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A Guide to Travel Insurance for Cancer Patients

traveler at airport
Allianz - traveler at airport

A cancer diagnosis disrupts life in countless ways. Work, family obligations and daily routines all have to adjust to this huge upheaval in your life. Did you know that travel insurance may be able to help if cancer sidelines your travel plans? 

We’ll answer some common questions about how travel insurance can cover people with cancer. Remember that you can contact Allianz Global Assistance anytime to get advice on buying travel insurance when you’re dealing with a cancer diagnosis, or any other medical condition.

Can travel insurance cover people with cancer?

The short answer: Yes, some travel insurance plans can cover people who have a cancer diagnosis, when certain conditions are met. It’s important to make sure you understand those conditions, so let’s go through them.

Travel insurance covers cancer the same way it does any other pre-existing medical condition. Allianz Global Assistance defines a pre-existing medical condition as an injury, illness, or medical condition that, within the 120 days prior to and including the purchase date of your policy:

  1. Caused a person to seek medical examination, diagnosis, care, or treatment by a doctor;
  2. Presented symptoms; or
  3. Required a person to take medication prescribed by a doctor (unless the condition or symptoms are controlled by that prescription, and the prescription has not changed).

The illness, injury, or medical condition does not need to be formally diagnosed in order to be considered a pre-existing medical condition.

If your cancer diagnosis fits this definition, it may be covered if you purchase travel insurance that includes the Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver. This waiver means you can be covered for losses due to a pre-existing medical condition if you meet all of the requirements described in your policy:

  1. Your policy was purchased within 14 days of making your first trip payment or deposit. If you wait too long to buy travel insurance, your pre-existing condition won’t be covered.
  2. You were a U.S. resident when the policy was purchased.
  3. You were medically able to travel when the policy was purchased. It’s wise to consult your oncologist or other doctor before you make your travel plans, to have them officially verify that you’re medically able to travel.
  4. On the policy purchase date, you insured the full non-refundable cost of your trip with us. Not finished making your travel arrangements? That’s OK! If you incur additional non-refundable trip expenses after you purchase insurance, just contact Allianz Global Assistance within 14 days to add those expenses to your plan.

It’s important to know that having cancer, or any other pre-existing condition, does not affect the cost of travel insurance. When you get a quote, it’s based only on your age, your trip length, the cost of your trip and the type of plan you select.

Read more: When Does Travel Insurance Cover Existing Medical Conditions?

When you have cancer, what can travel insurance cover?

The benefits you receive depends on the type of plan you buy. You can see all available travel insurance plans here, or get a quote to easily compare plans and pricing. That being said, here are some of the situations in which travel insurance can protect cancer patients.

  • You have to cancel your trip because of your cancer diagnosis. Trip cancellation benefits can reimburse you for pre-paid, nonrefundable travel expenses if you must cancel your trip for a covered reason. One common covered reason is when you or your travel companion suffer an illness, injury, or medical condition that’s disabling enough to make a reasonable person cancel their trip. Remember that a doctor must advise you (or your traveling companion) to cancel your trip before you cancel it — or, if that’s impossible, within 72 hours of the decision to cancel.
  • You have to cut your trip short because your illness gets worse. If you’re already on your trip, and you become too ill to travel, trip interruption benefits can reimburse you for your unused, pre-paid and nonrefundable travel expenses. This benefit can also pay reasonable transportation expenses to continue your trip or return home. It can even pay additional accommodation and transportation expenses (up to the stated limit) if the interruption forces you to remain at your destination for longer than you’d planned.
  • You suffer an unexpected medical emergency while traveling. Emergency medical/dental benefits can reimburse you for the cost of emergency medical care you receive while traveling for a sudden, unexpected illness, injury, or medical condition that could cause serious harm if it is not treated. The key words here are sudden and unexpected. Travel insurance can’t cover your medical emergency if it’s an expected complication of your cancer diagnosis or treatment.

Also, please understand that travel insurance can’t pay for planned medical expenses if you travel overseas to obtain treatment for cancer (or any other condition). Travel insurance will not pay for any non-emergency care, elective care, long-term care or experimental treatments, among other exclusions listed in your policy.

How can travel insurance help if a family member is diagnosed with cancer?

What if someone in your family is diagnosed with cancer right before you’re about to leave on a week-long vacation? There’s no way you’re going to leave their side — but your resort’s cancellation policy says clearly that no refunds will be given.

In situations like this, travel insurance can help. If a family member who’s not traveling with you develops an illness, injury, or medical condition that’s considered life-threatening or requires hospitalization, that can be a covered reason for trip cancellation. The same is true for trip interruption — if you’re already on your trip when a family member becomes seriously ill, then trip interruption benefits can pay for your transportation home, as well as reimbursing you for unused trip costs.

Read more: How Travel Insurance Covers Family Members

What if you’re diagnosed with cancer after you purchase travel insurance?

Let’s say you book a Mediterranean cruise for yourself and your spouse to celebrate your 25th wedding anniversary. You also purchase travel insurance to protect the trip. Six months later, a routine mammogram detects a lump in your breast, and you’re diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer. You must undergo surgery and radiation, which means you won’t be able to go on your long-awaited cruise.

Travel insurance with trip cancellation benefits can be invaluable in situations like this, when you’re facing a cancer diagnosis. If your symptoms (or the side effects of treatment) are disabling enough to make you cancel your trip, and if your doctor advises you to cancel it, then trip cancellation benefits can reimburse you for your prepaid, non-refundable trip expenses. That way, you can reschedule the cruise for after you’ve recovered — and the sea breezes will be even sweeter.

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