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Do travel insurance providers check medical records?

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

But can travel insurance providers look at your medical records? What do medical records have to do with travel insurance? Read our guide to find out.

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

But can travel insurance providers look at your medical records? What do medical records have to do with travel insurance? Read our guide to find out.

Written by
Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
Last Updated
2 FEBRUARY 2024
7 min read
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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. If that happens, you could be left footing a large bill for healthcare abroad and possibly additional travel expenses to get you back home to the UK.

Customers with pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, your travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. Whatever happens, don’t lie to an insurance provider, because this could mean your claim is rejected. When you declare any medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show you quotes from insurance providers who will cover them, with no exclusions.

If your condition is more serious, MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone. You can call 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. That includes any illnesses or injuries you currently suffer from, or have had, before taking out your policy.

The information you give will be used by underwriters to work out the level of risk you present and calculate your premium.

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 travel insurance provider will typically ask you to fill in a form giving consent.
  • Your travel insurance provider must make sure you’re aware of your rights under the AMRA act before you give consent.  
  • 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 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

You absolutely have the right to refuse consent if an insurance provider asks to check your medical records when applying for travel or any other type of insurance. However, if you do refuse consent, the insurance provider could in turn 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 there are any changes to your health after you take out a travel insurance policy, you’ll need to let your insurance provider know. That’s true regardless of whether it’s a single-trip policy you took out at the time of booking, or an annual policy.

Travel insurance providers 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. This could include, for example:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart conditions
  • A stroke 
  • Cancer
  • Respiratory problems, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis
  • Stomach problems, such as IBS or Crohn’s disease
  • Joint and bone problems, such as arthritis and rheumatism
  • Mental health conditions including anxiety and depression
  • Any other serious medical conditions or major operation. 

Be aware that referrals to a consultant may count too, even if a diagnosis hasn’t yet been given. It’s worth erring on the side of caution: 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 extra cost
  • Charge an additional premium to provide cover for the medical condition
  • Exclude the medical condition from cover 
  • 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. 

A provider may also want further details from your medical records, or want to confirm aspects of your medical history if you make a claim, for example, 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.

What are my rights if an insurance provider changes or withdraws a policy due to a change in health?

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 think it was unfair of the insurance provider to increase your premium after a reported change in health, you can make a complaint to the provider.

If you’re still unhappy with their decision, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman. They can objectively assess if it constituted a significant change in health, or if you should have been covered at no additional cost.

If your travel insurance provider decides to withdraw cover entirely, the Financial Ombudsman may ask them to cover the cancellation costs of your holiday, even if it’s not medically necessary.

Alternatively, if you do want to go ahead with your holiday and find alternative travel insurance, the Financial Ombudsman may ask your previous provider to cover any additional premium you have to pay for cover.

What can I do if a claim is unfairly rejected because of a pre-existing medical condition?

If your travel insurance claim is rejected and you don’t agree with the insurance provider’s decision, talk to your insurance provider first.

You are entitled to a clear explanation of why your travel insurance claim was rejected. If, after reading their explanation and checking the small print of your policy, you still think you have been treated unfairly, you can make a formal complaint.

If you can’t reach an agreement with your insurance provider, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

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