Travel Insurance and Cancer

This webpage is for people who have had cancer or who are currently receiving treatment for cancer and who need more information on travel insurance. It explains what travel insurance is, what to think about when looking for travel insurance and gives some useful information and contacts for finding an insurer. For more information call our Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700.

Why is it important to have travel insurance?

The purpose of having travel insurance is to compensate you for that may go wrong while you are away. One of the important aspects of travel insurance is being covered for medical expenses. The potential cost to you could be quite large if you needed care in a country with high medical costs or if you needed to be flown home as an emergency. It can be more difficult for people who have had cancer to get travel insurance to cover these costs.

How does travel insurance work?

Any kind of insurance premium you pay forms a pool of money (a premium is the amount you pay for the insurance). The more likely you are to make a claim for some of the pool of money, the more you will be asked to contribute to it.

If you have had cancer or are receiving treatment for cancer, insurance companies may consider that you are more likely to make a claim for medical expenses than other people. Insurance companies will ask questions to find out how likely it is that you will make a claim. The company will then consider how much risk they are prepared to take if they insure you. This is called the underwriting process.

The whole process may seem impersonal, but the company is assessing and pricing the possibility of you making a claim on any policy they may offer you. The likelihood of you cancelling your trip because of illness is a major factor insurance companies consider when deciding whether they can cover you.

If an insurer feels that you are at too high a risk of making a claim they may not offer to cover you. The ability to get travel insurance and how much it will cost can vary a lot and can be influenced by the type of cancer you have had and how long ago it was.

What happens if I want to book my holiday through a travel agency?

When you are looking for travel insurance through either a travel agency or an independent company, you may be asked to contact an independent medical screening phone line. The phoneline staff will ask you a list of questions about your illness and treatment such as:

  • What is the stage and grade of your cancer?
  • When were you diagnosed?
  • Has your cancer spread?
  • What symptoms or side-effects do you have now?
  • What follow-up care are you receiving? (This may include medication)

It may be worthwhile to collect this information beforehand from your doctor so that it’s completely accurate. A lot of things other than your history of cancer will also be taken into account, like your age, general health, and other personal information.

What should I tell the insurance company?

You must tell the insurance company about any conditions you have or have had in the past.

Otherwise, if you need to make a claim later they can declare your policy invalid. Illnesses you have or had before the insurance policy was issued are called pre-existing conditions.

HINTS AND TIPS: Looking for travel insurance

Getting travel insurance if you have or have had cancer may not be easy. Here are some tips about how to go about it:

  • It can take longer to find an insurer if you have had a cancer diagnosis, so it is a good idea to start looking as soon as you can. Ideally, it should be done before you book your holiday.

  • Your first step should be to discuss your travel plans with your doctor. You are unlikely to get insurance unless your doctor says that you are fit to travel. A letter or certificate stating that you are fit to travel may be needed for some policies.

  • Make informal enquiries about travel insurance first. Some insurance companies might ask if you have been refused by other insurers. If you have only made informal enquires you won’t prejudice any future application you may make.

  • Check the cost of travel insurance before you book your holiday. It may happen that the cost of insurance means you are unable to afford the trip you want.

  • The policies of travel insurance companies can be varied and some offer more appropriate terms of cover than others. It’s important to shop around and to read the policy carefully so that you are adequately covered before making a decision.

  • Specialist insurers sometimes offer cover to people who find it hard to get cover from mainstream insurance companies.

Who do I pay the extra premium to?

If there is an extra premium to be paid, you pay it directly to the independent medical screening line.

What happens if I want to take equipment abroad?

If you need to take any special medical equipment with you on holiday, make sure that your insurance will cover it. Check with your insurer.

Does the destination matter when applying for travel insurance?

In general the cost of travel insurance cover can be influenced by where you want to go. For example, it can be harder to get travel insurance for some countries – particularly the USA – where medical costs are high. In some instances if you have had cancer, travel insurance for North America may become very expensive, or it may in some cases not be possible to get adequate travel insurance cover.

What is the European Health Insurance Card?

If you are an Irish resident you are entitled to medical care in the public system within the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA covers all the European countries that are members of the EU (European Union) as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. If you become ill or injured while on a short stay to Switzerland, you will also be covered.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is free and entitles you to reduced-cost or free medical care for unexpected medical needs in the EEA country you are visiting.

When visiting EEA countries it is important to carry a valid EHIC with you, so that you can benefit under the reciprocal health service agreements. The card is evidence that you are part of a health insurance scheme administered by another state in the EEA/Switzerland. One card is needed for each individual or member of the family.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) card is valid for two years from issue and it is not automatically renewed. You will need to apply to renew it yourself. There may be some element of co-payment for the services you may receive due to slight variance between countries. Not all public health systems cover the full costs. It does not cover any medical treatments planned in advance.

All agencies, including the Government, strongly advise that you buy travel insurance as well as taking an EHIC card with you when travelling to these specified countries. The reciprocal health service agreement does not cover the cost of transporting you home in an emergency.

How do I apply for the European Health Insurance Card?

You need to apply for an EHIC card about one month before your date of travel if you do not already have one. If you are currently resident in Ireland and you already have either a medical card or a Drugs Payment Scheme (DPS) card you can apply for your EHIC card on line from the HSE (Health Service Executive) at this link:

Alternatively you can download the application form from here or pick one up from your local health office. You will need to complete it and then post it.

You can find further information about the EHIC card by visiting or calling into your local Citizens Information Centre or visiting this link:

What if I am travelling to Great Britain or Northern Ireland?

You do not need an EHIC card to get healthcare while on a short visit or holiday to the UK. It is enough to show proof that you are resident in Ireland. This means showing a driving licence, passport or a similar document.

HINTS AND TIPS: Getting help abroad

Here are some tips to help you if something goes wrong while you are away:

  • Make sure that that you bring your travel insurance documents and the insurance company helpline number with you on your travels. They will be most useful in the event that your travel plans go wrong or that you become ill.
  • If you become unwell or injured while away you should seek medical care and contact your travel insurance company immediately.
  • Remember to take your EIHC card with you to the medical provider if you are in a European country that accepts it.
  • Make contact with your holiday travel representative if you are on a package holiday and inform them of the situation. They may be able to offer you further advice.

Useful organisations and websites

Financial Services Ombudsman’s Bureau
The Ombudsman handles complaints from consumers about their dealings with financial service providers. It is a free service to the complainant.
Locall: 1890 882 090

Irish Financial Services Regulator
The Financial Regulator informs consumers and helps them to ask the right questions and to demand fair and professional services.
Tel: 01 224 6000
General enquiries Locall: 1890 777 777
Email: enquiries@central

Date Last Reviewed: 
Friday, November 27, 2015