In many cases, a pre-existing heart condition won’t stop you from wanting to travel and experience different cultures, activities, foods and landscapes. There are many different heart conditions that you can have, some being more serious than others.
While your heart condition might not factor too much into your travel plans (besides ensuring any medication you need is organised and packed, and you avoid activities your doctor has advised you to avoid) it can be important in your travel insurance policy.
Any heart condition, even those you may think are 'fixed' by a pacemaker or that are 'under control' with regular prescription medication, are still likely to be considered a pre-existing medical condition by your travel insurer.
Does that mean you shouldn’t purchase travel insurance, or that travel insurance won’t provide you with cover?
Not necessarily! You may still be able to get travel insurance that provides you with that all-important cover for unexpected emergencies unrelated to your condition.
If you’re looking for travel insurance to protect you while you’re travelling but have a heart condition, you probably have a lot of questions.
Below we address some of the most frequently asked questions by travellers with heart problems, so that finding and understanding travel insurance is simple!
What do travel insurers consider a heart condition?
If you exhibit the symptoms of a heart condition, or have been diagnosed or treated for a heart condition at any time in your life, a travel insurer may consider you as having a ‘pre-existing medical condition’.
But what heart conditions are actually important when purchasing travel insurance?
The truth is almost all conditions affecting the heart muscle, the valves, palpitations, rhythm or blood vessels will be important when you purchase travel insurance, as some conditions may be covered by your policy, and others may be excluded.
If you have any heart condition, it can impact on what you are covered for by your travel insurance policy.
Common heart conditions include:
- Coronary heart disease – the build-up of plaque inside the arteries.
- Deep vein thrombosis (CVT) – a blood clot in a vein, usually in the leg.
- Atrial fibrillation – a type of arrhythmia, where the heart does not beat in a regular rhythm.
- Cardiomyopathy – where the heart muscle becomes inflamed and enlarged.
- Angina – chest pain caused by lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart.
- Prior operations – including valve replacement, stent procedures, and any other heart surgery.
Essential points to consider when travelling with a heart condition
It’s important to be aware of your health and safety when travelling, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition.
Consider these three essentials before you travel:
The effects of high altitude
Travelling to countries at high altitude can result in heart complications. Lower oxygen levels can lead to breathlessness and an angina attack, for example.
Plane travel complications
Most popular travel destinations are a long flight away from Australia! Before you fly, visit your doctor to ensure you’re fit to travel by air. Some travellers with heart conditions are at higher risk of suffering from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) so research the exercises that can help prevent DVT in advance.
Bring extra medication and heart monitoring equipment
See your doctor before you travel to get advice about your prescription medications and going through airport security. They may advise you to inform a security guard if you have a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), so that you can opt for a pat-down or to be searched with a hand-held detector.
Also, be sure to pack information about your condition and enough medication for your trip, including an extra week or two just in case you are delayed in returning home.
Planning ahead is key
Consider your trip and the activities you want to do during your holiday. It’s important to be sure you don’t overexert yourself or engage in activities your doctor has advised against, or deviate from any diet you’re on to care for your heart health.
And remember to disclose any heart conditions when buying travel insurance, just in case!
Will travel insurers cover me if I have a heart condition?
Generally, you’ll find travel insurance companies will fall into one of three main categories when it comes to overseas medical cover for pre-existing heart problems:
1) Cover for pre-existing heart conditions.
Some travel insurers offer cover for pre-existing heart conditions. If heart condition is not automatically covered, you may be able to add cover for the cost of an additional premium. There are also instances where a medical assessment will need to be completed before you take out travel insurance.
2) No cover for your heart condition, but other overseas medical emergencies are still covered.
If you look at the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS), they may not include cover for heart conditions at all, even at the cost of an additional premium. However, this may not exclude you from medical cover completely. You may still be offered cover for emergencies unrelated to your heart condition such as breaking a bone in a bad fall or traffic accident, getting a severe stomach bug, or picking up an unexpected illness.
3) Your heart condition may exclude you from overseas medical cover altogether.
In some cases, a travel insurer may not provide you with ANY medical cover because of a pre-existing heart condition, even if you have had corrective surgery or that heart condition is being managed by medication. One common example is if you are taking Warfarin or a similar blood-thinning medication after a heart surgery. Some travel insurers will not provide you with medical cover due to the perceived risk.
To find out if your travel insurer will provide you with overseas medical cover, you should read their Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).
This will outline the pre-existing medical conditions that can be covered, either automatically or by paying an extra premium, and which illnesses are excluded.
You can never predict what will happen when you travel, so it’s important to review the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully to make sure you have sufficient cover in place for any unexpected complications or emergencies overseas.
Sasha’s Angina in South Africa*
Sasha was planning to take a wildlife safari tour in South Africa.
While looking for a travel insurance provider she remembered she had experienced angina a few times, though she hadn’t had any symptoms in the last three months or so. However, she decided to purchase a travel insurance policy that would provide cover for her angina anyway, just to be on the safe side.
It was lucky that she did, as she experienced symptoms while travelling and needed to see a doctor in hospital to ensure she was fit to continue her trip. Because she had disclosed her medical history and bought a travel insurance policy which covered her pre-existing heart condition, her medical expenses were reimbursed.
Please Note: Fast Cover does not provide cover for pre-existing heart conditions, please see our list of 43 automatically covered pre-existing conditions.
Will I always pay an additional premium to get cover for a heart condition?
It is likely that any travel insurer who offers cover for pre-existing heart conditions will require you to pay an additional premium.
This is simply because as someone with a pre-existing medical condition, it is more likely that you could experience a complication overseas and the insurer would be required to pay doctors’ fees, hospitalisation costs, or perhaps even the cost of an emergency medical evacuation home to Australia.
This extra perceived risk is agreed to be covered at the cost of a higher premium.
Do I have to do a medical assessment every time?
For some insurers you will be required to complete a medical history form each time you buy an insurance policy. In other cases, a medical assessment can be done over the phone.
Whenever you take out a travel insurance policy, you have a duty of disclosure to provide up-to-date medical information, so you will most likely need to complete a new medical assessment each time you purchase a policy.
How much cover can I expect to get for a heart condition?
The level of cover you receive can vary between insurers. Overseas medical cover for heart conditions may be unlimited, or capped to a certain amount depending on the condition or other factors such as age.
Be sure to read the insurers Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to find out the amount of cover you’ll receive for a heart-related medical emergency.
Do I need to declare my heart condition to my travel insurer?
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to purchasing travel insurance. You have a legal duty of disclosure to tell the insurer everything that you know, or could reasonably be expected to know, which is relevant to their decision on whether to insure you, and on what terms. This includes pre-existing medical conditions or any symptoms being investigated by a medical practitioner or dentist.
If you don’t declare your pre-existing medical condition, there’s a chance you won’t have any cover if it results in you seeking medical attention while overseas.
If your insurer can provide cover for your heart condition, either automatically or as an add-on, but you fail to declare it when purchasing the policy, you won’t be covered if something goes wrong.
What happens if I don’t declare a heart condition to my travel insurer?
If your pre-existing medical condition is not automatically covered and you don’t declare it, you won’t be covered for any claims arising from or related to that condition.
It won’t matter how ‘unexpected’ having a problem related to the pre-existing medical condition may seem when you purchase the policy.
Any pre-existing medical condition is an added risk taken on by the insurer, so if you haven’t declared a heart condition, the insurer may decide to refuse to provide financial cover if you need to see a doctor, go to hospital or be medically evacuated from your holiday destination due to a heart problem.
Overseas treatment and hospitalisation in any country can result in your holiday costing hundreds or thousands of dollars more than expected.
If you’re in a country such as the United States or Japan, healthcare can be extremely expensive. You don’t want to be slapped with a huge medical bill when you could have had a travel insurance in place to cover you, so it’s essential to research your policy options before making a purchase, and declare any pre-existing medical conditions.
What if I had a heart attack, heart valve replacement or stroke before, but I’ve recovered?
If you’ve had a heart attack or other complication with your heart before, you should still declare it to your travel insurer. It’s important to make sure you’ll have cover in place in case you experience any complications or if your pre-existing medical condition re-emerges while overseas.
Similarly, if you are on a blood-thinning medication following a stroke or heart attack, or taking another prescription medication, you would also be described as having a pre-existing medical condition.
The same goes for if you’ve had surgeries to fix a heart condition, such as a valve replacement. This would be considered as a pre-existing medical condition, so be sure to declare it to your travel insurer.
Stephen forgot to declare a new heart condition*
Stephen was looking forward to his dream cruise around Europe with his wife for their anniversary.
A week before the date of departure, Stephen and his wife both visited their regular doctor for a general check-up. His doctor told him that his heartbeat was irregular, but it wasn’t life threatening. Though the test results were still not ready, Stephen went on his trip anyway.
After two weeks into his trip of a lifetime, Stephen was hospitalised onboard the cruise ship after feeling weak and dizzy. He was diagnosed as having atrial fibrillation.
Unfortunately, Stephen had not declared his irregular heartbeat diagnosis at the time he purchased a travel insurance policy. Because he had been to the doctor and was aware of the diagnosis and potential further complications, he was considered as having a pre-existing medical condition.
Atrial fibrillation was not automatically covered by his insurance company, so Stephen had to pay the hospital bill out of his own pocket.
How do you declare a pre-existing heart condition?
Travel insurers offer different methods for disclosing pre-existing medical conditions.
You may have to do one of the following:
- Disclose your medical history or complete a health assessment over the phone.
- Fill out an online medical history questionnaire.
- Complete an email or post a hardcopy medical form.
- Have a face-to-face medical assessment.
Once you’ve provided the necessary medical documentation, your insurer will let you know if you can be covered by one of their policies, as well as how much this might cost.
You should also be made aware of any exclusions that apply to your policy and your level of excess which is the amount you’ll have to pay first before the insurance provides financial assistance.
If I’m a senior, will travel insurance for heart conditions cost more?
The cost of travel insurance usually goes up the older you get. This is generally because senior travellers are at higher risk of becoming sick or injured.
Seniors may also have more pre-existing conditions than younger travellers which means purchasing travel insurance which provides cover for a pre-existing heart condition is likely to be more expensive for a senior.
When you purchase travel insurance for senior travellers, be sure to check if there are any age restrictions for particular activities such as skiing or snow sports, and if there’s an age restriction on the cover for your pre-existing medical conditions.
What sort of questions are in a medical assessment for a heart condition?
Questions you may be asked include:
- What is the medical term of your heart condition?
- What treatment or prescription medications are you currently taking?
- Have you had any recent changes to your treatment or medication?
- When did you last see a medical practitioner?
- Have you undergone treatment in hospital?
- Are you waiting to have your condition or treatment reviewed?
Answering these questions will allow the travel insurer to provide you with a more accurate quote.
Other pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lung or chest infections can also affect your heart health and are important to disclose as well.
So, whether you have angina, are taking any prescription medications (include aspirin) following a heart attack or stroke, have had a heart valve replaced or any other heart condition, always remember to declare it to your travel insurer.
Always remember to read through the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully. This will mean you know exactly what you are and aren’t covered for before purchasing a policy.
*Stories are fictitious examples drawn from the experiences of Fast Cover travellers and staff. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.