on how to get the coverage you need — even with a pre-existing medical condition.

Why insurance is important.

Travel insurance is designed to compensate you for things that may go wrong with your travel. This includes theft, cancellation, and accidents or illness. The most important aspect of travel insurance is the medical coverage. If you get sick when overseas and have no medical insurance, your medical expenses can be huge. But since insurance companies make their money from people who rarely submit claims, people with existing medical conditions represent a higher risk — and companies make it hard for them to get coverage. Follow these tips on how do manage the process and get that coverage.

1. Be honest.

One of the most important things to do if you have a pre-existing medical condition is, to be honest with the insurance company and the tour operator. If you fail to disclose a pre-existing condition and then fall ill on vacation as a consequence of it, you may not be covered for treatment. Either you or your family will end up with a large bill, and you may even have difficulties getting repatriated to your home country.

2. Speak to your doctor.

If you have a medical condition such as cancer or heart disease, you should speak to your doctor before you travel to ensure your illness is under control. Your physician can advise you whether it’s safe to travel and identify any issues that might affect you. For example, if you’re a diabetic and your blood sugar level is unstable, you’ll need to work on making sure it’s within agreed limits to minimize the risk of running into trouble on vacation. High altitude can affect people with heart problems, so if your vacation involves a trek in the Himalayas, you’ll need to talk with your physician before booking it.

What your physician can also do is ensure that you have an up-to-date prescription and medication to take with you. This is vital, as some drugs, including those bought in a pharmacy, are illegal in several countries – but a prescription will enable you to travel with them. You should also get certification from your doctor stating that you are fit to travel, as this will help you when buying insurance.

3. Find the right coverage.

Some insurance companies do not cover people with a serious medical condition at all. Others will provide coverage if there is a doctor’s letter stating you are fit to travel. And some will only cover you for medical conditions unrelated to your current problem.

You may find costs are higher if you have a medical condition, so be prepared for this when budgeting for your vacation. Cancer charities in the UK have successfully campaigned to get the cost of insurance reduced for people with medical conditions, so do some research. You may find the expense lower than anticipated. Another expense to consider is coverage for people traveling with you. Some companies insist that all parties traveling with you have the same insurance coverage. That way, if there is an incident, your family or friend will be able to accompany you and have their expenses reimbursed by the same company.

When you start shopping for travel insurance, begin by asking the companies informally about their offers for people with existing medical conditions. Some companies will ask if anyone has refused you travel insurance – but, during an informal request, this should be not a requirement.

4. Have your paperwork and answers ready.

If you had a problem that required surgery or had another medical condition that is now under control, most insurance companies will cover you if you have certification from your physician. Your doctor’s letter needs to state that the problem has been resolved by treatment or, for example, that you no longer have cancer.

Be prepared for a lot of questions. For example, if you have cancer, insurance companies will ask at what stage you were diagnosed. The company will want to know the dates of treatment and what medication you take. If you are unsure, ask your doctor to give you the information. This is needed to make an assessment of whether you are at a high risk for insurance coverage.

5. Read the small print.

Once you have an offer, read the small print and make sure the insurance covers you for medical emergencies and treatment abroad. Make sure repatriation costs are included, especially if you are traveling overseas.

Be clear what is and is not included in your insurance policy. For example, if you have a heart condition, you might not be covered if you have an angina attack. Check that the policy covers you for everything you need. This is important if you do some sporting activities such as skiing, as they are not always covered by standard insurance policies.

Each time you travel you will need to go through the same process, as medical conditions can and do change. But above all, you should not let insurance issues get in the way of traveling somewhere special if you have a medical condition. By working with your doctor to ensure your condition is stable and by getting good insurance coverage, you’ll be able to travel to that dream location… and enjoy it.