Do travel insurance providers check medical records?

When you buy travel insurance, you’ll need to answer questions about any current or pre-existing medical conditions you may have truthfully. 

But does this mean that travel insurance providers have an automatic right to check your medical records? What do medical records have to do with travel insurance?

When you buy travel insurance, you’ll need to answer questions about any current or pre-existing medical conditions you may have truthfully. 

But does this mean that travel insurance providers have an automatic right to check your medical records? What do medical records have to do with travel insurance?

Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
4
minute read
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Last Updated 13 MAY 2022

What do medical records have to do with travel insurance? 

If you have a medical condition, your travel insurance provider might want to evaluate how likely you are to need medical care while you’re away. Their experts will want to weigh up the likelihood that you might make a claim relating to your condition, which they’ll have to pay out. 

And beware, if you don’t disclose relevant medical information in your insurance application, your policy could be invalidated in the event of a claim.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: please check the latest government travel advice that sets out what you need to do, if anything, before you travel abroad and before you return home. You should also check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. Travel rules can change at short notice, so check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, the price you pay for travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. However, there are still many providers out there and you should be able to find affordable cover. Whatever happens, don’t be tempted to lie to an insurance provider, because if you do and then need to make a claim, it could be rejected.

When you declare medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show quotes from insurance providers who will cover all declared medical conditions, with no exclusions.

MoneyHelper has launched a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.

When might a travel insurance provider ask to see medical records? 

When you buy a travel insurance policy, it’s normal procedure for your insurance provider to ask you for medical information. The information supplied by you will be used by underwriters to work out the level of risk. It’s their job to assess what level of risk you are, after which they’ll calculate your premium.

To make sure you’re given the right level of cover or to decide whether they’re happy to insure you or process a claim, your insurance provider may require more detailed medical information from your GP.

Usually, a provider won’t ask to see your medical records, but some might ask to check your records to make sure the information you’ve supplied in your application is accurate.

It’s worth knowing that complaints about how pre-existing conditions are treated by insurance providers are a “recurring theme”, according to the Financial Ombudsman.

If you make a claim for the cancellation of a trip because of the death of a close relative, insurance providers might ask to see the relative’s medical records. This will help them see what was known about your relative’s condition; whether or not it should have been known; how likely it was to deteriorate and in what time frame.

Using this information, the insurance provider – and the Ombudsman in the case of any subsequent complaint – will be able to see whether the right information was declared when the policy was bought and whether the customer was treated fairly.

If you’re asked for information about your medical records, this isn’t the insurance provider trying to catch you out. Instead they’re trying to fully understand the degree to which your health might affect your trip and the likelihood of you making a claim.  

Access to your medical records

Insurance providers, including travel insurance providers, cannot access your medical records or apply for a medical report from your GP without your consent. Your medical information is legally protected under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 (AMRA)

Your insurance provider can request access to your medical records if they feel it’s necessary. Under the AMRA act: 

  • Consent must be given by you in writing
  • Your GP cannot supply a medical report to your insurance provider without prior notification and consent from you.
  • Doctors are not required to release all aspects of a patient’s medical history, just those that are relevant (with your consent). However, they must not provide false or misleading information.
  • You can ask your GP to amend any aspects of the medical report that you don’t agree with. If they refuse for any reason, you’re entitled to include a statement of your objections that will be attached to the report.
  • You’re also entitled to see the report before it’s sent to your insurance provider. You’ll have 21 days to view and approve it before it can be sent. You can also see the report at any time up to six months after it’s been supplied.

If you deny consent for your insurance provider to check your medical records

If you refuse consent for an insurance provider to check your medical records when applying for travel or any other type of insurance, the insurance provider could refuse to insure you.

If you make a claim on a current insurance policy but deny consent to your medical records, your provider might not have the information they need to successfully process your claim. This could mean that your claim is denied and your policy may no longer be valid.

My health situation has changed since I took out my policy. What do I need to do, and will my provider check my medical record? 

If you have any changes to your health after you take out a travel insurance policy, you’ll need to let your insurance provider know, whether it’s a single-trip policy you took out at the time of booking or an annual policy. Travel insurance companies might call this ‘ongoing duty of disclosure’ or ‘change in health’. Check to see what your policy says – many will have a clause that says something like: “If, after purchasing this policy, any insured person develops a new medical condition, or has a change in a medical condition already declared to us, you must contact us.”

Significant changes in your health usually applies to the diagnosis of a serious medical condition like diabetes, heart conditions, stroke, cancer or other serious medical conditions or a major operation. Referrals to a consultant, even if a diagnosis hasn’t yet been given, may count too. Keeping your provider updated about your condition could be essential to success if you make a claim. 

When you tell your insurance provider about a change in health, they might:

  • Cover the medical condition for no additional premium
  • Charge an additional premium to provide cover for the medical condition
  • Apply an exclusion to the policy about the medical condition
  • Withdraw cover altogether 

It might be fair for your travel insurance provider to alter your contract – as long as they can provide evidence to support what they’re doing and why. 

They may want further details from your medical records. They might also want to confirm aspects of your medical history if you make a claim, for example, for a claim for cancellation because of your illness. 

This might seem like a long-winded process but it’s often unavoidable if you still want cover for your trip. If your insurance provider increases your premium as a result of a change to your health, you’re always free to try to find a cheaper premium elsewhere. Just make sure you’re comparing the level of cover between policies and then looking for the best price for the right policy for you. While the cost is important, finding a policy that works for you, and one you can use, should be the priority.

If you don’t agree with the insurance provider’s decision and are unable to reach an agreement with them, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

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