Holidaymakers continue to pay over the odds or face being priced out of travelling altogether because the travel insurance market is not working for people with medical conditions and older travellers, Which? has found.
A Which? survey of just over 4,000 people who took out an annual travel insurance policy in the past two years found the median price paid for those declaring medical conditions was £150 – 56 per cent (£54) more than those without conditions (£96).
One respondent, who told Which? they have well-controlled diabetes, said they had found they were paying roughly four times what they would be charged if they did not declare their condition, which they described as ‘so unfair’.
Age is also a factor when it comes to paying higher premiums, with the biggest hikes seen for travellers 75 or older, even if they are in good health. The median price paid for annual cover by those aged 75 or older was £300 – 65 per cent (or £118) higher compared with customers aged 65-74 (£182), and more than double the amount paid by those aged 55-64 (£142).
Older travellers are also more likely to have medical conditions, which means their premiums will be bumped higher still.
Worryingly, the consumer champion’s survey suggests rules introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in 2021 to help “signpost” specialist travel insurers are only having a limited impact.
Six in 10 (61%) respondents to the Which? survey either had a pre-existing medical condition or a history of one – and of these people, more than a third (36%) said that in the last three years, they had encountered problems buying travel insurance because of their condition(s). This could include expensive premiums, insurers declining to cover their conditions and issues when claiming.
Fewer than half (48%) of respondents who had difficulty buying insurance because of their medical condition in the last three years had tried a specialist directory. Customers who had used a directory were more likely to say they had discovered it by chance, or from someone they know, than on the recommendation of an insurer.
Of those with medical conditions, one fifth (21%) said their medical conditions meant premiums were affordable but ‘very expensive’ – while just under one in 10 (8%) said if they disclosed their medical condition(s), they were offered insurance – but not at prices they could afford.
Worryingly, 7 per cent of respondents said they had skipped buying insurance because of the high costs – leaving them without crucial protections should things go wrong while away.
The results come after the FCA issued data showing that travel insurers were among the least likely to pay out for customers’ claims. According to its figures, reflecting the second half of 2021, three quarters (75%) of claims made on single trip policies were accepted. By comparison, nearly all (99%) of car insurance claims were paid.
Of the 804 customers in Which?’s survey who had claimed within the past two years, more than a third (36%) had their claim rejected, disputed or only paid in part. Where insurers gave claimants a reason, most commonly it was because of policy exclusions (32%). However, the second most common reason was pre-existing medical conditions (27%).
MPs on the Treasury Select Committee should demand answers from insurance bosses today about why so many people are being poorly served by the travel insurance market. They should also scrutinise insurance poverty penalties in other areas of insurance, such as car insurance – which lead to customers who can not afford to pay annual insurance premiums in one go being charged substantially more.
The FCA is currently reviewing the effectiveness of travel insurance signposting rules, and Which? believes the regulator should be ready to take significant action should it find that firms are not following the rules.
Jenny Ross, Editor of Which? Money, said:
“It’s really concerning that travellers with medical conditions still routinely face barriers to finding the right cover for their holidays.
“Our research has found that awareness of the specialist directories is too low among those who could benefit from them, meaning some travellers could either assume they can’t get cover, decide not to disclose their condition due to price concerns or disclose them and end up paying more than they should.
“The FCA’s new Consumer Duty must mean that insurance firms improve the visibility of their signposting, and be clearer with customers about how their cover could be limited as a result of their pre-existing conditions.The regulator must be ready to take action against firms not following the rules.”
- ENDS –
Notes to Editors.
- Which? surveyed 4,009 adults with travel insurance in the UK in March 2023. Fieldwork was carried out online by Dynata.
- Of 2,458 respondents reporting a medical condition, or a history of one, 883 had encountered problems accessing insurance or high prices because of the condition(s) in the last three years.
- A link to the rates of insurers’ accepting claims on the FCA’s website is here
- The FCA’s handbook on signposting rules is here
- The Treasury Select Committee’s call for the public to submit questions to insurance bosses is here
- Which? – Car insurance customers who can’t afford to pay upfront being hit by £300 penalty, Which? warns
Which? advice on how to find the right cover
- Try the directories
Both the British Insurance Brokers’ Association and MoneyHelper have specialist directories for customers with medical conditions, and Which?’s survey found that most people who used these directories were offered better prices from firms listed on them than they were elsewhere.
- Check the cover
Read the policy and what cover it will provide carefully as you may find you are paying for things you do not need. Check the policy wording to see which items on your cover wishlist are explicitly mentioned or excluded. Contact the insurer if anything appears unclear.
- Declare medical conditions you want covered
If you do not tell your insurer about your medical condition – whether they’re a mainstream firm or one from a specialist directory – then it’s unlikely to be covered. If you are in any doubt about the insurer’s position, contact them.
- Push back if your insurer gets a claims decision wrong
Some 43% of customers whose claims weren’t fully paid were not given a reason why. If your insurer refuses to pay out, you are entitled to a clear explanation. If this is not satisfactory, make a complaint in writing.
An ABI spokesperson said: “Our members work hard to ensure competitively priced products are available to as many people as possible. As part of the long-standing signposting agreement, if an insurer is unable to offer you cover, they automatically refer you to an alternative provider who can help. This process is currently under review and we are working closely with the FCA to understand how it is working and any improvements that could be made.
“Disclosing pre-existing medical conditions is key to making sure your policy meets your needs, so it is vital that all questions are answered fully and honestly. If you have any doubts about what you need to declare, you should speak to your insurer. We and our members understand that simple, straightforward communications is essential. We know that more needs to be done to ensure it is always as clear as possible, which is why we have partnered with organisations such as Fairer Finance and Plain Numbers to make sure all documents and numbers are presented in a way that is easy to understand.”
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
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