Problems with your kidneys, whether that’s kidney failure or an acute kidney condition, may mean you need to undergo regular dialysis treatment to filter and clean the blood.
Whether you’re travelling overseas or domestically within Australia, it’s important to make sure you’ll have access to medical care for the duration of your journey.
Organising travel insurance, like planning the rest of the trip, may also require more preparation. That’s because kidney problems which require dialysis are considered pre-existing medical conditions which may not be automatically covered by all insurers.
If you’re planning a holiday overseas and you undergo dialysis treatment, this guide outlines what you need to know to find the right travel insurance for you.
Why do I need travel insurance?
Travel insurance can provide you with essential cover for unexpected emergencies overseas, including:
- Medical emergencies – such as breaking a bone or becoming seriously injured or ill overseas.
- Unexpected cancellations – if you have to cancel your holiday due to a medical or family emergency, your flights, cruise or other bookings may be covered.
- Loss, theft or damage to luggage and personal effects – if your belongings are lost, stolen or damaged, travel insurance can provide cover for the loss.
Remember to refer to the travel insurer's Product Disclosure Statement for full benefit details.
Can I get travel insurance if I’m a dialysis patient?
Yes it is possible to find travel insurance as a dialysis patient.
However, it’s important to realise that not all travel insurance policies will provide cover automatically. Travel insurance will generally fall into one of the following categories:
1) Pre-existing medical conditions are automatically covered
Some travel insurers provide cover for a range of pre-existing medical conditions automatically. Be aware that patients on dialysis are unlikely to find a policy that automatically covers their condition.
2) Cover can be purchased for an additional premium
You can ask for a tailored quote which includes cover for your pre-existing medical condition. You may be asked to provide some information about your dialysis treatment or complete a brief medical assessment over the phone.
3) Cover for your condition is not included
This means medical expenses which arise as a direct result of your pre-existing condition would not be covered, but completely unrelated incidents may still be covered.
Is it difficult to get travel insurance for dialysis treatment?
Finding the right travel insurance with the right cover within your budget can take a bit of research.
Generally, completing medical assessments for travel insurance where you can add on cover for dialysis treatments doesn’t take a long time. With most insurers, you can get a quote within minutes over the phone after answering a few questions about your condition.
Courtney was a dialysis patient when she travelled to Thailand with her family. While she was there, she came down with a stomach bug.
To be safe, she went to an emergency room and stayed overnight for observation. Luckily, she had travel insurance for overseas medical emergencies including cover for her pre-existing kidney condition so her hospital bills and medical expenses were covered.
Note: Fast Cover does not provide cover for pre-existing kidney condition, please see our list of 43 automatically covered pre-existing conditions.
Can you get cover automatically with the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?
If you’re travelling to a country that’s part of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement, you may have cover for the cost of essential medical treatment. You may also be eligible for subsidised health care.
Countries included in the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement include:
- New Zealand
- The United Kingdom
- The Republic of Ireland
- The Netherlands
Check the full list on the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement website to stay up-to-date with any changes to this list.
Do I need to disclose my condition as a dialysis patient?
If your pre-existing medical condition is not automatically covered by your travel insurance policy, you will not have cover for any related medical expenses that arise overseas.
In other words, if you were to experience any complications overseas, you would have to pay the medical costs for emergency treatment or hospitalisation out of your own pocket.
That’s why it’s important to disclose your kidney condition and dialysis treatment when you purchase travel insurance. Some insurers allow you to do this by completing a medical assessment or you can choose to purchase a policy that doesn’t include cover for your kidneys.
Do I need to disclose if I’ve had a kidney operation or transplant?
Yes. This information will affect your travel insurance policy so it is important to declare it.
You may find that if you have had a kidney transplant, some travel insurers will not offer you a policy due to the risks of medical emergencies occurring, or may only offer you cover if you have had no complications for at least six months.
Always refer to the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement to find out if there are any limitations to the cover provided by your travel insurance policy.
What won’t I be covered for if I don’t disclose my pre-existing kidney condition?
If you don’t disclose or purchase cover for your pre-existing kidney condition, you will generally not be covered for any medical expenses related to the condition.
This may include:
- Overseas emergency medical assistance
- Overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses
- Daily hospital cash allowance benefit
- Cancellation costs
Benefits and exclusions may differ depending on your travel insurance provider and type of policy. Always read the PDS or ask if you're not sure.
Jarred went to Europe with his wife on holiday.
Before travelling, they bought travel a policy that covered both of them. Jarred, who hadn’t purchased travel insurance before, simply assumed he’d be covered for any overseas medical emergency as he hadn’t had any complications with his kidneys for two years.
Unfortunately, while overseas, he started experiencing symptoms of kidney failure including nausea, fatigue and weakness. He went to a local hospital and received treatment, however, because he had failed to disclose his pre-existing kidney condition when purchasing the travel insurance policy, he had to cover the unexpected medical costs.
Travelling with dialysis? Remember these tips:
- Plan ahead – schedule any blood tests or dialysis treatments you’ll need to get done.
- Purchase travel insurance – even if you’re going to a country that is part of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement, travel insurance still offers important benefits.
- Keep a recent letter from your doctor with information about your condition and treatment at all times – just in case!
- Organise your prescription medications – make sure you have more than enough for the duration of your trip in case you’re delayed getting home. Also check your medications are legal and readily available at your destination.
- Never put medication or your prescriptions in your checked luggage – replacing these may be difficult if your bags are lost.
- Be careful what you eat and drink overseas – food poisoning or a gastro virus can cause further health complications.
- Register with Smartraveller – register your itinerary to receive up-to-date travel advice and consular assistance if an emergency occurs.
Travelling as a dialysis patient may require a little more research and planning ahead, but it doesn’t have to stop you from travelling altogether.
Whether you’re travelling interstate or overseas for business or a conference, taking that worldwide trip of a lifetime, or travelling to attend a wedding, family gathering or reunion with friends, it is possible to travel and continue dialysis treatment away from home.
Finding travel insurance is not only possible, but maybe even an essential travel accessory to ensure you’re covered for any potential incidents or medical emergencies overseas.
Remember to compare policy benefits carefully between each insurer and always read the Product Disclosure Statement so you know exactly what you are and aren’t covered for.