Travel insurance can provide cover for a range of unexpected emergencies, but when you already have a pre-existing medical condition, it can affect what cover you receive from a travel insurance policy.
About one in five Australians experience symptoms of a mental health condition every year. If you’re planning on travelling but have been diagnosed with a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, an eating disorder or schizophrenia, you may be wondering if your travel insurance policy will cover these conditions.
This guide will provide you with the information you need to know about travel insurance for mental health conditions and illnesses, so that you understand how to find the best travel insurance policy for your trip.
What is considered a mental health condition to travel insurers?
Have you been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, are being treated for a mental health condition, or are taking any prescribed medications?
If you have, it is likely that you would be considered as having a pre-existing medical condition by a travel insurance provider.
Some examples of mental illnesses are:
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders including anorexia or bulimia
- Anxiety and panic disorders
- Substance abuse and addiction
- Personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder
This is not an exhaustive list. There are many other mental health conditions and illnesses that may be considered a pre-existing medical condition by travel insurers.
Will travel insurance cover you if you have a mental health condition?
Travel insurance may provide cover for a range of pre-existing medical conditions automatically, such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. However, mental illness is often excluded from the automatically covered pre-existing medical conditions.
It’s important to always read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) of a travel insurance policy to understand what cover (if any) is included for mental illness.
Generally, travel insurance will fall into one of the following categories:
1) Cover for mental illness is excluded, but you have cover for unrelated emergencies
A travel insurance policy in this category may provide you with cover for unexpected emergencies, including overseas medical emergencies, should you become sick or injured while travelling.
However, any condition related to a mental illness would not be covered. This means that if you have to cancel your holiday due to mental illness, or seek treatment for your illness while overseas, you would not have cover for these costs.
2) Cover for mental illness can be included for an additional premium
Some travel insurers provide cover for pre-existing mental illnesses, however, this usually involves an assessment of the individual and may cost an additional premium.
What would I be covered for if travel insurance doesn’t cover my mental health condition?
If you choose a travel insurance policy that doesn’t provide cover for mental illness, other benefits may still apply including:
- Overseas emergency medical cover if you suddenly become sick or injured while travelling and it is unrelated to your mental illness.
- Cancellation cover, provided the reason for cancellation is unrelated to mental illness.
- Cover for lost, stolen or damaged luggage and personal belongings.
- Cover for travel delay expenses.
- Personal liability insurance.
There are a range of other benefits you can find in travel insurance. Always check your travel insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before purchasing a policy.
Does travel insurance cost more if you have a mental health condition?
Insurers may provide cover for mental illness at the cost of an additional premium. This extra cost is due to the higher perceived risk the insurer is assuming in providing cover.
The exact cost of a travel insurance policy will depend on the insurer, the assessment they make of your health, and the usual factors that come into play when determining the cost of a travel insurance policy.
This includes, for example:
- The level of cover you choose (Comprehensive, Standard or Basic)
- Your age, and general health
- The length of your trip
- Your travel destination(s)
- Any additional add-ons you choose, such as cover for adventure activities or rental vehicle excess insurance
All insurance companies calculate their premium prices differently, so always ask if you’re not sure before deciding to purchase a policy.
A week out from his two-month trip to Europe, Thomas began to experience a depressive episode. He had been diagnosed with depression a few years ago, and so when he purchased travel insurance, he searched for a policy that provided cover for depression.
Because he had cover in place, he was able to make a travel insurance claim when he became depressed and his doctor deemed him unfit to travel on his scheduled holiday. That allowed him to get some of the money he had spent on flights and accommodation back so that he could put it towards a holiday in the future when he was well enough to travel.
Please Note: Fast Cover does not provide cover for pre-existing mental illnesses, please see our list of 43 automatically covered pre-existing conditions for more information.
Are first episodes of a mental health condition covered?
If you experience symptoms of mental illness for the first time after purchasing a travel insurance policy or while travelling, you may still have cover for related expenses.
Some travel insurance companies, like Fast Cover, may provide cover for expenses related to a mental illness which first occurs or manifests during your period of insurance (after purchasing a policy).
In this situation it would be treated as a new, unexpected condition, the same way as the first occurrence of a heart condition or other medical ailment presenting for the first time and diagnosed by a medical practitioner.
However, if mental illness is listed as a General Exclusion by your travel insurance provider, this means it would also likely exclude first-time episodes of mental illnesses. In other words, if you suffer from an anxiety attack and are unable to travel, or experience symptoms of depression while travelling overseas and require medical treatment, you would not have cover for these expenses – even if you have no prior history of mental illness.
What should I do if I need help overseas?
If you have a travel insurance policy, you can contact your travel insurer's 24 hour emergency assistance team.
They may be able to help with:
- Overseas emergency evacuation
- Overseas hospital fees and medical bills
- Rescheduling flights where an emergency has occurred
- Contacting your family or employer
- Directing you to the nearest embassy or consulate
Be aware, however, that if you have a pre-existing mental health condition which is not covered by your insurer, you will not have any financial cover for expenses related to your mental health condition. In most cases the emergency assistance team will still be able to help you, but you'll need to pay for any medical treatment or emergency transport costs.
Why purchase travel insurance?
Travel insurance provides cover for a range of unexpected emergency situations both overseas and domestically in Australia.
As well as cover for the costs of an overseas medical emergency, travel insurance also connects you to a team of experienced professionals to assist you 24 hours a day anywhere in the world.
If you have been diagnosed with or are being treated for a pre-existing mental illness, there are travel insurance options available. It’s well worth taking the time to find the right policy for your needs.
Remember to always read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before you purchase a policy to understand what you are and aren’t covered for.
The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has further information on travelling with a mental health condition.
*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.