Fiona Macrae the founder of Insurancewith talks to Sky News about being diagnosed with breast cancer and how it spurred her on to create an affordable travel insurance policy for people diagnosed with cancer.
With a background in insurance, Fiona understood risk but couldn’t understand why she was deemed an unacceptable risk just because she hadn’t actually had an operation to remove her cancer, she had had her chemotherapy and was waiting for her surgery and radiotherapy, a two month break in treatment was an ideal time to fit in a quick holiday in the sun. However finding a travel insurer to cover her was impossible, Fiona found the whole process very confusing and demoralising. If she understood insurance and found the process confusing, what chance did the general public have!
It was this experience that made her determined to create a travel insurance policy for people with medical conditions that was easy to understand and affordable.
Holiday travel insurance soars for the sick
Fiona Macrae had hoped that a holiday would break up months of hospital treatments, a trip to France was supposed to take her mind off her breast cancer, but she said that travel insurance companies were intrusive or insensitive. “You’ve been through your treatment you don’t want to be telling someone constantly about it on a phone call, to a stranger, discussing personal medical information with what can sometimes be kids in call centres”.
Thousands of people needing time away are facing similar problems, many companies will increase travel insurance prices or even refuse cover for those with medical conditions. We called 10 companies to see what impact illnesses would have on travel insurance prices, 8 companies wouldn’t cover a previous condition like cervical cancer, another asked for a medical report and in the last case the price jumped from £67 to over £2037 for 10 days in New York and that was because of previous medical conditions.
Which the consumer watchdog say people are effectively black listed from getting travel insurance, “the insurance industry does need to catch up, ok if there are conditions where there is a big risk obviously that should be reflected in the policy, but people should be getting fair deals.
The cost for travel insurance varies on where you travel; it is much more expensive in say America where medical bills are higher.
Fiona says people who have had previous medical conditions should be able to travel to faraway places, and has now set up her own specialist insurance company, but accepts that the industry still has a long way to go.
Fiona Macrae talks to the BBC about her first holiday after treatment for her cancer and how the experience of trying to find an affordable travel insurance policy for the holiday spurred her on to create Insurancewith.
Fiona had worked in the insurance industry for 20 years and she knew that there must be a much better way of providing an affordable travel insurance policy for people diagnosed with cancer. When creating Insurancewith Fiona wanted a product that was easier to understand, that looked at the true risk of travelling after a cancer diagnosis and therefore offered lower premiums.
We feel that Insurancewith does all of the above, however we never stand still and are constantly changing and enhancing the policy to keep pace with our customers’ needs and also the ever changing and improving treatment of cancer.
Travel Insurance for people with cancer
So you’ve booked your flight your hotel is lines up, you’ve checked your passport is in order and to give yourself that piece of mind while you are away you think about travel insurance. So you hunt around for the best deal and buy a policy, simple, but if you have or ever had cancer it’s not quite so straight forward. Some cancers suffers are now finding that the only policies they are being offered are so expensive they are costing more than the entire trip. They are left with a stark choice, pay up or simply don’t go.
Cancer sufferer Fiona Macrae said “Holidays are things you look forward to, when you are going through the cancer treatment regime; you have got to have something to look forward to. Holidays do give you that little bit of normality back in your life, its realisation, I’m getting my life back. However the minute you try and get travel insurance straight away its raised and you are slapped in the face, you’ve got cancer and you are going to have to go through all the hoops to get your travel cover and sometimes it can just take the joy (planning a holiday) out of it for you”
Fiona Macrae knows from bitter experience what it’s like to struggle to get travel insurance when she was having treatment for breast cancer five years ago. Fiona said “my oncologist told me, have a holiday get away from the hospital routine and relax and enjoy your family. My baby Cameron was 10 month old at the time so we just decided to get in the car and go to the South of France for a bit of sunshine. I phoned around to get travel insurance quotes and I knew it was going to be difficult, but I just didn’t realise just how difficult it was going to be”.
Fiona describes being refused cover again and again as a soul destroying experience, and according to British cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support, she is certainly not alone. Helen Rainbow of Macmillan said “We get a lot of phone calls to our help lines, people that are having trouble accessing travel insurance; I think it comes as a shock to a lot of people. They plan their holiday and at the last minute they look to get travel insurance and then suddenly they are prevented in going on something that they are really looking forward to, and actually if you’ve had a really difficult time you really want to go away and get away from that, so really it is a big issue.
And as Fiona discovered, many companies, if they are willing to sell you a policy will charge up to 10 times the normal rate for travel insurance. Fiona said “I did eventually find cover, but they were quoting me over £1000, for a holiday cover that should have cost me £20 for family cover at the most. The holiday wasn’t even costing us that amount of money. I just though, I can’t pay £1000 it was ludicrous”.
So can extremely high premiums like this always be justified? Cancers charities like Macmillan think that very often they can’t “there is a real lack of personalisation, there is a real lack of taking into account an individual’s situation. Often you have a set of questions that are very much if a person has this condition we can’t insure them, but there is no real taking into account what that means and how much of an individual risk that person represents”. Graham Trudgill of the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) admits that often main stream insurers are not sufficiently knowledgeable about cancer to offer an appropriate premium. Graham said “the insurance industry operates a system of risk based pricing, so the greater the chance of a claim, the greater the insurance premium to pay for it. Also some insurance companies aren’t really experts in some medical conditions and so they don’t really charge competitively because they are very afraid of the claims they could receive”.
Fiona ended up taking her much needed break to France with her family, but reluctantly without any travel insurance. As someone who knows the insurance industry well, her own fruitless search for affordable cover made her think. “I’d worked in the insurance industry for 20years, and I thought that there has got to be a better way to do this. I can’t believe that there isn’t a better way to do this, by asking more questions, being able to target the underwriting and actually underwrite to the true risk that’s being posed, not the perceived risk of cancer”. Fiona saw a gap in the market and decided to fill it setting up her own insurance company to specialise in selling travel insurance cover to people with cancer.
And according to Graham Trudgill of BIBA, wherever you are in the world, finding a firm that understands cancer sufficiently to access the real risk involved is the key to finding a good quote. Graham advises “go to the national association of your country for insurance brokers or cancer charities in your country and they can direct you towards a specialist provider that can help get the right cover at a fair price for you”.
We put to Graham many emails we have had from viewers on this subject. Our viewer Bridget who has had breast cancer and treatment is in the middle of her round the world trip, she had been trying to get travel insurance and the quotes she’s had have ranged from £271.00 to £3085.00, how on earth can there be that huge discrepancy? “I think that is an example of her contacting various providers, some of which don’t understand the risk at all and perhaps don’t have the knowledge to take it forward, and they may be slightly concerned about the risk, and others are more expert, they deal with this type of condition every day and they know the frequency and severity of the claims, and they are much more easily able to offer a competitive quotation”. Our viewer Emma asks, why don’t insurance companies employee more knowledgeable consultants? “Insurance companies focus on their target market, one might just be after the standard family of 4, age 35 with no medical conditions, others will be more expert at the particular people with medical conditions and so it’s about finding the right insurance company, the right insurance broker and obviously if you are going to one that is charging too much money and don’t have the knowledge you need to go somewhere else”.
It is not just finding someone willing to insure you at a reasonable cost after you have had cancer can be very tricky, it’s also the whole process itself can be a very upsetting experience. Fiona told us “we receive a lot of complaints about people calling different call centres and they are less than sensitive, one of the questions that I had when I was looking for cover was, oh god forbid this doesn’t apply to you, but you’re not terminal are you! That is the last thing you really want to hear, when you have had a cancer diagnosis that is always at the back of your mind, you don’t want it to be dragged up over the phone with a stranger”.
Cancer charities say it’s not just the interests of potential customers that would be better served by some in the industry working harder to treat people with the disease more fairly. Macmillan said “We think this is a problem that the insurance industry needs to face up to and there is a benefit in itself by actually recognising that cancer doesn’t pose such as big insurance risk, because they are missing out on a potentially a big market, we think it is time that they reassess cancer and need to change that”.
It is predicted that one in three of us is going to suffer from cancer at some stage in our lives, so this is a problem that many of us are going to have to face. And if you do the advice is this, don’t go trawling the internet, you are going to have to track down someone that understands the risks or lack of them involved in your individual case.
With the World Cup in full swing and the summer holiday season about to start, travel insurance should be top of everyone’s mind when booking your trip away, even if you are only going to Paris for a weekend break. Your travel insurance policy will cover you for many things, such as a delayed or cancelled trip, death or illness, emergency medical assistance and lost baggage. By not having travel insurance, should you need to change your holiday plans at the last moment, for example illness or death of a close relative, the cost of changing an airline ticket or cruise itinerary can be substantial, especially on short notice. Plus the costs of emergency medical assistance while travelling abroad are beyond the budget of many individuals and families.
Just like health and life insurance, travel insurance is one of those products that nobody wants to pay for, but everybody feels that they should have. The chances are high that you will not even need insurance while travelling. However, a good travel insurance policy can make all the difference in case of any unforeseen circumstances and is worth having for the peace of mind alone. The cost of travel insurance can vary greatly.
It will depend on the amount of cover you need; the length of your trip; which countries you are travelling to; and whether you plan to participate in hazardous sports, such as diving to great depths or skydiving. Age also has a bearing on cost of travel insurance and the premiums tend to increase once you are over 65.Pre-existing medical conditions can often be an issue when purchasing your travel insurance. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, seek out a travel insurance provider who specialises in providing cover for your particular condition. Should you need to make a medical claim abroad, a specialist provider is best placed to get you the most appropriate medical treatment in the most appropriate medical facility, ensuring you are not medically over treated.
Some providers will offer to cover everything, but exclude your pre-existing medical condition, you should think very seriously before accepting this type of policy, if you had a medical emergency to do with your medical condition, how would you cover the costs? The costs can run into thousands of pounds. Having a pre-existing condition generally means you may be paying more for the cover, but it will not necessarily prevent you from being insured. Make sure you accurately inform your insurance company of any pre-existing conditions, otherwise your insurance company has the right to revoke your policy at a later date.
If you travel frequently throughout the year, and have bought a multi-trip annual policy or a family policy, make sure you read the policy wording and check for exclusions. Many policies may exclude hazardous sports or high-risk travel spots while others may ask the customer to pay an additional premium to add these risks to the policy, it is particularly important to check your cover and exclusions if you are depending on an annual travel insurance policy given free by your bank or credit card company. Should you have any changes in health between buying your travel insurance policy and travelling, you must advise your travel insurance provider, if you fail to do this you will not be covered if you need to make a claim connected to your new medical condition whilst you are on holiday.
If you want to go on holiday more than once a year, then taking out an annual holiday insurance policy is probably the most cost effective way of ensuring that your protected. Even if you only go on two holidays the savings – and the reduced stress – can be well worth the extra initial expense. Traditional insurance packages only cover for one holiday – one outgoing journey, one return journey and one destination. An annual policy lets you take a much more flexible approach to your holiday plans for a year.
You get the same cover for medical emergencies, repatriation, personal belongings, missed travel arrangement, lost travel documents, personal liability and all the features that you would expect from holiday insurance. The difference is that this cover is more open ended.
Like any insurance packages its hard to give a precise over view of the benefits of annual holiday insurance. Depending on your provider and your circumstances, what cover you can get and the savings you can make can be quite different. There should be a range of options available, in terms of level of cover and some may be more suited to your needs than others.
Although it depends on where you are going and what you plan on doing, often annual policies will be cheaper if only because they save on administration. There is an added benefit to this though, that could ultimately save you hundreds if not thousands of pounds – all of your travel plans will be covered by the same provider.
This means that you won’t be confused by different levels of cover and inadvertently find yourself in a situation that excludes your policy; its all the same and its set from the beginning what is and isn’t covered
If you’re lucky enough to be able to go on holiday more than once a year , it doesn’t pay to test your good fortune any further by travelling without insurance. An annual policy can guarantee that you get the best deal; available and that wherever you go , you are protected.
To get a pre-existing medical condition travel insurance quote, or for more information please click here or give our UK customer service centre a call on 0333 005 1066.
1. Check the latest travel advice for your destination at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office web site and subscribe to receive free e-mail notification each time the travel advice for your destination is updated.
2. Take out appropriate travel insurance to cover hospital treatment, medical evacuation and any activities, including adventure sports, in which you plan to participate
3. If you have a pre-existing medical condition research the local area you will be staying in for the most appropriate hospital/health care facility and put the telephone number into your mobile phone for emergencies.
4. Before travelling overseas register your travel and contact details online at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office web site. This makes it easy to contact you in an emergency.
5. What if something goes seriously wrong, make sure you take the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office telephone number with you. They can be reached on 0207 7008 1500 or from abroad +44207 7008 1500, the number operates 24hrs a day.
6. Obey the law. Consular assistance cannot override local laws, even where local laws appear harsh or unjust by UK standards.
7. Check to see if you require visas for the country or countries you are visiting or transiting. Be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry. l Insurancewith:.com: doing more than just insurance
8. Make copies of your passport details, insurance policy, travellers cheques, visas and credit card numbers. Carry one copy in a separate place to the originals and leave a copy with someone at home.
9. Check with health professionals for information on recommended vaccinations or other precautions and find out about overseas laws on travelling with medicines.
10. Check your passport is in good condition and valid and you have all necessary visas. Some countries will insist that your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to UK. Some countries will refuse entry on arrival and some airlines will not allow passengers to board flights if their passport does not meet this requirement.
11. Before travelling, you should contact the Embassy or High Commission of each country you intend to visit to confirm the entry requirements.
12. Leave a copy of your travel itinerary with someone at home and keep in regular contact with friends and relatives while overseas.
To get a pre existing medical condition travel insurance quote, or for more information please click here or give our UK customer service centre a call on 0333 005 1066.